Hawaii pt 7 Soil, Agriculture, Minerals, Manufactures, Communication, Commerce

by Jim Morgan

Soil. The soil of the Territory is almost wholly a decomposition of lava, and in general differs much from the soils of the United States, particularly in the large amount of nitrogen (often more than 1-25% in cane and coffee soil, and occasionally 2-2%) and iron, and in the high degree of acidity. High up on the windward side of a mountain it is thin, light red or yellow, and of inferior quality. Low down on the leeward side it is dark red and fertile, but still too pervious to retain moisture well. In the older valleys on the islands of Kauai, Oahu and Maui, as well as on the lowland plain of Molokai, the soil is deeper and usually, too, the moisture is retained by a heavy clay. In some places along the coast there is a narrow strip of decomposed coral limestone ; often, too, a coral reef has served to catch the sediment washed down the mountain side until a deep sedimentary soil has been deposited. On the still lower levels the soil is deepest and most productive.

Agriculture. The tenure by which lands were held before 1838 was strictly feudal, resembling that of Germany in the 11th century, and lands were sometimes enfeoffed to the seventh degree. But in the ” Great Division ” which took place in 1848 and forms the foundation of present land titles, about 984,000 acres, nearly one- fourth of the inhabited area, were set apart for the crown, about 1,495,000 acres for the government, and about 1,619,000 acres for
the several chiefs; and the common people received fee-simple titles 4 for their house lots and the pieces of land which they cultivated for themselves, about 28,600 acres, almost entirely in isolated patches of irregular shape hemmed in by the holdings of the crown, the government or the great chiefs. Generally the chiefs ran into debt; many died without heirs; and their lands passed largely into the hands of foreigners. At the abolition of the monarchy in 1893, the crown domains were declared to be public lands, and, with the other government lands, were by the terms of annexation turned over to the United States in 1898. They had been offered for sale or lease in accordance with land acts (of 1884 and 1895 the latter corresponding generally to the land laws of New Zealand) designed to promote division into small farms and their immediate improvement. In 1909 the area of the public land was about 1,700,000 acres. In 1900 there were in the Territory 2273 farms, of which 1209 contained less than 10 acres, 785 contained between 10 and 100 acres, and 116 contained 1000 acres or more. The natives seldom cultivate more than half an acre apiece, and the Portuguese settlers usually only 25 or 30 acres at most. Of the total area of the Territory only 86,854 acres, or 2-77%, were under cultivation in 1900, and of this 65,687 acres, or 75-6%, were divided into 170 farms and planted to sugar-cane. In 1909 it was estimated that 213,000 acres (about half of which was irrigated) were planted to sugar, one half being cropped each year. The average yield per acre of cane-sugar is the greatest in the world, 30 to 40 tons of cane being an average per acre, and as much as 10 1/4 tons of sugar having been produced from a single acre under irrigation. The cultivation of the cane was greatly encouraged by the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875, which established practically free trade between the islands and the United States, and since 1879 it has been widely extended by means of irrigation, the water being obtained both by pumping from numerous artesian wells and by conducting surface water through canals and ditches. The sugar farms are mostly on the islands of Hawaii, Oahu, Maui and Kauai, at the bases of mountains; those on the leeward side have the better soil, but require much more irrigating. The product increased from 26,072,429 lb in 1876 to 259,789,462 lb in 1890, 542,098,500 ft in 1899 and about 1,060,000,000 lb (valued at more than $40,000,000) in 1909. Nearly all of it is exported to the United States. Rice was the second product in importance until competition with Japan, Louisiana and Texas made the crop a poor investment; improved culture and machinery may restore rice culture to its former importance. It is grown almost wholly by Japanese and Chinese on small low farms along the coasts, mostly on the islands of Kauai and Oahu. In 1899 the product amounted to 33,442,400 lb; in 1907 about 12,000 acres were planted, and the crop was estimated to be worth $2,500,000. Coffee of good quality is grown at elevations ranging between 1000 to 3000 ft. above the sea; the Hawaiian product is called Kona coffee from Kona, a district of the S. side of Hawaii island, where much of it is grown. In 1909 about 4500 acres were in coffee, the value of the crop was $350,000; and 1,763,119 lb of coffee, valued at $211,535, were exported from Hawaii to the mainland of the United States. A few bananas and (especially from Oahu) pineapples of fine quality are exported; since 1901 the canning of pineapples has been successfully carried on, and in the year ending May 31, 1907, 186,700 cases were exported, being packed in nine canneries. Oranges, lemons, limes, figs, mangoes, grapes and peaches, besides a considerable variety of vegetables, are raised in small quantities for local consumption. In 1909 the exports of fruits and nuts to the continental United States were valued at $1,457,644. An excellent quality of sisal is grown. Rubber trees have been planted with some success, particularly on the eastern part of the island of Maui; they were not tapped for commercial use until 1909. In 1907 there were vanilla plantations in the islands of Oahu and Hawaii. Tobacco of a high grade, especially for wrappers, has been grown at the Agricultural Experiment Station’s farm at Hamakua, on the island of Hawaii, where the tobacco is practically ” shade grown ” under the afternoon fogs from Mauna Kea. Cotton and silk culture have been experimented with on the islands; and the work of the Hawaiian Agricultural Experiment Station is of great value, in introducing new crops, in improving old, in studying soils and fertilizers and in entomological research. Honey is a crop of some importance; in 1908 the yield was about 950 tons of honey and 15 tons of wax. The small islands of Lanai, Niihau and Kahoolawe are devoted chiefly to the raising of sheep and cattle Niihau is one large privately owned sheep-ranch. There are large cattle-ranches on the islands supplying nearly all the meat for domestic consumption, and cattle-raising is second in importance to the sugar industry. It was estimated in 1908 that there were about 130,500 cattle and about 99,500 sheep on the islands. The ” native ” cattle, descended from those left on the islands by early navigators, are being improved by breeding with imported Hereford, Shorthorn, Angus and Holstein bulls, the Herefords being the best for the purpose. In the fiscal year 1908, 359,413 lb of wool (valued at $58,133) and 928,599 lb of raw hides (valued at $87,599) were shipped from the Territory to the United States.

