Sugar plantations in Hawaii

Last updated
Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company's Puunene mill on Maui was the last operating sugar mill in Hawaii Puunene mill.jpg
Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company's Puunene mill on Maui was the last operating sugar mill in Hawaii

Sugarcane was introduced to Hawaii by its first inhabitants in approximately 600 AD and was observed by Captain Cook upon arrival in the islands in 1778. [1] Sugar quickly turned into a big business and generated rapid population growth in the islands with 337,000 people immigrating over the span of a century. [2] The sugar grown and processed in Hawaii was shipped primarily to the United States and, in smaller quantities, globally. Sugarcane and pineapple plantations were the largest employers in Hawaii. [3] Today both are gone, production having moved to other countries.

Contents

Origins

Industrial sugar production started slowly in Hawaii. The first sugar mill was created on the island of Lanaʻi in 1802 by an unidentified Chinese man who returned to China in 1803. [1] The Old Sugar Mill, established in 1835 by Ladd & Co., is the site of the first sugar plantation. In 1836 the first 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg) of sugar and molasses was shipped to the United States. [1] The plantation town of Koloa, was established adjacent to the mill.

By the 1840s, sugarcane plantations gained a foothold in Hawaiian agriculture. Steamships provided rapid and reliable transportation to the islands, and demand increased during the California Gold Rush. [4] The land division law of 1848 (known as The Great Mahele) displaced Hawaiian people from their land, forming the basis for the sugarcane plantation economy. [5] In 1850, the law was amended to allow foreign residents to buy and lease land. [4] In 1850, when California attained statehood, profits declined and the number of plantations decreased to five due to the import tariff that was instituted. [6] Market demand increased even further during the onset of the American Civil War which prevented Southern sugar from being shipped northward. [7] The price of sugar rose 525% from 4 cents per pound in 1861 to 25 cents in 1864. [4] The Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 allowed Hawaii to sell sugar to the United States without paying duties or taxes, greatly increasing plantation profits. [8] This treaty also guaranteed that all of the resources including land, water, human labor power, capital, and technology would be thrown behind sugarcane cultivation. [5] [9] The 1890 McKinley Tariff Act, an effort by the United States government to decrease the competitive pricing of Hawaiian sugar, paid 2 cents per pound to mainland producers. After significant lobbying efforts, this act was repealed in 1894. [7] By 1890, 75% of all Hawaii privately held land was owned by foreign businessmen.

Sugar and the Big Five

The industry was tightly controlled by descendants of missionary families and other businessmen, concentrated in corporations known in Hawaii as "The Big Five". [2] These included Castle & Cooke, Alexander & Baldwin, C. Brewer & Co., H. Hackfeld & Co. (later named American Factors (now Amfac) and Theo H. Davies & Co., [10] which together eventually gained control over other aspects of the Hawaiian economy including banking, warehousing, shipping, and importing. [5] This control of commodity distribution kept Hawaiians burdened under high prices and toiling under a diminished quality of life. [5] These businessmen had perfected the double-edged sword of a wage-earning labor force dependent upon plantation goods and services. [8] Close ties as missionaries to the Hawaiian monarchy along with capital investments, cheap land, cheap labor, and increased global trade, allowed them to prosper. [5] Alexander & Baldwin acquired additional sugar lands and also operated a sailing fleet between Hawai`i and the mainland. That shipping concern became American-Hawaiian Line, and later Matson. [11] Later the sons and grandsons of the early missionaries played central roles in the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893, creating a short-lived republic. In 1898, the Republic of Hawaii was annexed by the United States and became the Territory of Hawaii, aided by the lobbying of the sugar interests.

Importing labor

Hawaii Demographics, 1959. HawaiiPopByRace1959.png
Hawaii Demographics, 1959.
Hawaii Demographics, 2005. HawaiiPopByRace2005.png
Hawaii Demographics, 2005.

When Hawaiian plantations began to produce on a large scale, it became obvious that a labor force needed to be imported. The Hawaiian population was 1/6 its pre-1778 size due to ravaging disease brought by foreigners. [5] Additionally, Hawaiian people saw little use for working on the plantations when they could easily subsist by farming and fishing. [8] Plantation owners quickly began importing workers which dramatically changed Hawaii’s demographics and is an extreme example of globalization.

