Hawaii Timeline

300 - 500 AD

Large double hulled sailing canoe, sails made of pandanus arrived at the Big Island. They left their home in the Marquesas Islands for reasons we will never know. We are not sure if they left because of war, over population, drought, or just a sense of adventure. They brought food from their home such as taro, bread ,fruit, pigs, dogs and several fowl. The first settlers found a land barren of all most no edible plants. Capt. Cook was not the first to discover the islands. Polynesian were actually the first to discover the islands. They did not have sextants or compases, they set course by the stars, prevailing winds,formations of clouds, and a sixth sense. With only these things they logged about 100 miles a day.

1000 AD

The second wave from Tahiti. These people were more agressive and had a more class conscious culture. They had the kapu system.

1200 AD

They lost all contact: they were totally isolated. No more sea voyaging.


Possibly some strange white people washed ashore on the big island and integrated into society. Coincides with Spanish records of losing two ships in this part of the world.


Communities grew in to small kingdoms. They had stone age tools but not stone age minds. the Hawaiian people took only 150 years to come out of the stone age, while most civilizations took 20000 years.

January 19, 1778

Capt. Cook lands on Kauai. On Kauai Capt. Cook trades iron for supplies with the Islanders.

February 2 1778

Capt. Cook leaves to find the North-West passage.

November 27

The King of Maui boards Cooks flag ship ; The Discovery. They spent 6 weeks maneuvering around Hawaii trying to find a safe harbor.

January 17, 1779

Capt. Cook landed on the big island in Kealakeku. The natives thought that Capt. Cook and his crew were the god Lono. They left on Feb. 4.

February 12

They came back because of bad weather. Cook was killed in a petty skirmish over a stolen row boat. Capt. Cook tried to kidnap the King. Capt. Cook Counted on the superiority of fire arms. The natives were not impressed.


First trading ship in 6 years since Capt. Cook came to the islands. The first fur traders route was Alaska, Canada, Hawaii, China, Hawaii, back home.


The first American ship to reach Hawaii "Columbia Rediviva”. This is the same same ship that discovered the Columbia river. This ship also was the first American ship to circumnavigate the globe.


George Vancouver came to the Islands. He was the first white advisor to Kamehameha. He brought longhorn cattle with him on his second trip.


King Kamehameha I, the great. His reign.


First battle with the European Canoe. Won. Kamehameha had the first two white advisors. John Young, who was the power behind the throne on the Big Island, and Isaac Davis on Oahu.


Hawaii is all one kingdom of islands except Kauai.


Sandal wood is found. Kamehameha turns industrialist. This is the beging of the collapse of the kapu system.


Horses are introduced on the islands. By 1860 horses are everywhere. Hawaiians loose their physique, abandon all sports, ride horses only. They thought of them more as a fun pastime, than as a sport.


A third of the population is wiped out by cholera or plague. This is the first time ever this disease has shown up here.


Kamehameha dies. Liholiho -Kamehameha II- is his successor. The kapu system and old religion is thrown out under pressure from the ladies in court, such as Queen Ka'ahumanu, wife of K I. She is Kuhina'Nui, which means "the power behind the throne". Liholiho dies of measles in London in 1824.

March 30 , 1820

The first missionaries. They were New England Congregationalist. Their leader was Hiram Bingham. They were very strict and they followed the 10 Commandments to the letter. The missionaries were anti-indulgence. They were part politicians, very involved in the natives' agriculture. This is around the time that the first Muumuu (Mother Hubberd-dress) is invented. The new religion was welcomed happily. The ship Maro got in to Honolulu. They were friends with Bingham. Their ship was a whaling ship. They hunted sperm whales. The sea of Japan was full with sperm whales.


The first resident doctors. Bingham thought that 3 doctors were enough for all of the islands.


The first printed pages in the Hawaiian language appear. It is a simple primer. The missionaries invented the Hawaiian alphabet, it exists of 5 vowels and 7 consonants. They thought that it would be impossible to teach a totally illiterate people a language with as many letters as ours. By 1850 everybody had taken to learning -and to religion- because of the natural curiosity and native intelligence of the Hawaiians.


Kamehameha III reign. Son of Kamehameha I, just like Liholiho. Under his reign a transition was made from feudal theocracy to a constitutional monarchy.


The minister of Lahana had all the girls sent up the mountain. A whaling ship had arrived, with sailors ready to "socialize" with the native girls.

1827 & 1828

The whaler Willton poured barrels of bad water that contained mosquitoes into river. Dr. Gerrit Judd reassigned to spend time to form a Government. He was the first doctor to be seriously worried about the rapidly declining population. After first blaming it on the native lifestyle, or even on bats. He later has to recognize that the blame needs to be put on imported epidemic diseases.


