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University of Hawaii at Manoa Library

Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) Plantation Archives, Special Collections

Collection Profile

The food that's sweet is hard to beat.
For weariness—eat Sugar

In 1929, when the trustees of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) voted to use the first slogan shown above for their letterhead, and the second for their envelopes, they also recommended that various Hawaii sugar agencies and sugar companies do the same, to "assist in the campaign to encourage the use of sugar." A letter found in the HSPA Plantation Archives included additional suggested "Official Slogans and Lettering" such as "A bit of sweet makes the meal complete," and "Flavor with Sugar and you flavor with health." By the time these phrases were coined, they were the almost unnecessarily whimsical finishing touches to the development of the sugar industry in Hawaii, which by then had become a driving force in Hawaii's economy and had been a thriving commercial venture for nearly a century. From 1835, when the first successful commercial plantation was started at Koloa, Kauai, to 1999, when one of the last sugar plantations ceased operations, over 100 sugar plantations and mills played a major role in the economic and social history of Hawaii.

As plantations began, merged, and closed, the business records of these enterprises were often lost or placed in jeopardy. University of Hawaii labor history professor Edward Beechert found records in abandoned buildings, in bunkers left over from World War II, in attics, and under houses. In 1981, the HSPA created the Plantation Archives to serve as a repository for records of plantations that chose to donate their records. A collection of engineering drawings of the Honolulu Iron Works supplements the archives with drawings of sugar-growing and milling equipment. In 1995, the collection was donated to the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library.

The HSPA Plantation Archives is a rich and unique collection of records providing detailed insight into plantation life and the sugar industry in Hawaii spanning the years 1850 to 1991. Corporate records; correspondence; cultivation contacts; financial records; personnel and payroll records; production records; maps and blueprints; and records of plantation stores, hospitals, electric and ice companies, water and irrigation companies, and planters' associations are included, although not all kinds of records are present or complete for each company.

The Plantation Archives are of continuing personal and scholarly interest. Students seek information on all aspects of plantation life. For example, they research the evolution of ethnic relationships among the various peoples imported for plantation labor, and they study medical care provided on the plantations. Economists study wage questions and sugar technology, including the use of lumber, pesticides, water irrigation, power supplies, and sugar railroads. Information on genealogy is sought by community members and people with family ties to the plantations. While not every question can be answered, the Plantation Archives provide unique insights into the history of Hawaii.

Collection Profile and Overview: Karen Peacock and Joan Hori
Illustrations: University of Hawaii

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