Hawai`i Past and Present
New York
Dodd, Mead and Company 1913


To MY FATHER—Lifelong friend of the Hawaiian People; foremost among those who have laboured for the upbuilding of the Islands; his unselfish devotion is the inspiration of his children.



This book has a double purpose: to tell those who stay at home something about Hawaii, the youngest of American Territories; and to help those who are going there to plan their trip intelligently. Baedeker has not yet extended his labours to the Pacific Islands, and no guidebook is available for the traveler. Many books have been written about special phases of Hawaiiits history or its commerce or its industrybut none has attempted to give concisely a survey of its history, its present conditions, and its natural beauty. This book, therefore, falls naturally into two divisions, the first part explanatory, the second, as well as may be descriptive.


The information it contains has been gathered from the most diverse sources, books, pamphlets, and even railroad folders, the whole checked by my own personal knowledge. The facts, I am sure, are accurate. The descriptions are largely from my own observations, and I have tried not to fall into the error of exaggeration so common in books


The very comprehensiveness of the book has made it difficult to write. It would have been easy to devote all the space to discussion of industrial conditions, or of the Hawaiian people, or of the Volcano, but this would have been to write an essay for specialists. It would have been still easier to tell of my own boyhood experiences, of thrilling climbs over the mountains in search of land shells, of amusing experiences on the funny little old inter-island boats, but this would have resulted only in another "Diary," this time of a quite ordinary boy. I have tried, however, to keep myself in mind in so far as to tell things as I myself have seen them, expressing so far as possible in the descriptions my own feelings about the scenes described. And I hope the book may do something toward stirring in others an interest in Hawaii, an interest which, with fuller knowledge, must issue in something of the affection for the Islands that is felt by all of us who have there spent our childhood days.


I have drawn freely on Dr. W. J. Alexander's excellent book, "A Brief History of he Hawaiian People," and on Mr. C. W. Baldwin's clear and accurate "Geography of the Hawaiian Islands," and to the authors of both these books I want to express my thanks for the cordial permission they have given me to make use of the result of their study. Most of all I must thank my father, who has read my manuscript and who, from his almost inexhaustible knowledge of Hawaiian affairs, has made suggestions without which this book would hardly have been possible.

W. R. Castle, Jr.



Chapter 1Introduction

Chapter 2The Hawaiian People

Chapter 3History to 1898

Chapter 4Hawai`i as a Territory

Chapter 5Commerce and Industry

Chapter 6Honolulu

Chapter 7Oahu

Chapter 8Kauai

Chapter 9Molokai and Maui

Chapter 10Hawai`i

Chapter 11The Volcanoes

Chapter 12Island Life








At the time of their annexation to the United States much was heard of the Hawaiian Islands as the Key to the Pacific, a name which, unlike most tags, seems to be a fairly accurate description. Situated between 19° and 23° north latitude and between 154° 40' and 162° west longitude, they are at the junction of the principal steamer routes across the Pacific and indeed are the only land of any extent within a radius of two thousand miles. This situation gives them, inevitably, great strategic and commercial importance. To the north the nearest land is Alaska with the chain of the Aleutian Islands, 2,000 miles away; to the east, the North American Continent, 2,000 miles; and to the west, the Philippine Islands, 4,500 miles. Honolulu is distant 2,100 miles from San Francisco, 2,460 miles from Victoria, B. C, 4,700 from Manila, 3,400 from Yokohama, 3,810 from Auckland, and 4,410 from Sydney. It is reached from San Francisco and the Orient by ships of the Pacific Mail S. S. Co., and of the Toyo Kisen Kaisha of Japan; from British Columbia and Australia by steamers of the Canadian-Australian Steamship Co. There are also local boats running between the Islands and San Francisco. As the steamers on all these lines have adequate passenger accommodations and as the six-day passage from San Francisco is usually smooth, the Islands are easily accessible, and, as their attractions become better known, will inevitably be more and more the resort of tourists.


The Hawaiian group consists of twelve islands, of which the principal, and indeed the only inhabited, islands are, in order of their size: Hawaii, Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe. They were formed by lava poured out from a fissure in the earth's crust which extended for about two thousand miles along the bottom of the ocean. To the northwest these lava mountains reached only to the surface of the water, just appearing in Midway, Nekkar, Ocean, and other islets and never forming important land until Kauai, the most northwesterly of the Hawaiian group, was built far above sea level. On this island the volcanic fires first went out and so were successively extinguished on island after island toward the southeast until Hawaii was reached. This island is still in the process of building. Erosion is therefore greatest on Kauai, and, with the exception of parts of those islands which have little or no water, least on Hawaii. All the islands of the group were originally lofty and gently sloping mountains, but these have been worn by streams on the leeward side into deep ravines and valleys, and on the windward sides have been literally cut away by rains and winds, so that the mountains are now precipitous, rising from the sea in sheer cliffs, hundreds and even thousands of feet high.


