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Hawaiian History
Hawaiian HistoryThe islands, we call Hawaii were produced by the Hawaiian hot spot miles below the oceans surface millions of years ago. This hot spot began spewing magma through the earths crust and this eventually built up over time until it breached the oceans surface and formed land. They remained uninhabited for millions of years and were first populated by Polynesians some 1500-2000 years ago. It is thought that the original settlers were voyagers from the Marquesas. Originally each of the islands was independently governed by locally based monarchs but in 1795, the islands were united for the first time under a single ruler: King Kamehameha I. The Hawaiian Historical Society, founded in 1892, is dedicated to preserving historical materials relating to Hawaii and the Pacific region and to publishing scholarly research on Hawaiian and Pacific history. In addition, the Society presents lectures and other programs, free to the public, on various aspects of Hawaiian history.


0 - 500 - First settlers arrive in Hawaii from Polynesia, possibly from the Marquesas, navigating across the Pacific by the stars, sun, clouds, ocean swells and currents. They sought Havaiti, the ancestral home in the sun.

1000 - The first Tahitians arrived in the island and probably conquered the Marquesans.

1175 - A Tahitian priest, or Kahuna in Hawaiian, arrived on the Big Island. Ancient oral chants name him Pa'ao, founder of the Kahuna Nui or high-priest line and the initiator of a ruling king for each island. From Tahiti, he brought Pili, sire of the royal line leading to Kamehameha.

1778 - On his third voyage into the Pacific, British Capt. James Cook lands his ships Resolution and Discovery at Waimea, Kauai; the first Caucasian to make a documented landing in Hawaii. He was welcomed as Lono, the god prophesied to return on a "floating island." Although Spanish galleons on their voyages between Mexico and the Philippines may have preceded him, Cook was the first Pacific explorer to leave a record of reaching Hawaii. He returned a year later to discover the rest of the main islands, dropping anchor in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island. He named the group of islands the Sandwich Islands in honor of the Earl of Sandwich.

1810 - Kamehameha I unites the islands for the first time under one leader. He believed he was the man destined in a prophecy to do so and had waged war on the rulers of the other islands with western weapons he shrewdly acquired after seeing the power of Cook's cannons as a young man.

1819  - Whaling ships arrive in Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island, starting the whaling industry in Hawaii, an industry that flourished for several decades.

1820 - First American missionaries arrive to spread Christianity. Dancing and horseback riding on the Sabbath was forbidden as was drinking, gambling and ship visits by women. Hula was banished and adultery was scorned. A 12-letter alphabet was created to put the Hawaiian language on paper, schools were established and inter-racial marriage was condoned.

1848 - Kamehameha III proclaimed the Great Mahele (division), changing the concept of land ownership. Until then the owner of all land, the king gave chiefs and commoners the chance to gain title by paying a tax and registering the land. Few commoners understood the concept.

1850  - Foreigners were permitted to purchase land. The first private estates were established in Hawaii by the foreigners (haole) or the children of haole and native Hawaiians. The Legislature approves hiring of foreign laborers to work in island fields, opening the doors to workers from China, Japan, Portugal and other countries that immigrate to Hawai'i over the next half-century as sugar and pineapple industries prosper.

1893 - To counter sluggish Hawaiian sugar sales to the U.S., which were severely restricted by a hefty tariff imposed by Congress, sugar planters plotted to end the monarchy with a U.S. takeover. Annexationists overthrow Queen Lili'uokalani. At the time, U.S. President Grover Cleveland called the coup "not merely wrong, but a disgrace." Nonetheless, Provisional Government was established and was later replaced by the Republic of Hawaii.

1898 - At the urging of Theodore Roosevelt and others, the United States annexes Hawaii and creates the Territory of Hawaii. Later in the year, the U.S. acquires the Philippines and Guam. The U.S. Navy begins to eye Pearl Harbor as a strategic Pacific base to guard against an expansionist Japan.

1900  - Pineapple plantations become lucrative businesses and Puerto Ricans, Koreans and Filipinos augment earlier waves of laborers. Working conditions were poor and wages were minimal. However, inadvertently, plantation operators who set up plantation camps according to ethnic groupings preserved ethnic cultures. Cultural diversity will remain one of the cornerstones of the island way of life.

1920  - Olympian Duke Paoa Kahanamoku (1890-1968) puts Hawaii in the spotlight with gold medals, as he did with his 1912 Olympic medal for the world record in the 100-meter freestyle and as he would again in 1924 and 1928. The song On the Beach at Waikiki gave the islands its exotic and romantic allure.

1927 - Matson placed the deluxe passenger ship SS Malolo (Flying Fish) into service between San Francisco and Honolulu, timing the inaugural voyage with the opening of the new Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki.

1936  - The Hawaii Clipper, a Martin M-130 flying boat with private compartments, sleeping berths and gourmet dining, made the first San Francisco Bay to Honolulu flight in 21 hours, 33 minutes with seven customers paying $360 each way.

1941 - Pan Am's California Clipper and five other Boeing B-314s accommodating 74 passengers were making daily runs from San Francisco to Honolulu. However, all flights were suspended when World War II is launched with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

1945  - Commercial flights to Honolulu resume, but by early 1946, land-based aircraft (Douglas DC-4s) would further revolutionize travel to the islands.

1958 - Pam Am's Boeing 707 opened international travel to the islands.

1959 - Hawaii becomes the 50th state of the United States.

1970  - Tourism begins to overtake the military as Hawaii's largest industry. Native Hawaiians and local activism gain recognition through events such as a protest of the military's bombing practices on Kaho'olawe, voyage by the canoe Hokule'a from Hawaii to Tahiti and the state Constitutional Convention, which made concessions to Native Hawaiian concerns.

1980's - The islands experience a boom in development with the construction of new resorts and the expansion of businesses.

1993 - Thousands observe the centennial of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. Congress apologizes for the overthrow, and the State of Hawaii creates a formal process to recognize Hawaiian sovereignty.

1994  - Federal government conveys Kaho'olawe back to the state to manage until a government-recognized sovereign Hawaiian entity is established.