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Hawaii is a state of the United States in the central Pacific Ocean comprising the Hawaiian Islands. The islands became a U.S. territory in 1900, which was admitted as the 50th state in 1959. Honolulu, on Oahu, is the capital and the largest city. Population: 1,270,000.

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Early Settlers and Explorers

The first known settlers of the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesian voyagers (the date of final migration is believed to be c.750). The islands were first visited by Europeans in 1778 by the English explorer Captain James Cook, who named them the Sandwich Islands for the English Earl of Sandwich. At that time the islands were under the rule of warring native kings. The Rule of Kamehameha I

In 1810 Kamehameha I became the sole sovereign of all the islands, and, in the peace that followed, agriculture and commerce were promoted. As a result of Kamehameha's hospitality, American traders were able to exploit the islands' sandalwood, which was much valued in China at the time. Trade with China reached its height during this period. However, the period of Kamehameha's rule was also one of decline. Europeans and Americans brought with them devastating infectious diseases, and over the years the native population was greatly reduced. The adoption of Western ways—trading for profit, using firearms, and drinking liquor—contributed to the decline of native cultural tradition. This period also marked the breakdown of the traditional Hawaiian religion, with its belief in idols and human sacrifice; years of religious unrest followed.

Influence of the Missionaries

When missionaries arrived in 1820 they found a less idyllic Hawaii than the one Captain Cook had discovered. Kamehameha III, who ruled from 1825 until his death in 1854, relied on the missionaries for advice and allowed them to preach Christianity. The missionaries established schools, developed the Hawaiian alphabet, and used it for translating the Bible into Hawaiian. In 1839, Kamehameha III issued a guarantee of religious freedom, and the following year a constitutional monarchy was established. From 1842 to 1854 an American, G. P. Judd, held the post of prime minister, and under his influence many reforms were carried out. In the following decades commercial ties between Hawaii and the United States increased.

Development of the Sugar Industry

In 1848 the islands' feudal land system was abolished, making private ownership possible and thereby encouraging capital investment in the land. By this time the sugar industry, which had been introduced in the 1830s, was well established. Hawaiian sugar gained a favored position in U.S. markets under a reciprocity treaty made with the United States in 1875. The treaty was renewed in 1884 but not ratified. Ratification came in 1887 when an amendment was added giving the United States exclusive right to establish a naval base at Pearl Harbor. The amount of sugar exported to the United States increased greatly, and American businessmen began to invest in the Hawaiian sugar industry. Along with the Hawaiians in the industry, they came to exert powerful influence over the islands' economy and government, a dominance that was to last until World War II.

The Overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and Annexation

Toward the end of the 19th cent., agitation for constitutional reform in Hawaii led to the overthrow (1893) of Queen Liliuokalani, who had ruled since 1891. A provisional government was established and John L. Stevens, the U.S. minister to Hawaii, proclaimed the country a U.S. protectorate. President Grover Cleveland, however, refused to annex Hawaii since most Hawaiians did not support a revolution; the Hawaiians and Americans in the sugar industry had encouraged the overthrow of the monarchy to serve their business needs.

The United States tried to bring about the restoration of Queen Liliuokalani, but the provisional government on the islands refused to give up power and instead established (1894) a republic with Sanford B. Dole as president. Cleveland's successor, President William McKinley, favored annexation, which was finally accomplished in 1898. In 1900 the islands were made a territory, with Dole as governor. In this period, Hawaii's pineapple industry expanded as pineapples were first grown for canning purposes. In 1937 statehood for Hawaii was proposed and refused by the U.S. Congress—the territory's mixed population and distance from the U.S. mainland were among the obstacles.

World War II and Statehood

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese aircraft made a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, plunging the United States into World War II. During the war the Hawaiian Islands were the chief Pacific base for U.S. forces and were under martial law (Dec. 7, 1941–Mar., 1943).

The postwar years ushered in important economic and social developments. There was a dramatic expansion of labor unionism, marked by major strikes in 1946, 1949, and 1958. The International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union organized the waterfront, sugar, and pineapple workers. The tourist trade, which had grown to major proportions in the 1930s, expanded further with postwar advances in air travel and with further investment and development. The building boom brought about new construction of luxury hotels and housing developments; Hawaii is home to one of the world's most expensively built resort, the Hyatt Regency Waikola, which cost $360 million to construct.

After having sought statehood for many decades, Hawaii was finally admitted to the union on Aug. 21, 1959; although it was thought at first to be solidly Republican, the state has long been a Democratic stronghold. Movements for a return of some sort of native sovereignty have been periodically active.

In Sept., 1992, the island of Kauai was devastated by Hurricane Iniki, the strongest hurricane to hit the islands in the century. Hawaii, which had enjoyed sustained economic and population growth since the end of World War II, saw both slow in the 1990s, as tourism, the sugar industry, military spending, and Japanese investment in the islands (particularly important in the 1980s) declined.


  • Hawaii is the most isolated population center on the face of the earth. Hawaii is 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; 4,900 miles from China; and 5,280 miles from the Philippines.
  • Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee.
  • More than one-third of the world's commercial supply of pineapples comes from Hawaii.
  • There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet.
    • Vowels: A, E, I, O, U
    • Consonants: H, K, L, M, N, P, W
  • From east to west Hawaii is the widest state in the United States.
  • The Hawaiian Islands are the projecting tops of the biggest mountain range in the world.
  • Honolulu's zenith star, (the star that rises directly above it) is Arcturus. The Hawaiians called it Hokule'a. (Hoe koo lay uh.)
  • Under-sea volcanoes that erupted thousands of years ago formed the islands of Hawaii.
  • The Hawaiian Archipelago consists of over 130 scattered points of land stretching some 1,600 miles in length from the Kure Atoll in the north to the Island of Hawaii in the south.
  • The first Asian American in the United States Senate was Hawaii's Hiram Fong. Descended from Chinese immigrants, Fong was elected to the Senate in 1959.
  • Hawaii was the 50th state admitted to the union on August 20th, 1959.
  • Island flowers and colors used to represent each island.
    • Niihau - Pupu Shell - White
    • Kauai - Mokihana (Green Berry) - Purple
    • Oahu - Ilima -Yellow
    • Maui - Lokelani (Pink Cottage Rose) - Pink
    • Molokai - White Kukui Blossom - Green
    • Lanai - Kaunaoa (Yellow and Orange Air Plant) - Orange
    • Kahoolawe - Hinahina (Beach Heliotrope) - Grey
    • Big Island of Hawaii - Lehua Ohia - Red
  • Hawaii has its own time zone (Hawaiian Standard Time.) There is no daylight savings time.) The time runs two hours behind Pacific Standard Time and five hours behind Eastern Standard Time.
  • There are four counties in Hawaii (Kauai; city and county of Honolulu; Maui; and Hawaii). Each city has a mayor and council in charge.
  • All subterranean minerals belong to the state. Except for state owned water, some lava stone, and minor granites and semi-precious minerals, there are few underground minerals.
  • The wind blows east to west in Hawaii. The highest recorded temperature is 96' F (Honolulu Airport), but temperatures over 92' F generally occur only once or twice a year. The lowest temperature (under 3000 feet altitude) is 56' F. Temperatures under 60' F may occur but rarely more than once a year. Average daytime temp. (July) is 82' F. Average daytime temperature in January is 72' F.
  • There are no racial or ethnic majorities in Hawaii. Everyone is a minority. Caucasians (Haoles) constitute about 34%; Japanese-American about 32%; Filipino-American about 16% and Chinese-American about 5%. It is very difficult to determine racial identification as most of the population has some mixture of ethnicities.

External links

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Hawaii United States HI US