Geologically the Islands are composed of two kinds of lava rock, one completely fused and very hard, the other only partly fused (tufa), which was thrown out by the ancient volcanoes in masses and in smaller particles. Tufa decomposes under the action of erosion much more quickly than does the solid lava, but this, after centuries of wear and tear by the weather and of being broken by the roots of plants that somehow find means of life even on very recent lava flows, makes a far richer soil. Where there is not too much rain it becomes a deep red earth, the best on the Islands for agricultural purposes except the sedimentary soil in the valley bottoms and along the coast. The only non-volcanic rock, a certain amount of sandstone and of coral, is the result of the uplifting of ancient reefs.


In climate the Hawaiian Islands are exceptionally favoured. The northeast trade winds blow for nine months in the year, and ocean currents, also from the northeast, further moderate the temperature so that it averages 10° lower than in any other region in the same latitude, at sea level from 60° to 85°, with a mean of about 74°, and proportionally lower as one ascends to higher elevations. There are no cyclones, and thunderstorms are very rare. The rainfall is much greater on the windward than on the lee sides of the Islands, the average rainfall of Honolulu being, for example, 35 inches, and of Hilo, 150 inches. In some districts the average falls as low as two inches, and in some rises as high as 300 inches. This necessarily results in a much more luxuriant vegetation on the windward slopes, wherever excess of rain has not washed away the soil, but the mountain forests extend well down the southern and western slopes, and artesian wells, combined with an excellent system of irrigation, permit cultivation in almost all parts.


The flora is varied and very beautiful. There are, first, the indigenous plants, growing wild on the mountains, among them many ornamental and useful trees, such as the koa, or Hawaiian mahogany, which is extensively used for furniture, and the ohia, which is very hard, takes a high polish, and is used for furniture, floors, and panelling, as well as for railroad ties and permanent fence posts. The koa is a wonderful golden brown in colour, full of light and shadows, and exquisitely grained. The ohia is darker, in texture more like the teak-wood of the Orient. The second group of plants are those which were introduced from the south by early Hawaiian voyagers. Useful plants they were,—cocoanuts, bananas, breadfruit, taro, sugar-cane, mulberries, and fibre plants for the manufacture of mats, ropes, and fish-nets. Of the third group are the plants now growing wild but introduced more recently from abroad, such as the guava, orange, mango, and algaroba tree, which last forms almost impenetrable forests near the seacoast. Every effort is being made by both Federal and Territorial officials toward intelligent conservation of already existing forests and toward reforestation. Many barren spaces have already been reclaimed with heavy planting of algaroba, eucalyptus, ironwood, and other trees.


In animal life the Islands are not so rich. At the time of their discovery dogs, hogs, mice, and domestic fowls, beside wild fowls and migratory birds, were the only animals. Of reptiles there were only a few harmless lizards. Snakes were and are unknown. There were about seventy varieties of wild birds, however, many of which, owing to the recession of the forests, have become extinct. Insects, including the mosquito (the malarial mosquito is fortunately unknown), have since been brought in, and, with the careless introduction of foreign plants, certain blights, for which the natural enemies have been discovered in time to prevent any wholesale destruction of vegetation. The most distinctive form of animal life, and the only one peculiar to the Islands, is the land-shells (achatinella), of which there are 341 species. These shells grow on the leaves of forest trees, and are often exquisite in colouring.


The industries, of which sugar is far in the lead, are discussed in another chapter.


The population of the islands has fluctuated greatly, decreasing from perhaps 250,000 in 1778 to 57,985 in 1878, since when it has steadily increased until, by the census of 1910, it was found to be 191,909. Of this number only 26,041 were of pure Hawaiian blood, with 12,606 of mixed Hawaiian and Caucasian or Asiatic blood. Of the remainder, 22,303 were Portuguese, 4,890 Porto Rican, 1,990 Spanish, 14,867 other Caucasian (principally American), 21,674 Chinese, 70,674 Japanese, 4,533 Korean, and 3,431 of different or mixed races. The native-born population numbered 98,157 and the foreign-born 93,752. From this table it is clear that the increase of population common to all the islands of the group has been principally due to the importation of labourers, since the Portuguese and Porto Ricans as well as the Orientals have been introduced to work on the plantations. Of these the Portuguese generally turn at last to independent agricultural pursuits, settle permanently in the country, and become good citizens. Many of the Orientals also become merchants or lease land to raise fruit or vegetables on their own account, but the great majority are a floating population who have left home only temporarily to earn money. An encouraging sign, except in one respect, is the steady growth of the native-born population. During 1911 the birth rate among all races except the Hawaiian was materially in excess of the death rate. But among pure Hawaiians there were, sadly enough, 1,010 deaths as against only 592 births, a decrease only partly compensated by the fact that of part-Hawaiians there were 467 births as against 172 deaths. The race, as a pure race, must inevitably disappear, but it may well be that the traces of Hawaiian blood in the future inhabitants of the Territory will add dignity and grace and gentleness. This seems now to be the case among those of mixed Hawaiian and Oriental lineage, and sometimes, especially among the women, is it true of the children of Hawaiians and Caucasians. The population of the Islands must always be very cosmopolitan, but this does not mean that they cannot be a strong outpost of American civilisation, since the climate, unlike that of the Philippines, for example, is wholly favourable to the growth of a preponderantly Caucasian population.


