Powered by a nearby waterfall and pumping out smoke through a chimney, a brick sugar mill in Kōloa, Kauai, started to produce sugar in 1835. The historic Old Sugar Mill of Kōloa would not only operate as Hawaii’s first successful commercial sugar plantation, but also mark the start of Hawaii’s sugar industry.
From 1835 to the 1990s, the sugar industry dominated Hawaii’s economy and shaped history. During that time, over 80 sugar companies have operated in Hawaii, and the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association (HSPA) represented sugar plantations on the Hawaiian islands of Kauai, Oahu, Maui and Hawaii.
From 1970, HSPA has documented history, data, and information relating to Hawaii’s sugar industry in its Hawaiian Sugar Manuals, an annual journal. The sugar trade statistics include Hawaii’s sugar industry’s acreage, production, price, and wages.
The Hawaiian Sugar Manuals are now freely accessible online on eVols, an institutional repository. The University of Hawaii at Manoa Library digitized this collection, and its publication years range from 1969 to 1995.
While Hawaii’s sugar industry has faded in recent decades, its historical significance remains. Primary source documents about the industry illustrates Hawaii’s environmental, economic, social, legal, and agricultural history. Researchers who use these materials come from various fields such as history, business, agriculture, sociology, Pacific Studies, and literature. These materials have been used to produce History Day projects, popular works, theses, dissertations and other scholarly writings.
Hawaiian Sugar Manuals on eVols
Fresh Water in Hawaii
Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association Plantation Archives
Sugar Industry in Hawaii’s Newspapers
Traditional Pacific Island Crops: Sugarcane
Hawaii Agriculture Research Center
Center for Oral History