From Our Files: Industry
Throughout 2013—our 125th anniversary year—From Our Files will focus on a different theme each month, looking back at how particular aspects of life in Honolulu were lived and reported on by HONOLULU Magazine and its predecessor, Paradise of the Pacific.
Hawaii’s current quest for diversified agriculture is not new. Even as sugar and pineapple rose to dominance in the 1800s, entrepreneurs and pundits alike argued that, since practically anything could be grown in Hawaii, almost everything should be. In this issue, our predecessor, Paradise of Pacific, outlined a plan for “the Makaha Coffee and Fruit Company, Limited, under the leadership of Mr. James A. Low.” Observing how similar Makaha’s climate is to Kona, on the Big Island, it seemed a natural fit to grow coffee there. Low had hoped to sell 650 shares of stock at $100 each, to launch the venture with $65,000 in capital (some $63 million in equivalent economic power in today’s dollars). The magazine boosted the project in subsequent articles, but then all mention of it fades.
There’s a new player in sugar in Hawaii “and the name by which it will be known is The Oahu Sugar Company Ltd.,” reports Paradise of the Pacific. After naming the businesses officers—a roll call of Isenberg, Dillingham, Robinson and Hackfeld—Paradise notes, “it is a source of much pride and gratification, and encouragement, to the friends of the Islands that men of the highest financial, political and social status have such confidence in the future of Hawaii.”
Sugar so dominated Hawaii in the early 20th century that Paradise of the Pacific ran this cover repeatedly from 1902 through 1910, changing only the colors. Numerous articles that decade tracked production by the pound and to the penny. The 15 cents cover price? That would be $1.71 in today’s dollars.
A full-page taken out in Paradise of the Pacific by the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association. An article in June 1946 apprised readers on the post-war recovery of sugar, then still “Hawaii’s biggest industry. It supplies 80 to 90 million dollars in the channels of territory trade each year … more than 28,000 residents depend on the industry’s $37,500,000 payroll.”
Hawaii’s mellow macadamia nuts have rolled ahead of Kona coffee and papayas to take their place as the state’s third most important crop.
While sugar and pineapple naturally garnered the most ink from the magazine over the years, we’ve often documented the rise of other industries, such as this cover story on the boom in gyms and health clubs. Writes HONOLULU, “The 10,000-square foor [Spa Health and Fitness Center on Punahou St.] is only one of the burgeoning number of operations that daily accommodate thousands of body-pampering, muscle-toning, weight-reducing zealots in town. It has suddenly become de rigeur to belong to a spa or fitness center.”
HONOLULU Magazine asks if agriculture in Hawai‘i is dying, giving way to the demand for housing, noting, “Bill Balfour likes to reminisce about 1985, the year he broke the world record for sugar production, producing 21.62 tons per acres (11.4 tons is average) on a single field in Kunia. He confesses to a feeling of pride, but the memory is bittersweet. Later this year, the field in Kunia on which he performed this miracle is scheduled to be covered with concrete.”
Pineapple also succumbed to economic changes. HONOLULU visits Kunia Camp in its final days, writing, “Nestled in a pocket of more than 3,000 acres leased and farmed by Del Monte fresh produce, the camp consists of about 120 cottages that are home to 200 pineapple workers and their families. The faintly sweet smell of the golden fruit mingles with the crisp air of the Wai‘anae Mountains. Red dirt stains everything—the board-and-batten exterior of the camp gymnasium,the undersides of workers’ pickup trucks, the rows of post-office boxes outside the camp store selling beer and canned goods … In less than two years, this could all be gone.”