Hawaii: subtropical archipelago of 20 volcano-born islands (only eight are inhabited), 2,400 miles west of San Francisco, 6,435 sq. mi. in area (size of Rhode Island and Connecticut together), spread over 1,600 mi. of the mid-Pacific. Included in the 50th state: inhabited islands of Hawaii, Oahu, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Maui, Molokai, Kauai, Niihau. Mean temp. 74°, annual precipitation ranging from a low of 14 in. on the moonlike volcanic coast of the "Big Island" of Hawaii to the U.S.'s highest of 471 in. on the lush island of Kauai. Agricultural economy ($302 million a year from little more than 300,000 acres): sugar (1,000,000 tons annually; $150 million), pineapple (30 million cases; $115 million), tourist attractions (175,000 visitors a year; $65 million), coffee, oranges, beef, coconuts, 900 species of flowering plants and trees. U.S. military forces (60,000) deployed in complex of airfields, Navy and Army bases (Hickam Air Force Base, Pearl Harbor, Schofield Barracks). Pop. 600,000: Japanese (38%), Caucasian (20%), part-Hawaiian (15%), Filipino (13%), Chinese (7%), pure Hawaiian (3%), Puerto Rican and Korean.
CAPTAIN JAMES COOK dubbed the archipelago the "Sandwich Islands" when he dropped anchor off Kauai in 1778, got a god's welcome from thousands of handsome Polynesians again when he returned the following year, then was killed by natives during a fight over petty thievery. By 1796, the islands were under the firm, beneficent rule of King Kamehameha I. who united the land after ten years of civil war among smaller chieftains, and began turning his domain into a thriving nation. After his death in 1819, his son Liholiho (Kamehameha II) took over, began the systematic abandonment of old taboos and island traditions.
Meanwhile, 5,000 miles away, another young Hawaiian was the accidental agent who evoked new tradition and new standards. He was Opukahaia, taken to New Haven, Conn, by a sea captain in 1809. One day Opukahaia was found weeping on the steps of Yale College, lamenting his ignorance. Sympathetic college students tutored him, and soon he became an ardent Christian; he died of typhus before he could return to the islands. The story of Opukahaia inspired the organization of the Sandwich Islands Mission, and in October 1819 seven New England families, singing When Shall We All Meet Again, set sail for Hawaii in the brig Thaddeus.
Shirts & Sugar. They arrived six months later, and, with the King's reluctant permission, set up Protestant missions, devised a Hawaiian alphabet, soon printed a speller, began teaching eager natives, turned out countless yards of cambric Mother Hubbards, shirts and suits (the King ordered a dozen fancy shirts and a broadcloth jacket), promoted monogamy, introduced the spare, hardy architecture of New England whaling ports. A few years later Kamehameha III signed the "Hawaiian Magna Charta," thus paved the way for parliamentary government.