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Amelia Earhart stands before her now famous planeAt the time of the fateful flight of Amelia Earhart in 1937, a small sand-strewn coral reef in the Pacific ocean, 1600 miles from Honolulu, was prepared for her by our government as a landing base.

This island according to our maps is called Howland Island and until recently we have been unable to find out why it was so named.

McClure M. Howland, however, after spending considerable time in research work, had found the following extract from the journal of Capt. Daniel McKenzie in the ship Minerva Smyth published in the National Gazette and Literary Register, Philadelphia, PA, of April 27, 1830.

“Supposing myself to be the first discoverer of this island, as it is not laid down in any chart or books with which I am acquainted, I have in honor of my owner called it Howland Island.”


Earhart's path lead her to Howland IslandFrom a work published by the Works Progress Administration listing the registration of ships in New Bedford, MA, harbor, it has been found that Isaac Howland Jr., and Captain Gideon Howland, with others, were the owners of the Minerva Smyth during Captain McKenzie’s voyages on the vessel as Master. These voyages took place between 1820 and 1827.

It was then, during this period, that the island must have been discovered and named. Isaac Howland, Jr., and Captain Gideon Howland were partners in a large whaling firm in New Bedford. They were descendants of Henry Howland of the Plymouth Colony, the brother of John Howland of the Mayflower. There is no record of an earlier discovery of Howland Island than that of Captain Daniel McKenzie.

This article was originally published in the January 1943 issue of The Howland Quarterly.