First experiment of higher education: a seminary in Lahaina on Mau'i.


Kamehameha III invited three celebrated cowboys to get rid of the long horn cattle brought by Vancouver in 1793. The natives really took to the Mexican dress. Ka'ahumana, the Kuhina'Hui, dies. Next regent is Kina'u, K III's half sister. These women followed missionary guidelines for faith and behavior.


Don Francisco de Paula Marin died. He was top of the list of people contributing to island nurseries. Here are some plants that were introduced to the islands:

  • Orange

  • Almond

  • Grapes

  • Coffee

  • Gava

  • Mango

  • Plums

  • Burgonvia

  • Plumeria

  • Kiawe

They start planning the streets of Honolulu.


Kina'u dies. No Kuhina'Hui to follow her.


First constitution voted. Establishment of a legislative and judiciary system. Religious freedom was granted. K III divided the ancestral lands between himself and the chiefs. Commoners could own land from now on. By the time he died he wanted to sign an annexation with the USA.


Four diseases arrived on the islands: diarrhea, measles, whooping cough and the flu. Every child that was born that year died. Even whole families were wiped out.


The islands could only account for 70,000 natives.


Smallpox arrives. This was the disease the doctors had feared most. Gerrit Judd tries to curtail commercial prostitution to prevent the disease from totally going out of control. The first foreign labours arrive. There were 300 Chinese. The Chinese did not adapt to the plantation life.


K III dies. Alexander Liholiho is Kamehameha IV. He is a nephew and adopted son. He travels intensely and is an anglophile. He is not in favor of annexation with USA. He brought back Hula dancing. Marries Queen Emma in 1856.


Another load of foreign labours. The king noticed that the native population was declining and he wanted more Polynesians. A new immigration policy follows.


A small group of Rorotongans arrive on the islands, this is an isolated incidence - no more Polynesians are to arrive in groups.


The Queens Hospital is founded.


First case of leprosy diagnosed. Kamehameha IV dies. Kamehameha V is crowned, he is an admirable monarch. He focuses on health, immigration and public works. He redesigns the constitution in 1864: more power given to the monarch. He distrusted the missionaries, like his brother did.


The Civil War ends. Sugar has replaced whaling as chief source of income of the Islands. During the Civil War, the Northern States had no access to southern sugar, so they started importing Hawaiian sugar. The economy in Hawaii became very dependent upon the sugar trade (see later)


Chinese immigrants arrive. They are hardworking, live in primitive housing on sugar plantations. After a 5 year contract they leave plantations and start their own rice farming, importing their own labor.


The first ship to go to Molokai where a leper colony has started -leprosy is now called Hansen's Disease and it is curable. Mark Twain arrives in the Hawaiian Islands. He stays for 124 days. These days were the most significant in his career, they were a turning point.


The Belgian priest, Father Damien, leaves to life on Moloka'i. He contracts Leprosy himself after a while. He is very independent, is considered a hero, but he is a difficult man. He dies in 1889.


Kamehameha dies without an heir. A cousin is crowned: King William Lunalilo. The threat of annexation to the United States looms large. He wants to restore the first constitution, writing under K III - he wants a liberal constitutional monarchy.

1873 - February

The United States Army uses Pearl Harbor. It is openly considered to be of exclusive use to the US Army for as long as desired in exchange for duty free sugar trade between Hawaii and US = the reciprocity treaty. The US is officially committed to Hawaiian independence, but it has an agenda of its own! Father Damien arrives in the Leper colony.


William Lunalilo dies. Nobody left from Kamehameha family. The Hawaiian people turn to a noble family from the Big Island: Prince David Kalakaua becomes the next king. He is a child of 2 generations- the old Hawaii and the new. He is a generous, sophisticated and intelligent man. He made sure the dynasty was secured by naming his wife Lili'uokalani as his heir. His niece Kapi'olani is next in line after that. Lili'uokalani publicly defies the goddess Pele of the Volcano on the edge of the crater of Kilauea on the Big Island, she wants to prove their is only one God. The population has fallen to 50,000. Kalakaua went to Washington to meet President Grant. He wants a treaty with the US and a reaffirmation of independence. He received that in February of 1875.


Portuguese, of the Azores and Madeira islands arrive. They have farming experience, and were successful immigrants. They learned the language of the country, and mostly became overseers on plantations.


The government looks only for agriculturalists. Some German immigrants arrive.


22 % of the population is Chinese. A law is passed to limit the number of Chinese that can immigrate. 'Iolani Palace is being build - the first "real" (modeled after European examples) palace in Hawaii. Kalakaua wants to show that Hawaii is independent and joining the modern age.

February 12 1884

Kalakaua throws himself and Lili'uokalani an official coronation party. He wore the yellow feathered cloak that was once worn by Kamehameha I. During the party the Palace is lighted by electricity, at an age in which few houses in the US had electricity.


