Graphic: back to OSCO IndexHawaii's Sugar Industry

Koloa, Kauai, 1834. Ladd & Co. signed a lease with King Kamehameha III for 980 acres of land. This first successful sugar plantation company marked the beginning of the sugar industry. Sugar provided the Hawaiian Islands with a foundation, playing a key part in bringing the Islands into a cosmopolitan society.

When Captain Cook came to the Islands in 1778, sugar cane was already growing. In fact, it was planted in hedgerows around the natives' huts. As early as 1802 a Chinese man on Lanai Island used a crude stone roller to crush sweet juice from sugar cane. Not until three New Englanders founded Ladd & Co., however, did the sugar cane industry take hold. They started by planting 12 acres. Surely the development of this industry through the decades was a key reason that Hawaii was annexed as a territory in 1898 and a state August 21, 1959.

The vegetation in Hawaii offered a perfect environment for raising sugar cane. Porous lava soil soaks up rain and stores water from the frequent tropical rains deep in underground pools. The sun shines all year round, and the cooling ocean currents keep the average temperatures around 75 degrees.

Back to Koloa. Two years later, 1836, having plowed 12-25 acres (authorities differ) and sowing it with sugar cane, Ladd & Co. had a busy mill that extracted the juice with iron rollers imported from the United States, and exported its first crop: 2.1 tons of raw sugar and 2,700 gallons of molasses.

Fast forward to 1959, when one out of every twelve people employed in Hawaii was in the sugar industry. The agricultural workers were the highest paid in the world. In the early 1960s Hawaii produced a million tons of cane sugar a year. About 221,000 acres of land on four islands were devoted to raising and harvesting cane.

In the late 1950s and early 1960, sugar brought about $150 million each year, with a payroll of about $56 million, spending about $45 million on materials and supplies.

The mills easily handled a number of processes that had been refined by engineers through the years: wash, crush, grind, and centrifuge required little supervision. In its raw state, it was trucked to Honolulu Harbor for shipment to the California & Hawaiian Sugar Refining Corporation in Crockett, California.

Oahu Sugar Company was the largest producer on Oahu in 1960 with an annual output of about 75,000 tons of raw sugar from 11,400 acres. Together with Ewa Plantation, Waialua Agricultural Co., and Kahuku Plantation, it produced one fifth of Hawaii's total sugar crops.

NOTE: Information taken from The Hawaii Book, published 1961 by J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, Chicago, and Cane Sugar and Hawaii, published 1962 by C and H Sugar Refining Corp., Ltd., San Francisco.

Links of Interest



Photo orange hibiscus




Copyright Judy Vorfeld.
Any reproduction or editing by any means mechanical or electronic
without the express written permission of the copyright holder is strictly prohibited