From King Cane to the Last Sugar Mill

From King Cane to the Last Sugar Mill: Agricultural Technology and the Making of Hawai`i's Premier Crop

C. Allan Jones
Robert V. Osgood
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    From King Cane to the Last Sugar Mill
    Book Description:

    Sugarcane cultivation began in Hawai'i with the arrival of Polynesian settlers, expanding into a commercial crop in the early 1800s. Hawai'i's sugar industry, a significant economic and political force in the last half of the nineteenth century entered the twentieth century heralding major improvements in sugarcane varieties, irrigation systems, fertilizer use, biological pest control, and the use of steam power for field and factory operations. By the 1920s the industry was probably the most technologically advanced in the world. However, Hawai'i's annexation by the United States in 1898 invalidated the Kingdom's contract labor laws, reduced the plantations' hold on labor, and resulted in successful strikes by Japanese and Filipino workers. The industry survived the low sugar prices of the Great Depression and labor shortages of World War II by mechanizing to increase labor productivity. The industry saw science-driven gains in productivity and profitability in the 1950s and 1960s, but beginning in the 1970s unprecedented economic pressures reduced the number of plantations from twenty-seven in 1970 to only four in 2000. By 2011 only one plantation remained.

    This book focuses on the technological and scientific advances that allowed Hawai'i's sugar industry to become a world leader and HC&S to survive into the twenty-first century. The authors also discuss the enormous societal and environmental changes caused by the sugar industry's aggressive search for labor, land, and water resources.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5407-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Paul H. Moore

    Hawai‘i is a magical place. Worldwide, the name Hawai‘i conjures images of diverse natural scenery, coconut tree–edged sandy beaches, active volcanoes, and an exotic mix of people, cultures, and customs spanning Polynesia, Asia, and Europe. Hawai‘i is geologically young and one of the last places on Earth to be populated by humans. According to archaeological evidence, it was first settled by Polynesians between 300–500 CE. The exact dates are not known since there is no recorded history of Hawai‘i before the first European contact by Captain James Cook in 1778. Pre-European history of Hawai‘i was conveyed solely by...

  4. Preface King Cane and the Last Sugar Mill
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    Sugarcane has been grown in Hawai‘i since the arrival of its Polynesian settlers, and commercial sugar production has been an economic force on the islands since the mid-1800s. Led by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association (HSPA), the Hawaiian Islands grew to be a world leader in sugarcane production and sugar technology in the early and mid-twentieth century. The industry’s many sugar companies voluntarily supported the Experiment Station of the HSPA, which was staffed with the world’s sugarcane research leaders throughout most of the twentieth century. However, after more than one hundred years of almost continuous growth and development, the industry...

  6. 1 Birth of an Industry—to 1875
    (pp. 1-36)

    The cultivation of sugarcane in the Hawaiian Islands began with the arrival of the first humans, from the Marquesas Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean between 500 and 700 CE. There were no food plants available in Hawai‘i when the Polynesian peoples arrived there, with the exception of some marine algae species and possibly coconut, making plant introductions critical for survival. Traveling for weeks in their double-hulled canoes, Polynesian voyagers brought with them pigs, chickens, and dogs, as well as about thirty useful “canoe plants” common throughout the South Pacific.¹ These included a few trees but were mainly food, medicinal,...

  7. 2 Sugar Booms—1876 to 1897
    (pp. 37-70)

    In 1876 Hawai‘i was home to 35 plantations, 12 of which were located on Maui: East Maui Plantation Company, ‘Haikū Sugar Company, Grove Ranch Plantation, and Alexander & Baldwin were all located on the north-western slopes of East Maui; Waihe‘e Sugar Company, Wailuku Sugar Company, Bal & Adams, and Waikapū Sugar Company had all been formed on the eastern slopes of West Maui during the heady days of high Civil War sugar prices; Pioneer Mill Company and West Maui Plantation were operating on the dry western slopes of West Maui; Hāna Plantation Company was the sole plantation on the wet...

  8. 3 Industry Growth and Labor Unrest—1898 to 1929
    (pp. 71-118)

    The period around the turn of the twentieth century was critical for Maui’s sugar industry. Maui plantations led the industry in development of both surface and groundwater resources with continued development of the East and West Maui ditch systems and substantial investments in wells and reservoirs. Major improvements were made for in-field surface irrigation methods, use of fertilizers, cane harvesting and transportation methods, and factory operations.

    But the forces that affected Maui’s plantations had industry-wide impacts. Annexation of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i by the United States in 1898 was supported by the sugar industry, in part because it assured that...

  9. 4 Depression, War, Federal Legislation, Science, and Technology—1930 to 1969
    (pp. 119-179)

    The four decades from 1930 to 1969 brought significant social and political challenges and dramatic technological improvements in field and factory. The Great Depression, World War II, the Jones-Costigan Act (Sugar Act), and labor strife all took their toll on Hawai‘i’s sugarcane industry. Low sugar prices during the 1930s were followed by severe labor shortages during World War II. These stresses caused the industry, led by scientists at the Experiment Station of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association (HSPA), to focus on increasing sugar yields while reducing labor costs. Working closely with plantation staffs, they engineered some dramatic improvements in sugarcane...

  10. 5 Drip Irrigation and New Disease Resistant Varieties Save HC&S—1970 to 2014
    (pp. 180-228)

    Since the 1970s the Hawai‘i sugarcane industry has faced a number of challenges. The most fundamental issue: the price of raw sugar on the domestic and international markets did not keep pace with the industry’s costs for labor and other inputs. As a result, sugar growers were forced to cut costs wherever possible in order to keep the cost of production below the going price for raw sugar and the by-products of sugarcane. The industry needed to reduce its labor costs while retaining its highly skilled workers, but that became increasingly difficult in the face of competition from tourism, government,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 229-248)
  12. Literature Cited
    (pp. 249-260)
  13. Index
    (pp. 261-266)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 267-273)