Although sugarcane was ‘king’ in Hawai‘i, untilled government land was in pasture rather than sugarcane because it was too dry for unirrigated sugarcane and the elevation was too high for irrigated cane.
Several events occurred in 1898 that facilitated the development of the new pineapple canning industry. First, the annexation of Hawaii in that year resulted in the revocation of the 35% duty on Hawaiian canned pineapple.
Second, the Republic of Hawaii legislature passed a law that made some 1,300-acres of government land near Wahiawa available for homesteading once a pasture lease expired (13 southern California families came to Wahiawa to homestead the land made available under the new law.)
These early migrants and James Dole, who arrived in 1899, formed the nucleus of what would eventually become the largest pineapple industry in the world. (Bartholomew et al)
Homesteaders cleared land, built homes, and at first planted food and fodder crops. Byron O. Clark had obtained a small pineapple farm planted with ‘Smooth Cayenne’ plants near Pearl City in 1898 before the prospective homesteaders had left California.
Clark’s farm provided the first pineapple plants grown on the homesteaded lands near Wahiawa and they grew so well that other homesteaders followed suit. James Dole established the Hawaiian Pineapple Company in 1901 and is “usually considered to have produced the first commercial pack of 1,893 cases of canned pineapple in 1903”.
The pineapple plantation concept quickly spread to Kauai and Maui, perhaps because the already well-established sugar industry provided the near-ideal plantation model for those to whom it was not initially obvious. (Bartholomew et al)
In the early 1900s, to help with the burgeoning plantation population, government lands were auctioned off as town lots in Kapa‘a.
The first pineapple company on the island of Kauai was established in 1906. In 1913, Hawaiian Canneries Company, Ltd opened in Kapa‘a at the site now occupied by Pono Kai Resort. Through the Hawaiian Organic Act, Hawaiian Canneries purchased land they were leasing, approximately 8.75 acres, in 1923.
A 1923 sketch of the cannery shows only four structures, one very large structure assumed to be the actual cannery and three small structures makai of the cannery. (Bartholomew etal)
On August 21, 1929, a US trademark registration was filed for ‘Pono’ by Hawaiian Canneries. The description provided to the trademark for Pono is ‘canned sliced and crushed pineapple and pineapple juice used for food-flavoring purposes’. (Trademarkia)
By 1956, the cannery was producing 1.5 million cases of pineapple. By 1960, 3,400 acres were in pineapple and there were 250 full time employees and 1,000 seasonal employees. (Exploration)
Until the 1960s, the Hawaiian Canneries canning plant used to produce canned sliced and crushed pineapple and pineapple juice used for food-flavoring purposes.
Factory by-products – the crowns & skins from the processed pineapples – were loaded onto train carts and hauled up the coast to a pier. The pineapple rubbish was then dumped into the ocean from the end of the pier. (Kauai Path)
As canned pineapple from other countries began filling the market, Hawaiian canneries began to close and plantations, once located on Maui, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, and Kauai, began to shrink.
In 1962, Hawaiian Canneries went out of business due to foreign competition. (Exploration) Other smaller Kauai and Maui pineapple companies closed in the late-1960s.
In 1969, Hawaiian Fruit Packers (which was formed in 1937 by the reorganization of a company initially started by a group of ethnic Japanese growers) on Kauai, the last cannery remaining there, announced plans to cease planting. The cannery was closed in Oct. 1973. (Bartholomew etal)
Del Monte cannery closed in 1985, and Dole cannery in Iwilei closed in 1991. The Kahului cannery of Maui Land and Pineapple Company was the last remaining pineapple cannery in Hawai‘i. During the end of the 1990s and into the 21st century the value of fresh Hawaiian pineapple overtook the value of canned Hawaiian pineapple.
The Hawaiian pineapple industry has gone from its early days as a primarily fresh product, through most of the 20th century as principally a canned product and a major supplier of the worlds canned pineapple market, to the 21st century when it is once again grown mostly for fresh consumption. (HAER)