In 1850, the first imported worker arrived from China. [8] Between 1852–1887, almost 50,000 Chinese arrived to work in Hawaii, while 38% of them returned to China. [8] Although help was needed to work the fields, new problems, like feeding, housing and caring for new employees, were created for many of the planters since the Chinese immigrants did not live off the land like Native Hawaiians, who required little support. [12] To prevent their workforce from organizing effectively against them, plantation managers diversified the ethnicities of their workforce, and in 1878 the first Japanese arrived to work on the plantations. [1] Between 1885–1924, 200,000 Japanese people arrived with 55% returning to Japan. [8] Between 1903–1910, 7,300 Koreans arrived and only 16% returned to Korea. [8] In 1906 Filipino people first arrived. Between 1909 and 1930, 112,800 Filipinos came to Hawaii with 36% returning to the Philippines. [8]

Plantation owners worked hard to maintain a hierarchical caste system that prevented worker organization, and divided the camps based on ethnic identity. [2] An interesting outcome of this multi-cultural workforce and globalization of plantation workers was the emergence of a common language. Known as Hawaiian Pidgin, this hybrid primarily of Hawaiian, English, Japanese, Chinese, and Portuguese allowed plantation workers to communicate effectively with one another and promoted a transfer of knowledge and traditions among the groups. [13] A comparison of 1959–2005 racial categories shows the ongoing shifts.

A unique operation was the Kohala Sugar Company, known as "The Missionary Plantation" since it was founded by Reverend Elias Bond in 1862 to support his church and schools. He protested the slave-like conditions, and the profits made him one of the largest benefactors to other missions. It operated for 110 years. [14]

Environmental impact

Amount of sugarcane harvested in Hawaii over time in acres HawaiiSugarcaneAcres.png
Amount of sugarcane harvested in Hawaii over time in acres
Amount of sugarcane harvested in Hawaii over time in tons HawaiiSugarcaneTons.png
Amount of sugarcane harvested in Hawaii over time in tons

Sugar plantations dramatically impacted the environment around them. In an 1821 account, prior to the entrenchment of sugarcane plantations in Aiea, the area is described as belonging to many different people and being filled with taro and banana plantations along with a fish pond. [2] This subsistence farming would not last long.

Plantations were strategically located throughout the Hawaiian Islands for reasons including: fertile soil area, level topography, sufficient water for irrigation, and a mild climate with little annual variation. [2] These plantations transformed the land primarily to suit water needs: construction of tunnels to divert water from the mountains to the plantations, reservoir construction, and well digging. [1]

Water was always a serious concern for plantation managers and owners. In the early 20th century, it took one ton of water to produce one pound of refined sugar. [7] This inefficient use of water and the relative lack of fresh water in the island environment were fiercely compounding environmental degradation. Sugar processing places significant demands on resources including irrigation, coal, iron, wood, steam, and railroads for transportation. [9]

Early mills were extremely inefficient, producing molasses in four hours using an entire cord of wood to do so. [9] This level of wood use caused dramatic deforestation. At times, ecosystems were entirely destroyed unnecessarily. One plantation drained a riparian area of 600 acres (2.4 km2) to produce cane. [9] After draining the land and forever altering the biodiversity levels, they discovered it was an ancient forest, so they harvested the trees for timber, only then to find that the land was completely unsuitable for sugarcane production. [9]

Sugar plantations were not only environmentally destructive in the past, they continue to be so. Major environmental concerns associated with sugarcane plantations include air and water pollution along with the proper disposal of the resulting waste. [15] Modern calculations place the amount of water needed to produce one ton of cane at 3-10 cubic meters. [15]

Decline of plantations in Hawaii

As the prevalence of sugarcane in Hawaii deteriorated, tourism was promoted to take its place. HawaiiOvernightVisitors.png
As the prevalence of sugarcane in Hawaii deteriorated, tourism was promoted to take its place.

Sugar plantations suffered from many of the same afflictions that manufacturing market segments in the United States continue to feel. Labor costs increased significantly when Hawaii became a state and workers were no longer effectively indentured servants. The hierarchical caste system plantation managers sought to maintain began to break down, with greater racial integration of the sugarcane plantations. Workers began to discover they had rights, and in 1920 waged the first multi-cultural strike. [8] Global politics played a large role in the downfall of Hawaiian sugar. Shifting political alliances between 1902 and 1930 permitted Cuba to have a larger share of the United States sugar market, holding 45% of the domestic quota while Hawaii, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico shared 25%. [5]

The Big Five slowed the production of sugar as cheaper labor was found in India, South America and the Caribbean and concentrated their efforts on the imposition of a tourism-based society. [5] Former plantation land was used by the conglomerates to build hotels and develop this tourist-based economy which has dominated the past 50 years of Hawaiian economics[ citation needed ]. Hawaii’s last working sugar mill, in Puunene, Maui, produced the final shipment of sugar from Hawaii in December 2016. The mill was permanently closed soon thereafter and the last 375 employees of the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company were laid off. [16]

