reyn spooner plantation days sugar plantation history hawaiian shirt

Plantation Days – Vignettes from Hawaii’s Sugar Plantation Era

The old sugar plantation days of Hawaii were a pivotal force in the formation of Hawaii’s economy, statehood, distinctive architecture and ethnic demographics.  Many of the people in Hawaii today are former workers or descendants of plantation workers who came from many lands.

In Plantation Days, we merged together scenes that recall this era which brought to Hawaii immigrants from China, Philippines, Japan, Europe, Korea, and elsewhere.  They were the backbone of the economy and contributed traditions, music, dances, and foods to the rich melting pot that is Hawaii today.

reyn spooner sugar plantation days Hakalau Sugar mill with the Coastal Railway and biplane, Mauna Kea, plantation homes, harvest scenes,
(clockwise: Hakalau Sugar mill with the Coastal Railway and biplane, Mauna Kea, plantation homes, harvest scenes)

Our design began as a painting exclusively commissioned by Reyn Spooner, focused specifically on the Hamakua Coastline of the Big Island. The area was home to a number of big sugar mills built in the 19th century, each with a multiethnic plantation town supporting it.  You’ll see Hakalau Sugar mill in its heyday and the railroad line that serviced the entire coastline. There are harvesting scenes, from the early hand harvesting days, to the later crane and sugar trucks that dominated the plantations.  Biplanes were commonplace, as they sprayed the fields regularly until the last plantation closures in the late 1980’s. One of the lasting legacies of the sugar era is the plantation home, from small bungalows occupied by field hands to more upscale structure, inhabited by supervisors and landowners. Today, the plantation-style is more popular than ever as homeowners embrace it’s elegant simplicity and functionality that’s perfectly in tune with Hawaii’s natural environment.  Lastly, visible to any of the plantation worker, on a clear day, was Mauna Kea, it’s snow capped peaks majestically witnessing all.

Enjoy a bit of Hawaiian history with Reyn Spooner’s Limited Edition Plantation Days Classic Fit Hawaiian shirt – wearable art that captures a bygone era that helped galvanize Hawaii as our 50th State and as one of the most culturally diverse communities in the world.