Henry Perrine Baldwin, the most successful sugar producer of the Hawaiian Islands (Mid Pacific, February 1912,) was born on August 29, 1842 in Lahaina, Maui.
His father was American missionary Dwight Baldwin (1798–1886), and his mother was Charlotte Fowler Baldwin. (He was named after Matthew LaRue Perrine (1777-1836), a professor at Auburn Theological Seminary, from which his father had graduated shortly before his departure to the Hawaiian Islands.) (Davis)
After receiving his education at Punahou School, HP Baldwin undertook the management of a rice plantation, but the venture was not successful and in 1863 he turned his attention to the cultivation of sugar cane, working first for his brother, Dwight Baldwin, Jr, who was engaged in planting at Lahaina.
Christopher H Lewers founded Waiheʻe sugar plantation on Maui. It the mid-1860s it was managed by Samuel Thomas Alexander. Henry Perrin Baldwin took a ‘Luna’ (foreman) job with Alexander. (HP Baldwin and Alexander grew up together as kids in Lāhainā and became close friends.)
It was Mr. Baldwin’s intention – he was then but 21 years of age – to earn enough money to enable him to go to Williams College to take a medical course. (His father was a physician.) His youthful ambition to be a doctor was never realized.
Once launched in the sugar industry he continued in it, an increasingly important figure, for the remainder of his life. Baldwin was particularly successful as an agriculturist, a developer of plantations.
He left to his associates the office and administrative details of his widespread interests but almost to the day of his death continued to take a personal and active interest in the basic level of the sugar industry, the cultivation and production of sugar. (Orr)
In 1869, Baldwin and Alexander became business partners and bought 12-acres in Hāmākuapoko (an eastern Maui ahupuaʻa (land division.)) (They later formed Alexander & Baldwin, one of Hawai‘i’s ‘Big Five’ companies – and the only Big Five still in Hawai‘i.)
“The early years of the partnership of Alexander & Baldwin, represented a continual struggle against heavy odds. Haiku plantation had to have water.”
“Straining their financial resources almost to the breaking point, the young partners succeeded in bringing to completion the Hāmākua-Haiku ditch, the first important irrigation project in the islands.”
“The eventual enormous success of this enterprise made possible the great future of Alexander and Baldwin. Pā‘ia plantation was started and other extensive acreages were added to the partners’ holdings.” (Orr)
“As a pioneer in the construction of big irrigation ditches, Mr. Baldwin laid the foundation for his great fortune. In the latter 70s he caused other planters to gasp by his daring ventures in ditch construction, risking sums of money that were considered very large in those days in enterprises that were believed to be impossible to consummate because of the great gulches and ravines that had to be crossed in the irrigation projects.”
Then tragedy happened … “In 1876, while engaged in adjusting machinery at the sugar mill at the Pā‘ia plantation. Mr. Baldwin almost lost his life by being drawn between the rolls.”
“The engineer fortunately witnessed the accident and reversed the engine, but not before the right arm had been fearfully mangled almost up to the shoulder blade. The amputation was not followed by any serious results, but the handicap was a severe one to so energetic a worker as was Mr. Baldwin all his life.” (Mid Pacific, February 1912)
“When Mr. Alexander removed to Oakland, Calif., in 1883, because of failing health, Mr. Baldwin assumed full direction of their affairs in Hawaii, and for almost thirty years thereafter he was a leading figure in the industrial expansion of the islands.” (Orr)
“A heavy expansion of Alexander and Baldwin came with the acquisition of control of the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. of Puʻunene, Maui, formerly operated by the late Claus Spreckels.”
“Mr. Baldwin took personal charge of this plantation in 1902 and made it one of the most successful and productive estates in Hawaii. Today it ranks as one of the world’s finest and most modern sugar plantations.” (Orr)
“As manager of the Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company, Mr. Baldwin had the satisfaction of seeing it become one of the greatest sugar plantations of the world, with other plantations under the control of his company ranking very high according to their size.” (Mid Pacific, February 1912)
“During its early years the firm operated a fleet of sailing vessels between Hawaii and the mainland, carrying sugar to California and returning with merchandise. These ships later were replaced by the steamers of the American-Hawaiian line and still later by the freighters of the Matson Navigation Co.” (Orr)
“It has been said that no man was ever more deserving of success, for he worked hard when manual labor was necessary, rising as early as four o’clock in the morning and working late into the night to make his enterprises what they have since become.”
“The benefactions of Mr. Baldwin were innumerable. His life in every way was an example to the white boy born in Hawaii. He was of the second generation to the islands born and behind him left eight children of the third generation and several of the fourth.”
“Mr. Baldwin married Emily W. Alexander, daughter of Rev. and Mrs. William Patterson Alexander, early missionaries, and a sister of Mr. Baldwin’s partner, S. T. Alexander, at Wailuku, Maui, on April 5, 1870.”
“Eight children were born to them, Harry A Baldwin, Frank F Baldwin, Mrs. Maud (Baldwin) Cooke, Arthur D Baldwin, Dr WD Baldwin, Mrs Charlotte (Baldwin) Rice, Fred Baldwin and AS Baldwin.” (Orr)
“His sons were and are all athletes, mental and physical, worthy successors to their father, and sons of Hawaii that demonstrate that the islands produce men of brain and brawn throughout the succeeding generations.” (Mid Pacific, February 1912)
In January 1909, HP had an operation for appendicitis. Just as the incident with his arm, he recovered quickly and by the summer of 1911 he was healthy enough to make the voyage to California, but sadly, he died a few days after returning on July 8, 1911. (Davis)
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Chris Faye says
My great grandfather worked for a short time with H.P. Baldwin at Paia and remembered the incident with his arm. Didn’t stop him from rappelling down Maliko Gulch where they were working on the ditch. He was very much admired by all the other planters for his energy and daring in business. He also put in the Hanapepe Ditch System at Hawaiian Sugar Company at Makaweli, Kauai in 1891. Baldwin designed the system. He had to personally attend to HSCo when it nearly failed prior to the ditch installation.