Members of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association were typically sugar plantations or mill companies and individuals who were directly interested in sugar production. HSPA was self-funded by the industry through self-assessments on each ton of sugar produced. Each plantation company contributed based on the tons sugar produced.
“This Association shall be known as the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association and shall have for its objects the improvement of the sugar industry, the support of an experimental station and laboratory, the maintenance of a sufficient supply of labor, and the development of agriculture in general.”
“Members of this Association may be Sugar plantations or Mill Companies and individuals who are directly interested in Sugar plantations or Mills, but the Trustees of this Association may at their discretion admit other plantation companies and individuals engaged in other agricultural pursuits.” (The Independent, November 27, 1895)
HSPA’s Experiment Station was founded in the days of the Republic of Hawai‘i on April 2, 1895 (the date that Dr. Walter Maxwell arrived at the port of Honolulu as the first Director of the Station and took up his work in science applied to sugar-cane culture and production.)
The HSPA Experiment Station had its beginnings in an era when farm science was theory, separated from farm practice by a great gulf of unbelief. Truly, the founders of the Experiment Station had a breadth of vision in the necessity for untrammeled research which was extraordinary.
The initial laboratory and office first opened on the ground floor of the Robinson building, corner of Nuʻuanu and King streets. It was later moved to Makiki (on Makiki Street, near Wilder on land leased from the Kapiʻolani Estate.) HSPA later purchased adjoining land from the Lishman family, and acquired the fee of the leased site.
A building was built in 1904 to house offices and laboratories being “ … equipped in modern fashion, with especial regard to the use to which it is to be put. The rooms are large and are provided with sufficient shelves, drawers, etc., the special bug room and the outdoor cages furnish ample facilities for conducting breeding experiments; and, in fact, almost everything in the way of equipment is present that could be desired”. (Grammer)
In 1919, following restructuring after WWI, the Station’s programs of work included: Entomology (focusing on natural enemies of the leafhopper;) Botany and Forestry (focusing on Forestry work, establishment of nurseries and stations on all islands; and pineapple work in accordance with our contract with the Hawaiian Pineapple Packers’ Association) …
… Chemistry (Fertilizer control work, analytical work as needed by the plantations; soil surveys; and research work on Hawaiian soils;) Sugar Technology (Mill inspections and laboratory investigations on mill operations;) and Agriculture (field experimentation on fertilization, cultivation, irrigation, etc., and extension of seedling work.)
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the HSPA Trustees, “resolved, that in light of the existing emergency, The Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association does pledge its fullest cooperation to the Government of the United States and places all its facilities, services and membership at the disposal of our Government.”
The onset of war forced the Station to suspend immediately work on some of its important projects; numerous members of the Station joined the Armed Forces, while other members left to devote their skill to some special phase of the war effort.
When the Honolulu Blood Bank was frantically calling for blood and more blood, the Station not only made its laboratory facilities and apparatus available to the Blood Bank but assigned numerous members of its technical staff to full-time work.
Members of the Chemistry department devoted considerable time and effort to war work, mainly concerned with such matters as chemical surveys, camouflage problems, weed control, soil sterilization, chemical-dipping problems, precautions in handling toxic materials, demolition issues, and gas decontamination problems.
To meet a very obvious need, the Pathology department cultured the penicillin-yielding mold and produced in large quantities products of the highest quality and potency which were made available to local physicians throughout the long and critical period during which penicillin was not available for the treatment of civilians.
The primary object of the Molasses laboratory had been to produce a high-quality yeast for human consumption. After December 7, however, the shortage of bakers’ yeast in Honolulu brought many requests to the Station for aid. It was found that the yeast slurry was excellent for bread making and the Station furnished yeast slurry to numerous bakeries.
One of the most active units of the Station during the war was the Library. It was practically a war-time utility and scarcely a day passed that a group of service men could not be found around the Library tables.
Information was requested on an amazing and endless variety of subjects such as chemistry, ordnance, agricultural crops, rat control, mosquito data and other material pertinent to camp or field work, diversified and soilless agriculture, insects, botany, and so on.
HSPA built its main experiment station and administrative facilities at Makiki (much of its former outplanting area is now the fields of the Makiki District Park;) in the early-1970s HSPA moved to a new facility in Aiea.
In addition to that, HSPA had a large leased area at Waipiʻo, the Helemano Variety Station, the Ewa Variety Station, the Kailua Substation, the Manoa Arboretum (later known as the Lyon Arboretum,) and a few other O‘ahu sites.
On the Island of Hawaii there were four cane variety units (in Hilo, Hāmākua, Kohala and the Hawai‘i Seed Nursery,) as well as other facilities. Kauai had the Kauai Variety Station at Lihue; the Maui substation was at HC&S and Molokai had sugar-cane quarantine facilities.