In 1843, Samuel Thomas Alexander and Henry Perrine Baldwin, sons of early missionaries to Hawaiʻi, met in Lāhainā, Maui. They grew up together, became close friends and went on to develop a sugar-growing partnership.
Alexander was the idea man, more outgoing and adventurous of the two. He had a gift for raising money to support his business projects.
Baldwin was more reserved and considered the “doer” of the partners; he completed the projects conceived by Alexander.
After studying on the Mainland, Alexander returned to Maui and began teaching at Lahainaluna, where he and his students successfully grew sugar cane and bananas.
Word of the venture spread to the owner of Waiheʻe sugar plantation near Wailuku, and Alexander was offered the manager’s position.
Alexander hired Baldwin as his assistant, who at the time was helping his brother raise sugar cane in Lāhainā. This was the beginning of a lifelong working partnership.
In 1869, the young men – Alexander was 33, Baldwin, 27 – purchased 12-acres of land in Makawao and the following year an additional 559-acres. That same year, the partners planted sugar cane on their land marking the birth of what would become Alexander & Baldwin (A&B.)
In 1871, they saw the need for a reliable source of water, and to this end undertook the construction of the Hāmākua ditch in 1876.
Although not an engineer, Alexander devised an irrigation system that would bring water from the windward slopes of Haleakala to Central Maui to irrigate 3,000 acres of cane – their own and neighboring plantations.
Baldwin oversaw the Hāmākua Ditch project, known today as East Maui Irrigation Company (the oldest subsidiary of A&B,) and within two years the ditch was complete.
The completed Old Hāmākua Ditch was 17-miles long and had a capacity of 60-million gallons per day. A second ditch was added, the Spreckels Ditch; when completed, it was 30-miles long with a capacity of 60-million gallons per day.
Before World War I, the New Hāmākua, Koʻolau, New Haiku and Kauhikoa ditches were built. A total of ten ditches were constructed between 1879 and 1923.
Over the next thirty years, the two men became agents for nearly a dozen plantations and expanded their plantation interests by acquiring Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company and Kahului Railroad.
In 1883, Alexander and Baldwin formalized their partnership by incorporating their sugar business as the Paia Plantation also known at various times as Samuel T Alexander & Co, Haleakala Sugar Co and Alexander & Baldwin Plantation.
By spring of 1900, A&B had outgrown its partnership organization and plans were made to incorporate the company, allowing the company to increase capitalization and facilitate expansion.
The Articles of Association and affidavit of the president, secretary and treasurer were filed June 30, 1900 with the treasurer of the Territory of Hawaiʻi. Alexander & Baldwin, Limited became a Hawaiʻi corporation, with its principal office in Honolulu and with a branch office in San Francisco.
Shortly after, in 1904, Samuel Alexander passed away on one of his adventures. While hiking with his daughter to the edge of Victoria Falls, Africa, he was struck by a boulder. Seven years later, Baldwin passed away at the age of 68 from failing health.
After the passing of the founders, Alexander & Baldwin continued to expand their sugar operations by acquiring additional land, developing essential water resources and investing in shipping (Matson) to bring supplies to Hawaii and transport sugar to the US Mainland markets.
A&B was one of Hawaiʻi’s five major companies (that emerged to providing operations, marketing, supplies and other services for the plantations and eventually came to own and manage most of them.) They became known as the Big Five.
Hawaiʻi’s Big Five were: C Brewer (1826;) A Theo H Davies (1845;) Amfac – starting as Hackfeld & Company (1849;) Castle & Cooke (1851) and Alexander & Baldwin (1870.)
What started off as partnership between two young men, with the purchase of 12 acres in Maui, has grown into a corporation with $2.3 billion in assets, including over 88,000 acres of land.
(In 2012, A&B separated into two stand-alone, publicly traded companies – A&B, focusing on land and agribusiness and Matson, on transportation.)
A&B is the State’s fourth largest private landowner, and is one of the State’s most active real estate investors. It’s portfolio includes a diversity of projects throughout Hawaiʻi, and a commercial property portfolio comprising nearly 8-million square feet of leasable space in Hawaiʻi and on the US Mainland.
It is also the owner and operator of the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar plantation, the state’s largest farm, with 36,000 acres under cultivation and Hawaiʻi’s sole producer of raw and specialty sugar. (Information here is from Alexander & Baldwin.)
The image shows the sugar harvesting in the early years. (A&B) In addition, I have added some other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.