Planters and Managers

Notes

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Deerr, 1949
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Urcia, 1960
  3. Lyte, Brittany (2017-12-17). "With pineapple and sugar production gone, Hawaii weighs its agricultural future". Washington Post. ISSN   0190-8286 . Retrieved 2018-05-09.
  4. 1 2 3 Takaki, 1983
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Kent, 1993
  6. Dorrance, William, Sugar Islands: The 165-Year Story of Sugar in Hawaii (Honolulu, Mutual Publishing, 2000), 11.
  7. 1 2 3 HSPA, 1949
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Takaki, 1994
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 Alexander, 1937
  10. Lyn Danninger (September 29, 2002). "Isle institutions' economic impact endures". Honolulu Star-Bulletin . Retrieved 2010-05-01.
  11. Big Five, Hawaiihistory.org, http://www.hawaiihistory.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ig.page&PageID=29, Nov. 19, 2013.
  12. William Dorrance, Sugar Islands: The 165-Year Story of Sugar in Hawaii (Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 2000), 20.
  13. Steger, 2003
  14. Edward D. Beechert (1985), "The Reverend Mr. Bond and Kohala Plantation", Working in Hawaii: a labor history, University of Hawaii Press, pp. 71–72, ISBN   978-0-8248-0890-7
  15. 1 2 UNEP, 1982
  16. Downes, Lawrence (16 Jan 2017). "The Sun Finally Sets on Sugar Cane in Hawaii". New York Times. Retrieved 3 March 2018.

Related Research Articles

Waipahu, Hawaii Census-designated place in Hawaii, United States

Waipahu is a former sugarcane plantation town and now census-designated place (CDP) located in the ʻEwa District on the island of Oʻahu in the City & County of Honolulu, Hawaiʻi, United States. As of the 2010 Census, the CDP population was 38,216. The U.S. postal code for Waipahu is 96797.

Koloa, Hawaii Census-designated place in Hawaii, United States

Kōloa is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Kauaʻi County, Hawaiʻi, United States. The population was 2,231 at the 2020 census, up from 1,942 at the 2000 census. The first successful sugarcane plantation in the Hawaiian Islands was started here in 1835. It became a part of Grove Farm in 1948.

Oahu Railway and Land Company United States historic place

The Oahu Railway and Land Company, or OR&L, was a 3 ft narrow gauge common carrier railway that served much of the Hawaiian island of Oahu, and was the largest narrow gauge class one common carrier in the U.S, until its dissolution in 1947.

Alexander & Baldwin, Inc. is an American company that was once part of the Big Five companies in territorial Hawaii. The company currently operates businesses in real estate, land operations, and materials and construction. It was also the last "Big Five" company to cultivate sugarcane. As of 2020, it remains one of the State of Hawaii's largest private landowners, owning over 28,000 acres (11,000 ha) and operating 36 income properties in the state.

A plantation economy is an economy based on agricultural mass production, usually of a few commodity crops grown on large farms called plantations. Plantation economies rely on the export of cash crops as a source of income. Prominent crops included cotton, rubber, sugar cane, tobacco, figs, rice, kapok, sisal, and species in the genus Indigofera, used to produce indigo dye.

The Hanapēpē Massacre occurred on September 9, 1924 when an interethnic dispute amongst Filipino strike organizers in Hanapēpē, Kaua'i resulted in a violent exchange between local police officers and Filipinos. The conflict began when two Ilocano youth, allegedly breaking the Filipino-led labor strike, were detained and harassed by a group of Visayans at the Hanapepe strike camp. When the local police were called to settle the dispute, they arrived with a group of heavily armed special deputies. Upon arrival, the officers issued warrants of arrest for the two detained Illocanos, causing the collection of Filipinos strikers to rally in opposition. Despite previously ridiculing the two Ilocanos, the remaining Filipinos armed themselves and demanded the boys be released. A violent exchange ensued wherein sixteen Filipino laborers and four police officers were left dead.

Engenho is a colonial-era Portuguese term for a sugar cane mill and the associated facilities. In Spanish-speaking countries such as Cuba and Puerto Rico, they are called ingenios. The word engenho usually only referred to the mill, but it could also describe the area as a whole including land, a mill, the people who farmed and who had a knowledge of sugar production, and a crop of sugar cane. A large estate was required because of the massive amount of labor needed to yield refined sugar, molasses, or rum from raw sugar cane. These estates were prevalent in Brazil, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and other countries in the Caribbean. Today, Brazil is still one of the world's major producers of sugar.

