About the Plantation Archives

- Formation of the Plantation Archives
- Users of the Plantation Archives
- Scope and Contents
- For Further Information
- Credits

Use and Access

Frequently Asked Questions

Plantations and Finding Aids

Hawaiian Collection
Special Collections
UHM Library
Hawaii Voyager

The HSPA Plantation Archives was created under the aegis of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association, now known as the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center. It was donated to the University of Hawaii at Manoa Library in 1995.


Since the first successful commercial plantation was established on Kauai in 1835, the sugar industry has been a significant part of the Hawaiian economy and a great influence on the course of Hawaii's history. As the industry evolved, over 80 sugar companies have come and gone. Plantations and mills closed or merged, sometimes placing their old business records at risk for want of resources and a safe place to preserve them. Through the long efforts of historians and other individuals and groups in the community, a safe place was finally found.

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Hawaiian Historical Society was able to conduct a state-wide survey of sugar records, completed in 1979. In 1981, the Board of Directors of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association (HSPA) approved creation of the Plantation Archives to provide a repository for the records of plantations that elected to donate them. A drop in the price of sugar stalled implementation until 1983, when a historian from HSPA visited each participating plantation. Records were located in all manner of places: attics, vaults, bunkers, under houses, in spare rooms and in closets. Some were still in very good condition; others were damp, moldy and insect infested. All were listed, packed and shipped to HSPA in Aiea, where they were temporarily stored in two Matson containers.

In 1984, an archivist was hired to begin processing them. Each record group was fumigated and cleaned. Bound volumes were tagged and papers were arranged in acid-free folders and boxes. Information about their contents was entered in the Register and into a computerized database. The first records processed were from Oahu Sugar Company. The latest records added, for Apokaa Sugar Company and Ewa Plantation Company, were processed in 1994.

In 1993, the Plantation Archives was given important supplementary material, the engineering drawings of Honolulu Iron Works, the key manufacturer that supplied the sugar mills with uniquely designed or modified equipment for many years.

As the sugar industry contracts, the resources it provides for research and related activities have decreased. This resulted in insufficient resources for HSPA to continue providing the level of accessibility to the Plantation Archives that was originally intended. By donating the materials to the University this intent could be maintained. In October, 1995, the HSPA Board voted to donate the Plantation Archives to the University of Hawaii at Manoa where it is now managed by the UHM Library's Special Collections Department and greatly enhances the Library's other sugar-related resources.


The Plantation Archives attracts the interest of many people. Students and researchers from Hawaii, the United States and around the world have used the Plantation Archives for all level of research inquiry, including History Day projects, popular works, and theses, dissertations and other scholarly writings.

Not every question can be answered. Every plantation kept its records in its own way, with differing degrees of detail. Sometimes only a few examples of certain types of materials have been preserved. Some records have not survived at all. Some companies elected not to contribute to the Plantation Archives. Nevertheless, the Plantation Archives provides primary source documents covering a detailed cross section of Hawaiian economic, social and agricultural history and offers unique research possibilities.


The Plantation Archives holds business records from numerous sugar companies. The smallest collection, Apokaa Sugar, occupies one cubic foot; the largest, Puna Sugar, requires 287 cubic feet. Generally the record groups contain similar series of records, though they are not all present or complete for each company or time period.

CORPORATE RECORDS. Minutes of directors' and stockholders' meetings, annual reports, land records, stocks and bonds, charters, audits.

CORRESPONDENCE. General correspondence, agency correspondence, HSPA correspondence, manager's correspondence, miscellaneous correspondence.

CULTIVATION CONTRACTS. With individual immigrant laborers, labor gangs, independent planters.

FINANCIAL RECORDS. Cash books, journals, ledgers, agents' accounts, planters' accounts, monthly statements.

PERSONNEL & PAYROLL RECORDS. Payroll records, accident reports, bonus records, personnel records, turn out records.

PRODUCTION RECORDS. Mill production, field records, sugar and molasses shipping records.

MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS. Maps, blueprints, posters, insurance records, inventories.

OTHER COMPANY RECORDS. Predecessor companies, plantation stores, hospitals, electric companies, ice companies, water and irrigation companies, planters' associations.


The University of Hawaii at Manoa Library is a prominent research library with particular strength in its Hawaiian, Pacific Islands and Asian holdings. It is committed to being an institution of value to the University community, to the people of the State of Hawaii and the Pacific region.

It is the special purpose of university research libraries to collect, preserve, and share with present and future generations the written, audio and visual records of our thoughts, perceptions, creative expressions, and experience. Within this purpose, the UHM Library's collections are uniquely shaped by the University's programs of instruction and research — especially influenced by the complex history, the rich and diverse ethnic heritages of the people, and the tropical environment of our island home.

The Library welcomes financial contributions in support of its collection building program. Donations of books, private papers, recordings and other materials that fit within its guidelines for collection development are deeply appreciated. Especially welcome are further donations that would enhance its existing resources relating to the place and history of sugar in agriculture, in plantation life, in industry and business. For further information, please contact Special Collections, University of Hawaii at Manoa Library, 2550 McCarthy Mall, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822. E-mail speccoll@hawaii.edu; Telephone (808) 956-8264; Fax (808) 956-5968.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution.


Text prepared by UHM Library staff, with contributions from the staff of the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center. HSPA logo used with permission of the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center.


Hawaii Agriculture Research Center
University of Hawaii at Manoa
University of Hawaii at Manoa Library
UHM Library Special Collections

October 1996, updated August 2004

University of Hawaii at Manoa Library
Hawaiian Collection / Special Collections
2550 McCarthy Mall
Honolulu, HI 96822
Phone: (808) 956-8264
Fax: (808) 956-5968
E-mail: speccoll@hawaii.edu

Copyright © University of Hawaii at Manoa Library
Last updated: August 2004