When and why the name change from the Sandwich Islands to Hawaii?
Hawaii was actually known as Hawaii (or rather Hawai`i) first. When European explorers first arrived in the late 1700s, they recorded that the indigenous peoples referred to their home as \"Owhyhee\" (their best phonetic approximation of \"Hawaii\"). And formalization of the name was in place at least as early as 1819, when King Kamehameha I unified them as the Kingdom of Hawaii.
\"The Sandwich Islands\" was only the designation given to the islands by Captain James Cook soon after he arrived in 1778 as a tribute to the Earl of Sandwich, and it persisted mostly in cartography.
One of the simplest online resources for the history of the name Hawaii is \"Origins of Hawaii\'s Names\" at the very informative Hawaii School Reports site.
A popular reference for all state names, meanwhile, is \"State Names, Seals, Flags and Symbols,\" by Benjamin and Barbara Shearer (Greenwood Press, 1994).