In 1917, Gay family holdings had dwindled, and the firms of both James Dole’s Hawaiian Pineapple company and Libby, McNeill & Libby were considering purchase of the island, where it was estimated that at least 10,000 acres of land could be dedicated to pineapple cultivation. The sale did not manifest itself, and by ca. 1918, the Gay family began their own pineapple experiment on the remaining land they held title to in the Nininiwai-Lālākoa vicinity—roughly in the open lands that lie behind present-day Lāna‘i City. Those efforts met with success, and in 1922 James Dole purchased much of Lāna‘i.
The original pineapple crops on of the Gay family were harvested and taken in trucks down to Mānele Landing for loading on small boats and transfer to Maui for canning. It was a difficult trip which caused the loss of much of the fruit, due to bruising.
In 1923, James Dole’s Hawaiian Pineapple Company, Ltd., began development of what would become the world’s largest pineapple plantation. These efforts also led to the diversification of Lāna‘i’s community. It was no longer predominately Hawaiian, but included many Filipino, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, and Puerto Rican immigrants—most of whom came to Hawai‘i as laborers. There were also a number of Caucasian residents, who were generally managers and “luna” (overseers) of the plantation operations.
In the early years, harvests were picked and bagged in the field and taken to small crates along the roads. The crates were then loaded on wagons (later on trucks) and taken to Kaumālapa‘u Harbor for shipping to Honolulu.
January 31, 1926:
Developments On Lāna‘i Visited By Businessmen And Government Officials:
“Hawaiian Pineapple Company Runs Excursion To Its Property And Entertains Visitors.”
“Sunday was show day at Lanai, the Hawaiian Pineapple Company having chartered the Inter-Island steamer Kilauea to take almost 150 prominent Honoluluans to see what it has done with the property it purchased from Baldwin interests in the way of pineapple developments. The Governor and other territorial officials as well as some of the city and county officials were in the party.
The Kilauea sailed from Honolulu at 10 o’clock Saturday night and discharged her passengers at Kaumalapau at 6 Sunday morning. Awaiting them were some 40 automobiles and they were taken about in cars for their sightseeing trip, most of which were brought with them from Honolulu. James D. Dole, president of the company, personally conducted the party. The motorcade started at 7:50 headed by H. Bloomfield Brown in charge of affairs for the company on the island.
Dinner was served at noon and there was speech making, among the speakers being the Governor. A heavy rainfall cut short the sightseeing trip and the Kilauea sailed on her return trip at 3:30.
The Hawaiian Pineapple Company has spent for purchase of the property and its development more than $3,000,000 and the visitors were much impressed with what has been done on the property.”
The following facts and figures as to Lanai are taken from a folder which was prepared for the excursionists:
Island of Lanai, 140 square miles, 90,000 acres; located 65 miles southeast of Honolulu; estimated pineapple land, 15,000 to 20,000 acres; option on Lanai taken September 5, 1922; option exercised December 5, 1922; population at that time about 150; present population, 1000; elevation of Lanai City, 1650 feet; building of Lanai City commenced August 1923; number of schools, two; attendance, 150; seven miles of asphalt macadam road to Lanai City, eight to 12 inches thick, and 200 feet wide, widened at turns; maximum grade of road to Lanai City, about 6 per cent; water supply lifted 750 feet by electric pump from tunnels in bottom of Maunalei gulch; water brought in six inch redwood pipe through three riders by three tunnels, aggregating 5300 feet in length; capacity of old Kaiholena reservoir, 500,000 gallons; capacity new Kaiholena reservoir, 3,900,00 gallons; electric power generated by 100 KW oil engine generator set, generated at 440 volts, transmitted at 2300 volts; capacity moving picture theater, 450; Kaumalapau harbor development work commenced September 1923; length of break water 300 feet; tonnage of rock in breakwater, 116,000; minimum depth of Kaumalapau harbor, 27 feet; depth of Kaumalapau harbor entrance, 65 feet; length of wharf, 400 feet; number of cattle on ranch at present time, 4000.” (From the Maui News – February 3, 1926, page 1, c. 2)
Louisa Gay purchased a portion of the Walter Murray Gibson estate, and in just a few years possessed most of the land on Lāna‘i. In 1907, pineapple was recommended as a suitable crop for some 1,200 acres of land on Lāna‘i. In 1910, it was reported in the Honolulu papers that the pineapple crop had been a success —
Over the years, various machines and equipment were developed to simplify the planting, watering and harvesting process. Machines laid out mulch paper, marking the planting rows. Large boom and spray sprinklers were developed to water and fertilize the crops. Conveyor booms 62 feet long - with lights - were developed so fruit could be harvested day and night. Gangs of pineapple pickers would walk along rows of pineapple (planted along contour lines), pick the fruit, toss it on the conveyor and send it to the large bins (of some 7 tons) on the trucks, for shipping to Honolulu from Kaumālapa‘u Harbor.
For almost 70 years, Lāna‘i was the world’s largest working pineapple plantation (comprised of some 16,000-plus cultivated acres). All of the families of Lāna‘i, regardless of their place of origin, proudly observed that they were from the “Pineapple Island.” In 1961, Castle & Cooke bought out Dole Foods’ interests, and in the 1970s began planning for new resort and residential developments on Lāna‘i. Those plans never materialized, and in 1985 David H. Murdock bought out Castle & Cooke’s interests, which included the island of Lāna‘i. Under Murdock’s ownership, development plans were revitalized, and steps towards phasing out the pineapple plantation acted upon. Although pineapple was once “King” on Lāna‘i, this 70-year tradition ended in 1992 with the final pineapple harvest.
Today our community reflects the cultural diversity of the many ethnic groups who came to Lāna‘i nearly a century ago, each group retaining facets of their own cultural identity but also making a culture that is, in all the world, unique to Lāna‘i.
When pineapple was introduced from South America in 1813, the Hawaiians called it “Hala Kahiki” (Foreign Pandanus), because the plant looked similar to the native hala (pandanus) tree. In 1902 Charles and
“…Several thousand pineapple tops have been sent to Lanai by the Lanai Company to develop its pineapple enterprise. The pineapple experiment on Lanai has been successful. The first ones raised weighed about eight and a half pounds each, but later ones were not so heavy, on account of the rows being too close. The industry will be developed on the island and made one of the principal by crops.” (Hawaiian Gazette, November 22, 1910:8)
The Original Pineapple Fields of Lāna‘i planted in the Nininiwai Valley by Charlres Gay and Family (Courtesy of the Charles Gay Family).