3 The entomological department of the Hawaii Experiment
Station undertakes ” mosquito control,” and in 1905-1906 imported
top-minnows (Poeciliidae) to destroy mosquito larvae.

4 These and other title-holders received corresponding rights to
the use of irrigation ditches, and to fish in certain sea areas adjacent
to their holdings.

Minerals. The islands have large (unworked) supplies of pumice, sandstone, sulphur, gypsum, alum and mineral-paint ochres, and some salt, kaolin and sal-ammoniac, but otherwise they are without mineral wealth other than lava rocks for building purposes.

Manufactures. The manufactures are chiefly sugar, fertilizers, and such products of the foundry and machine shop as are required for the machinery of the sugar factories. Most of the manufacturing industries, indeed, are maintained for supplying the local market, there being only three important exceptions the manufacture of sugar, the cleaning of coffee and the cleaning and polishing of rice. The manufacture of sugar, which began between 1830 and 1840, has long been much the most important of the manufacturing industries: thus in 1900 the value of the sugar production was $19,254,773, and the total value of all manufactures, including custom work and repairing, was only $24,992,068. Next to sugar, fertilizers were the most important manufactured product, their value being $1,150,625; the products of the establishments for the polishing and cleaning of rice were valued at $664,300. Of the total product in 1900, only 18-5% (by value) is to be credited to the city of Honolulu. The growth of manufacturing is much hampered by the lack of labour. Excellent water power is utilized on the island of Kauai in an electric plant.

Communications. There are good wagon roads on the islands, some of them macadamized, built of the hard blue lava rock. Hawaii had in 1909 about 200 m. of railway, of which the principal line is that of the Oahu Railway & Land Company (about 89 m.), extending from Honolulu W. and N. along the coast to Kahuku
about one-half the distance around Oahu; another line from Kahuku Mill, the most northerly point of the island, S.E. to Honolulu, was projected in 1905; on the island of Hawaii is the Hilo Railroad (about 46 m.), carrying sugar, pineapples, rubber and lumber; other railways are for the most part short lines on sugar estates and in coffee-producing sections of the islands of Hawaii and Maui. Each of the larger islands has one or more ports which a local steamboat serves regularly, and Honolulu has the regular service of seven trans-Pacific lines (the American-Hawaiian Steamship Co., the Canadian-Australian Steamship Co., the Matson Navigation Co., the Oceanic Steamship Co., the Pacific Mail Steamship Co., the Mexican Oriental and the Toyo Kisen Kaisha); it is a midway station for vessels between the United States (mainland) and Australia and Southern Asia. In 1908 five steamship companies were engaged in traffic between island ports and the mainland (including Mexico). Honolulu has cable connexion with San Francisco and the East, and the several islands of the group are served by wireless telegraph.

Commerce. The position of the archipelago, at the ” cross-roads ” of the North Pacific, has made it commercially important since the days of the whale fishery, and it has a practical monopoly of coaling, watering and victualling. Its main disadvantage is the lack of harbours Honolulu and Pearl Harbor are the only ones in the archipelago; but under the River and Harbour Act of 1905 examinations and surveys were made to improve Hilo Bay on the island of Hawaii. Pearl Harbor is the U.S. naval station, and a great naval dock, nearly 1200 ft. long, was projected for the station in 1908. Within recent years commerce has grown greatly in volume; it has always been almost entirely with the United States. In 1880 the value of imports from the United States was $2,086,000, that of exports to the United States was $4,606,000; in 1907 the value of shipments of domestic merchandise from the United States to Hawaii was $15,357,907 and the value of shipments of domestic merchandise from Hawaii to the United States was $31,984,433, of which $30,111,524 was the value of brown sugar, $133,133 the value of rice, $601,748 the value of canned fruits, $124,146 the value of green, ripe or dried fruits, $117,403 the value of hides and skins, and $105,515 the value of green or raw coffee. The shipments of foreign merchandise each way are relatively insignificant. In the fiscal year 1908 the exports from Hawaii to foreign countries were valued at $597,640, ten times as much as in 1905 ($59,541); the imports into Hawaii from foreign countries were valued at $4,682,399 in the fiscal year 1908, as against $3,014,964 in 1905.


From the Encyclopaedia Brittannica 11th Edition Volume XIII pp 83-93. It is in the public domain.