Waialua Sugar Mill Historical sugar refinery on Oahu, Hawaii

The Waialua Sugar Mill, formally known as the Chamberlain Plantation, was a sugarcane plantation and historical sugar mill, located in the town of Waialua on the North Shore of Oahu. It was in operation from 1865 until 1996.

History of sugar

Sugar was first produced from sugarcane plants in Northern India sometime after the first century AD. The derivation of the word “sugar” is thought to be from Sanskrit शर्करा (śarkarā), meaning "ground or candied sugar," originally "grit, gravel". Sanskrit literature from ancient India, written between 1500 - 500 BC provides the first documentation of the cultivation of sugar cane and of the manufacture of sugar in the Bengal region of the Indian subcontinent.

Old Sugar Mill of Koloa Sugarcane plantation in Hawaiʻi, U.S.

The Old Sugar Mill of Kōloa was part of the first commercially successful sugarcane plantation in Hawaiʻi, which was founded in Kōloa on the island of Kauai in 1835 by Ladd & Company. This was the beginning of what would become Hawaii's largest industry. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 29, 1962. A stone chimney and foundations remain from 1840.

History of Maui

This article summarizes the history of the island of Maui. Its relatively central location gave it a pivotal role in the history of the Hawaiian Islands.

Hawaii is one of the few U.S. states where coffee production is a significant economic industry—coffee is the second largest crop produced there. The 2019-2020 coffee harvest in Hawaii was valued at $102.91million. As of the 2019-2020 harvest, coffee production in Hawaii accounted for 6,900 acres of land

Henry Perrine Baldwin American businessman and politician

Henry Perrine Baldwin was a businessman and politician on Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. He supervised the construction of the East Maui Irrigation System and co-founded Alexander & Baldwin, one of the "Big Five" corporations that dominated the economy of the Territory of Hawaii.

Heritage railways in Kauai United States historic place

There are two heritage railways in Kauai, the birthplace of Hawaiian railroading. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on January 19, 1979.

Grove Farm (Lihue, Hawaii) United States historic place

Grove Farm is a historic agricultural site on Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands.

Christian Hedemann

Christian Jacob Hedemann was a Danish mechanical engineer who settled in Hawaii in 1878, where he worked at the Hana Sugar Plantation and the Honolulu Iron Works. He is, however, remembered primarily as an avid amateur photographer who helped found the Hawaiian Camera Club (1889–1893). His photographs of native peoples, landscape, family, and industry offer a unique pictorial record of Hawaii at the end of the 19th century.

Most early Asian settlers to the United States went to Hawaii. Most of these early immigrants moved to the islands as laborers to work on the pineapple, coconut, and sugarcane plantations. These early migrants have tended to stay, although a handful returned to their home countries. There has also been recent immigration to Hawaii from more ethnic Asian groups, including the Thai, Indonesian, and the Vietnamese.

Portuguese immigration to Hawaii began in 1878 when Portuguese residents made up less than 1% of the Island population. However, the migration that began that year of laborers from Madeira and the Azores to work in the sugarcane plantations rapidly increased the Portuguese presence in Hawaii, and by the end of 1911 nearly 16,000 Portuguese immigrants had arrived.

Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum Located in the small sugarcane growing and milling community of Puʻunene, Hawaii, Kahului, Maui

Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum is located in the small sugarcane growing and milling community of Puʻunene, Hawaii, Kahului, Maui. The museum exhibits the history of Hawaiian sugarcane plantations and Alexander & Baldwin and its role in the sugarcane industry in Hawaii. The company itself continues in business and though it has diversified, it continues to produce sugarcane. The museum itself in the former mill manager's house.

The economic history of Kaua’i, anglicized as Kauai, dates back to before the European colonization of Kauai and, in whole, Hawaii. Before Captain James Cook discovered the Hawaiian island chain in 1778, the native Polynesians of Kauai had a complex subsistence economy of fishing and trade among the other islands. In 1835, the first successful sugarcane plantation was established in Koloa, Kauai and was the beginning of a prosperous sugarcane industry. Sugarcane remained Kauai’s most dominant industry until the mid-20th century. Today, Kauai is a tourism-centered economy with 1,279,968 people visiting the island in 2017. Visitor spending on the island the same year exceeded $1.83 billion—a 9.3% percent increase from the previous year. However, Kauai still boasts a strong agricultural economy with corn seed being the number one crop alongside coffee, guava, and taro.

References