Hawaii's Big Six - A Cyclical Saga

by Edward Greaney

I'm privileged to have met, online, Ed Greaney, author of the work "Hawaii's Big Six - A Cyclical Saga." Ed Greaney of Kailua, Oahu is a retired Congressional aide and one-time financial editor of the Honolulu Advertiser. Born in Honolulu, he was educated at Punahou School, the University of Hawaii, and the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. He was the founding editor of the Hawaii Economic Review.


Writing in a London trade newspaper in 1887, a railroad promoter from the Sandwich Isles termed his mid-Pacific kingdom the "hub of the Western World."

Benjamin Franklin Dillingham, attempting to raise British capital to launch Hawaii's first railway, was given to hyperbole. But as he explained to his readers, the kingdom's strategic location for steamer routes, its land, people, climate and harbors: all foretold a bright future of vigorous growth. Here was an investor's paradise "which only awaits the magic touch of capital and industry to yield a rich harvest of tropical produce."

Of course, it required a certain ingenuity to recognize such prospects. Hawaii's only natural resource, sandalwood, had been depleted long ago. These islands were only islands after all, small ones at that and placed in the middle of the world's vastest ocean. Their arable lands were rich but limited, only a small portion of their aggregate land mass. They had been drawn into the orbit of western civilization for just over a century and the cultural shock had decimated the native population. Their location and harbors had been important during the Pacific whaling days but they had passed. There was no gainsaying the climate, true, but how could climate and natural beauty sustain economic life in a place so remote?

Finally, the Kingdom was obviously politically unstable - a potpourri of Polynesians, European and Asiatic immigrants, and New England missionary stock. Mr. Dillingham found few takers in London, the world's capital market of that day. The story of Hawaii's "Big Five" companies - and the Dillingham organization - dominates the state's economic history. That history represents a tapestry wherein insular control and internationalism interweave, giving some credence to Dillingham's turn-of-phrase at least in terms of the Pacific.

Three began business as traders who viewed the wide Pacific as their market. A metamorphosis to one-crop farming came early. Yet today [1976] they have come full cycle: all are venturesome entrepreneurs with world-ranging, diversified lines of endeavor.

They share a common thread, however: a link to the soil rapidly being transplanted to the world at large. Their experience gained in large-scale corporate agriculture is being widely applied as famine rises to the top of the global agenda.

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Should you wish to correspond with Mr. Greaney, please send your email to me at this address and I will forward it to him.

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