Around 180,000 Japanese arrive in Hawaii between these years. They mostly work in sugar and pineapple plantations. They are mostly farmers and peasants, and are disappointed in this "land of riches". They organize churches and schools for their people. They are the first to organize a major strike for higher wages, for improving living and working conditions.


The Hawaiian government is 2 million in debt. The integrity of the monarchy is openly questioned, mostly by white businessmen. Brother Dutton joins Father Damien on Moloka'i. He observes extreme cleanliness dealing with patients. He dies in 1931 - he never contracted the disease.


A secret organization, called the Hawaiian League, is formed. Most members are foreign born men. One fraction wants to reform the constitution, making changes to limit the King's authority. Another fraction wants to abolish the monarchy and favors annexation with the US. They have military help, mostly non-native citizens who are volunteers, called "Three Rifles".


Legislative elections. King Kalakaua wins a temporary victory, but the future is threatened by a foreign born government and by businessmen. The population is down to 35,000.


Duke Kahanamoku: Famed surfer, swimmer Olympic Gold, Sheriff of Honolulu, unofficial ambassador of the islands.


Kalakaua dies. Lili'uokalani is Queen. She takes an agressive stand. She possesses a complex personality and a regal sense of self. She further alienates the Opposition. Advise is given to her to finally yield and place herself in the hands of the conservative and respectable men of the country as the only way to retain her throne. Kapi'olani, niece of the Queen and next in line to the throne, goes to England to boarding school. Her mother is sister to Kalakaua, her father is Archie Cleghorn, a Scott. The people of Hawaii adore her. She is intelligent and introspective. She became friends with Louis Stevenson. She dies in 1899, only 24 years old - of a broken heart?

13 January, 1893

Lili'uokalani appoints her own cabinet and announces to proclaim a new constitution to restore royal prerogatives. Their is an uproar from the opposition. No compromises given anymore.

14 January

US troops land and restore order.

17 January

Lili'uokalani looses the throne, basically to a group of American businessmen. US troops marched to the Palace, she didn't want to be responsible for any blood shed. Governor John Stevens gives unauthorized support to the rebels of the de-facto government of Hawaii.

4 July 1894

Hawaii becomes a Republic under president Stanford Dole.

7 January, 1895

Insurrection. Last try to restore the monarchy.

16 January, 1895

Lili'uokalani signs the abdication document. The Republic is the legitimate heir to the monarchy. US President Grover Cleveland is unsuccessful in his opposition and in his attempts to have Lili'uokanalani reinstated. He writes later: "As I look back upon the first steps in this miserable business and I contemplate the means used to complete the outrage I am ashamed of the whole affair."

12 August, 1898

Hawaii becomes an official territory of the USA.


Population down to 30,000 Around 1000 Puerto Ricans arrive. They are very social, they left behind a country of war and poverty, are happy to be in Hawaii.


Around 2500 Koreans arrive. They are hard and steady workers, respect their boss, have a strong family life.


First canned pineapples shipped to markets outside Hawaii.


Over 7000 Filipinos come to Hawaii. They thought life was better here. They were considered millionaires by the people in their home country. They sent money to their relatives. They were hard workers.


Jack London arrives with his yacht "The Snark". He used Hawaii as an inspiration for many of his writings.


Work begins on Pearl Harbor Naval Base and dry dock.


Lili'uokalani dies.

7 December, 1941

Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, U.S. joins WWII.

January 1943

Japanese Americans are allowed to join the army.

14 August, 1945

V-J Day

1 April, 1946

A devastating Tsunami (Tsu meaning harbor and Nami meaning wave, literally translates in to “A big wave that hits harbors.”) hit the wind ward side of Hawaii. The earthquake that triggered the tsunami was the biggest ever recorded. It was 9.5 on the Richter scale. It originated in Chile.

12 March, 1959

Hawaii becomes the 50th state of the Union. Voters ratified 17 to 1 the recommendation of statehood by the US Congress.

24 May, 1960

Tsunami from Alaska. The tsunami killed 57 people in Hilo.

23 November,1982

Hurricane 'Iwa strikes O'ahu and Kaua'i with 117 mile/hr winds – most destructive storm in historic times to hit the islands


The visitor count is more than 5 million. Tourism has topped sugar and pineapple as leading industry.

1 December,1986

John Waihe'e becomes the First elected Hawaiian Governor: Symbol of Hawaiian pride.


A Health Department survey finds that 35.5 % of the Hawaiian population is of mixed heritage. Slightly more than half were part Hawaiian. Caucasians are 24%, Japanese 20.4 %, Filipino 11.4 %, Chinese 4.7%.

September 1992

Hurricane 'Iniki slams the islands and devastates Kaua'i.