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Hawaii State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1778—Englishman James Cook landed in Hawaii

1795—King Kamehameha I unifies Hawaii

1820—Protestant missionaries teach Christianity

1835—The first sugar plantation is established on Kauai Island

1839—Roman Catholics receive religious freedom

1894—The Republic of Hawaii was established

1898—The United States annexes Hawaii

1900—Hawaii becomes a U.S. territory

1901—The Hawaiian Pineapple Company, now Dole, is established

1934—President Roosevelt was the first U.S. President to visit Hawaii

1941—Japan attacks Pearl Harbor; the United States enters World War II

1957—The first telephone cable from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii operated

1959—Hawaii becomes the 50th state

1962—The jet-aircraft terminal in Honolulu was completed

1982—Hurricane Iwa causes about $312 million in damages

1991—Carolyn Sapp becomes the first Miss America from Hawaii

1992—Hurricane Iniki kills four and causes $2 billion in damages

The first people to inhabit the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesians.  They sailed from other islands in large canoes.  Later, people from Tahiti came and gained control over the Hawaii Islands.

The British navy discovered Hawaii in 1778.  Other European and U.S. trading ships began to arrive on their way to China during the 1780s.  Disease brought from other parts of the world killed many of the Hawaiians.  

Local chiefs ruled individual islands until 1782.  One of these chiefs, Kamehameha, conquered most of Hawaii in 1795.  By 1810, all of Hawaii was under his control.  After his death in 1819, his son Liholiho became Kamehameha II.  He promptly abolished the local religion. 

Protestant missionaries arrived the following year and converted many Hawaiians to Christianity.  Catholic missionaries that arrived during the late 1820s were forced to leave or be imprisoned in 1831.  Catholics were released and received religious freedom in 1839 as France threatened to destroy Honolulu.

Hawaii adopted its first constitution in 1840.  Until 1848, the king owned all the land of the islands.  A law passed that year that divided the land between the king and his chiefs.  Most of these men gave their land to the government, which in turn sold land to the Hawaiian people.

In 1835, an American company established the first permanent sugarcane plantation in Kauai.  By the 1890s, several U.S. and European settlers had begun planting pineapples.  Sugarcane planting also became an important industry.  Thousands of workers were needed for these plantations; many came from China, Japan and the Philippines.

During the rule of King Kalakaua, many Hawaiian customs that had been discouraged by earlier rulers became popular again.  He became known as the Merry Monarch.  To enhance trade with the United States, Kalakaua allowed them exclusive use of Pearl Harbor as a naval base in 1887.

Hawaii’s only ruling queen came to power in 1891.  Liliuokalani tried to gain power by changing the laws of the constitution.  In 1893, a revolution brought forth the Republic of Hawaii.  The United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 and two years later made it an official U.S. territory.  All Hawaiians became citizens of the United States.

During the early 1900s, several military bases were established on the island of Oahu.  In 1908, a great naval base was built at Pearl Harbor.  In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first U.S. President to visit Hawaii.

When World War II began in 1939, the United States chose to stay out of the war.  After the historic Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and Oahu on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States declared war on Japan and entered World War II.  Many of the damaged ships and submarines were repaired by armed forces and used in the war.  The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific was dedicated in 1949 in Honolulu; thousands are buried there.

Bills for statehood were introduced to Congress as early as 1919, but many feared there would be no support from the islands during wartime.  This fear came to an end as thousands fought from Hawaii in World War II (1939-1945) and the Korean War (1950-1953).  Hawaii became the 50th state on Aug. 21, 1959.

Since statehood, Hawaii’s population has doubled.  Sugar refining and pineapple production remain important but have declined.  Tourism now leads Hawaii’s industries, estimated now around $4 billion annually.  A new jet-aircraft terminal, completed in Honolulu in 1962, cut flying time from the United States in half.  Huge resorts and new hotels were built throughout the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui, and Molokai.

Some Native Hawaiians want to regain land lost to the United States when they annexed Hawaii.  Several people believe the United States should return Hawaii to its rightful owners, allowing the Native Hawaiians to have their own government.  State leaders are striving to solve these conflicts.