Shipping News in Hawaii

Before airplanes, everything and everyone arrived to Hawaii by canoes and ships, and they connected Hawaii to the outside world. A ship’s arrival at Honolulu Harbor was definitely news, and a lookout station would alert people of approaching ships. With ships came news from the outside world, letters and packages, goods, supplies, livestock, and people.

Hawaii’s newspapers reported shipping news, illustrating the daily happenings in Hawaii’s maritime history. Often in tabular form, information in shipping news can include the following:

Timetables of ships

Ships in port

Arriving and departing passengers
Cargo, including items and livestocks

Tide, sun, and moon forecasts
Import and export statistics
News briefs about shipping, including news about the local harbors, shipwrecks of vessels, and lists of cargo.
Weather report

Shipping news can indicate the times and places the ships land. For example, the Evening Bulletin reports the Morning Star, a missionary ship that spread Christianity around the Pacific, was sitting at Allen & Robinson’s wharf and was bound for Micronesia (right image).

Newspapers list the names of arriving and departing passengers, which are useful for historical and genealogical research. Groups of arriving people can include missionaries, immigrants, and tourists.
For example, the departing passenger list in papers shows Queen Liliuokalani and her hanai son John Owen Aimoku Dominis making numerous trips together. In the November 4, 1903 issue, the Independent (left image) lists them as departing for San Francisco on the ship S. S. Sonomas.

With the shipping news, researchers can track cargo, often goods and livestock. For example, the shipping news column on the left reports the shipping of goods, including rice, pineapples, sugar, and rice-bran.

The shipping news usually reports on the happenings of Hawaii’s shipping world. Sometimes harbors close, and the weather will change from sunny to stormy. Or sometimes shipping men may go on strike. For example, the Honolulu Republican reported the local shipping men’s pessimistic attitudes towards the strike situation in San Francisco and the numerous members of the Marine Corps at the Navy Yard deserting their military services.

For information on researching about trans-Pacific travel, look at the related trans-Pacific topic guide.

-Alice Kim
Search Strategies (Click on the links for the searches)
1. In the field with the phrase, enter one of the queries below and select Hawaii in the Select State(s) list box, for the shipping news columns.Shipping news section: “shipping news,” “waterfront news,” and “shipping intelligence.”Specific sections in the shipping news: “items from the harbor front,” “marine tidings,” “passengers departed,” “passengers arrived,” “oceanic steamship company” (time table), “shipping in port,” “vessels in port,” and “interisland sailings“2. In the field with the words, enter either the query “passengers arrived,” “passengers departed,” “movements of steamers,” or “tides, sun and moon,” select 5 in the list box for the range of the number of words, and select Hawaii in the Select State(s) list box.

Hawaii Newspapers with Shipping News:
Evening Bulletin, Honolulu Republican, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Independent

Note: Hawaii’s ocean transportation system were vital to Hawaii’s industries’ success and economic growth. Shipping exported


Hawaii’s output of the fur, sandalwood, and sugarcane industries. Many ships came during the course of Hawaii’s whaling industry from 1820 to 1870. Centrally located in the Pacific, Hawaii served as the focal point of the North-Pacific whaling industry by the mid 1800s. Sailors bought supplies from local vendors for their long journeys and had ship repair businesses fix their ships, pumping money into Hawaii’s economy.

Chronicling America Sources

Third Paragraph
“Along the Waterfront”
The Honolulu republican., October 13, 1901, Page TWO, Image 2
Fourth Paragraph
“Passengers Departed”
The Independent., November 04, 1903, Image 5

“Items from Harbor Front” and “Vessels in Port”
Evening bulletin., March 23, 1899, Page 6, Image 6


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