Father of Canned Aloha
James Drummond Dole had a vision, and that vision ended up supplying pineapples to the world. Born just outside Boston, Dole graduated from Harvard University with degrees in agriculture and business and moved to Hawaii at 22.Arriving in Honolulu in November, 1899, Dole quickly set about purchasing a parcel a 60-acre plot of land in Wahiawa (near the North Shore of Oahu). Dole experimented with different crops on his farm. His first thought was coffee, yet after some brief experimentation he settled on planting pineapple. His new venture became the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (Hapco), and despite the Honolulu Advertiser labeling it a “foolhardy venture,” in a short time the company grew wildly successful. Of course, when your cousin is Sanford Dole, the acting President of the Republic of Hawaii (and the man who helped orchestrate the overthrow of the monarchy), the odds of achieving success are vastly improved. In spite of his family connection, James Dole was an innovative businessman. After just seven years, Hapco built one of the largest canneries in the world next to Honolulu Harbor. Dole knew that canning pineapple was the only way to make exporting the fruit profitable. Speeding up the canning process was imperative (since the fruit was hand-peeled and cut), so in 1911 he hired Henry Ginaca to invent a machine that could core and peel 35 pineapples per minute! By 1922, Dole further expanded his Kingdom of Pineapple by purchasing the island of Lanai for 1.1 million dollars. The island was converted into the world’s largest pineapple plantation, employing a thousand pineapple workers (and their families) that tended 20,000 acres all growing pineapple. At its peak Lanai accounted for 75 percent of the world’s pineapples. Today, the island of Lanai has just 100 acres still growing pineapples.
By 1930, Dole’s Hapco had over a billion pineapple plants in the ground and packed over a 100 million cans a year. Not only was Dole an agricultural genius, devising innovative methods of growing the Smooth Cayenne pineapple plant, but he was a marketing master. Dole brought a relatively unknown fruit to the American public when he launched the first nationwide advertising campaign in 1907. In 1932, Dole’s company finally perfected the process of making pineapple juice. It was to be James Dole’s final success at Hawaiian Pineapple Company. The same year the Board of Directors forced him out of management due to the huge losses sustained during the Great Depression. After James Dole died in 1958 at the age of 80 the company was renamed Dole Food Company, becoming the world’s largest producer and marketer of fresh fruits and vegetables. While the world’s pineapples are now primarily grown in Thailand, the Philippines and Brazil, Dole’s legacy as the “Pineapple King” lives on at the Dole Plantation.