Hawaiian grass house, Kona, Hawai`i


This very mixture of races makes the Islands, from the point of view of the tourist, far more interesting than they would otherwise be. Most of the primitive Hawaiian life has disappeared for ever, and the people themselves are, of necessity, more sophisticated in outlook. They have, however, kept their simplicity of manner and with it many of the customs so deeply rooted in their nature. Their love of colour is ineradicable. Universally they wear wreaths or " leis " of flowers or of feathers. The women dress in the "holoku," a kind of Mother Hubbard gown that is often of bright red or blue or purple. Still, especially in the country districts, the men sit in front of their houses pounding " poi," the national dish. Sometimes a cavalcade of riders passes, the women astride, wearing " pads," which are strands of brilliant cloth wound around the legs and streaming out behind the horses like wings. The fishermen cling to the picturesque but heavy dug-out canoe with its huge outrigger of lighter wood. Still, when a chief dies, the ancient wailing makes nights and days tragically musical. And when one does not see the Hawaiians themselves there are the Chinese and Japanese and Koreans to make one realise that Honolulu is also a gateway to the Orient. In the city are lines of deep, dark shops where Chinamen sit stolidly on carved teak-wood stools before their queer baskets and rows of lacquered boxes and rolls of silk; noisy corners where voluble Japanese congregate to bargain and to discuss excitedly all sorts of profound or trivial questions. Through the streets trudge the Oriental market-gardeners, their wares displayed in two flat, round, open baskets suspended from each end of a long pole—lettuce and purple eggplant and white, twisted lotus roots, or little tins of the scarlet strawberries that fruit the whole year round. Or on the plantations one sees them—these sturdy men of the East—cutting the cane with long, keen knives and loading it on little cars to be carried to the mill; or in the mill itself, stripped to the waist, shovelling the warm raw sugar into sacks; or, after work is over, playing the hose on each other, quite naked, before their cottages in the cool of the day. Even the Caucasians, the Americans and English and Germans, are obviously the denizens of another land. Their white linen suits and muslin dresses, their skins tanned with the tropical sun, the very freedom of their motions, differentiate them from their brothers and sisters in the north. But here there is no suggestion of illness, as in so many tropical countries. There is no fever in the clean trade winds. They are as sturdy physically as ever their fathers and mothers were at home. Their children do not have to be sent away like the children of those who are expatriated to India, but grow up as strong as the children of the home land. All this makes them not restless sojourners in a foreign country, but rather adventurers who have found a new home and broader opportunity.


Hawaii is a land of law and order. Different as it may be in its outward aspects, one feels it to be essentially an outpost and a distant centre of American civilisation. Partly consciously, partly unconsciously, the missionaries saw to that. English is the official language, even though in the courts and in the legislature speeches are by courtesy translated into Hawaiian. The schools are conducted in English. American enterprise has built up the country, although much British and German capital is also invested. The Hawaiian people themselves have so absorbed the essential ideals of America that one feels the country, with all its superficially un-American traits, to rest on a thoroughly American foundation. The complexity of races gives a picturesqueness that is utterly absent from a blatant Western town. There is all the vigour of young American life, but with an added grace and stability brought about through contact with other more conservative peoples. The Islands give an admirable example of colonisation which has been able to inspire with its own ideals, its own strength, while it has not imposed such slavish following of externals as would destroy sense of individuality and as would cause irritation through forcing an alien race to abandon customs that are not incompatible with progress.


Every American interested in the achievements of his own country ought to see this youngest Territory, since here, better than anywhere else, can he appreciate the assimilative and uplifting power of the best American traditions. It is, moreover, an older civilisation than that of California, more suggestive of the Atlantic seaboard than of the Pacific. And this is natural, since the first settlers, the missionaries, came from the Eastern States and came, moreover, not in a spirit of gain and of conquest, but for the express purpose of giving to a new land the best that they had known in an old one. They held fast to their own ideals, but were fortunately able to see that there might be other and different ideals which could exist side by side with theirs. It is true that they destroyed much that was picturesque. They insisted, for example, on trousers and skirts as a necessary adjunct of Christianity, but skirts and trousers, whether considered as insignia of Christianity or of decency, seem inevitably to follow in the wake of civilisation. Beyond this, however, beyond Christianising and educating, the missionaries were willing to admit that God made the climate and that neither tropical customs nor tropical architecture need conform strictly to those of New England. For a hundred years the predominant influence has been American, and it is an influence which has become the motive power of the land, so that we have really, to-day, a bit of America that is no less American because it holds as surface decoration some of the colour and some of the strangeness of other lands.

Add to all this, which might be called the intellectual interest of the place, a climate always mild, but never cruelly hot, such physical traits as superb mountains glowing with tropical colour, that spring straight from the shining sea, a varied and a beautiful flora, the greatest active volcanoes in the world, and there seems truth in the other name that has long been given the Islands, "The Paradise of the Pacific."


Back to Contents                Chapter Two


Back to History

  History  Atlas  Culture Language Links  

donch.com home     photos     baritone ukulele     lucky u live hawai'i