As of December 31, 2014, I retired from full-time teaching at HSU. While this website will remain online, it is no longer maintained.

History 110 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer

A Chronology of American Imperialism in the Hawaiian Islands

Map of U.S. showing Hawaii

1830s   Presbyterian and Congregational missionaries founded schools to Christianize and Americanize the Hawaiians. As more Americans arrived, disease significantly diminished the native Hawaiian population.  With less labor for the sugar industry, American settlers imported Chinese and Japanese workers, thus building a multi-racial society over which the Hawaiians were gradually losing control.

1874 David Kalakaua became King of Hawaii. An an intent nationalist, the King worked hard to maintain Hawaiian sovereignty. (See video on the early history at

1875 The King signed the Treaty of Reciprocity between the US and Kingdom of Hawaii. The treaty gave tax free access to the United States market for sugar and other products grown in Hawaii. e. The treaty led to large investment by Americans in sugar plantations in Hawaii.

1885 Almost all Hawaiian sugar plantations were in control of the Americans, most of whom were the ancestors of the early missionaries. The planters began to demand a greater role in Hawaiian politics.

1887 The U.S. an Hawaii renewed the sugar treaty and Hawaii granted "... to the Government of the US the exclusive right to enter the harbor of Pearl River, in the Island of Oahu, and to establish and maintain there a coaling and repair station for the use of vessels of the US and to that end the US may improve the entrance to said harbor and do all things useful to the purpose aforesaid."

1889 A young part-Hawaiian named Robert W. Wilcox staged an uprising to overthrow the 1887 Constitution. He led some 80 men, Hawaiians and Europeans in a predawn march to Iolani Palace with a new constitution for Kalakaua to sign. The king was away from the palace, and the Cabinet called out troops who forcibly put down the insurrection. Tried for conspiracy, Wilcox was found not guilty by a jury of Native Hawaiians, who considered him a folk hero.

1890   The McKinley Tariff Act eliminated Hawaii's tax free sugar trading status. Domestic US sugar growers were also given a bounty of 2 cents a pound so they could sell at lower prices than Hawaiian and other foreign growers.  Hawaiian sugar prices plunged 40%.  Americans in Hawaii began pressing for annexation to classify their sugar as domestic rather than foreign.  (Americans owned about 3/4 Photograph of Hawai's Queenof the island's wealth, while representing less than 10% of the population.)

1891 King Kalakaua died and his sister, Liliuokalani, assumed the throne.

1892   Queen Liliuokalani announced that she was planning a new constitution that would give her more discretionary powers to help her fight the American planters. (See videos "Hawaii's Last Queen, Part 5 at and Part 6 at )

1893     In January, American and European resident merchants forced the Queen from power and proclaimed a provisional government under the leadership of pineapple entrepreneur Sanford B. Dole.

During the overthrow, the American Minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens, ordered the landing of armed U.S. Marines from the USS Boston in Honolulu which he said was necessary to protect lives and property. The Provisional Government of Hawaii immediately sent a treaty of annexation to President Benjamin Harrison who referred it to the Senate for ratification on February 15, 1893.

Three weeks later, Grover Cleveland, became President and soon thereafter withdrew the treaty and appointed former congressman James Henderson Blount as special representative to investigate the events surrounding the overthrow.

The investigation confirmed that self-interested Americans led a conspiracy and that Hawaiians opposed annexation, Cleveland tried to restore the monarchy - efforts that were rejected by Dole and his colleagues who arrested the queen and confined her to her quarters. (In the cartoon, "We draw the line at this,"Political Cartoon of Americans holding up Hawaiian Queen the caption reads "Our good-natured country may allow this administration to give our market to England, sell our embassies to Anglomaniac dudes, and cause the reduction of wages to the European standard. But...we draw the line at this." Description: Soldiers are holding up on points of bayonets a round platform upon which sits a caricature of Lili'uokalani, feathers in her hair, crown askew, barefoot, holding a paper reading "scandalous government", and "gross immorality". )

1894 On July 4, Sanford Dole announced the creation of the Republic of Hawaii and declared himself president. Many Hawaiians gathered arms for a counterrevolution to restore the monarchy.

1895 In January, an insurrection began to try to restore the Queen; after 10 days of fighting, most of the rebels were captured. The Queen was arrested and imprisoned on January 16th. She was tried, found guilty, and given the maximum sentence of five years imprisonment at hard labor and a $5,000 fine. While the sentence was not carried out, she remained a prisoner in the palace. (See Hawaii's Last Queen, Part 7 at

1898   Hawaiians submitted a petition to Congress with 29,000 signatures opposing annexation and asking that annexation be put to a public vote. They were never permitted to vote on the issue.

President McKinley signed a treaty to annex Hawaii, but it failed in the Senate after receiving 38,000 Hawaiian signatures opposing annexation. (International Law requires annexation to be accomplished via a treaty.) On July 4, the U.S. Congress approved annexation. On July 4, the U.S. Congress approved annexation of Hawaii via a joint resolution.

1900 Hawaii became a territory of the U.S. and Sanford Dole became its first governor.

1959 On August 21, Hawaii joined the US and became the 50th state.

1993 Congress passed and the President signed an Apology Resolution apologizing for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii a century before.