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James Drummond Dole-Pineapple King

By Edited May 27, 2016 1 1

Honolulu Hawaii is the most populated city in the state of Hawaii.  Honolulu is where President Barack Obama was born.  Even though the current president of the United States was born in Honolulu there have been numerous other famous people who were born and or lived in Honolulu.  Other famous people who have ties to Honolulu include female aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart, Tia Carrere who may be best known as the actress in the movie Wayne’s World, Nicole Kidman, Bruno Mars, Bette Midler, and countless other famous celebrities. Hawaii is also famous for their pineapple.

One historical figure that has ties to Honolulu was James Drummond Dole.  James Drummond Dole had the nickname of the Pineapple King.  James Drummond Dole was a businessman who was directly responsible for starting the Hawaiian Pineapple Company.  The Hawaiian Pineapple Company had a name change and eventually became the Dole Food Company.  Today you can still buy fruits including bananas that come from the Dole Food company.  The bequest of most bananas eaten in the United States is that little Dole sticker featured on them.

James Drummond Dole was born in 1877 in Massachusetts.  James Drummond Dole did not make it two Hawaii until he was 22 years old.  He came from a family of American puritans who had been in the Massachusetts region since colonial times.  James Drummond Dole could have easily followed in his ancestors’ footsteps and stayed in the same area where he grew up however he instead decided to move to Hawaii and become a businessman.  By moving to Hawaii this young Puritan boy literally transformed the fruit market worldwide. 

James Drummond Dole was not entirely alone when he arrived in Hawaii.  Dole did have some family in Hawaii including Stanford B. Dole who was in charge of Hawaii after the queen was overthrown in 1893.  Although he was not alone his success in transforming the pineapple industry came as a direct result of his hard work and cunning engineer work.

After Dole decided to focus on pineapples he became a specialist at canning pineapple.  At that point in time fresh pineapple was practically impossible to get on the mainland of the United States.  Most people do not even know what pineapple was and had never experienced a taste of pineapple.  For those who had tried pineapple they either got lucky with some canned pineapple were they were fortunate enough to travel to Hawaii or another similar climate and experience the taste of fresh pineapple. Pineapple was truly an exotic fruit.

Dole was able to capitalize on his experience and was soon able to export canned pineapple to the mainland of the United States for much less money because he was sending in larger quantities.  In order to create a demand for his pineapple Dole begun advertising in numerous magazines and other periodicals.  Many of the ads were specifically targeted to promote the canned pineapple that his canneries were producing.  Dole understood that there would be a demand for pineapple once people understood what pineapple was, was able to try pineapple for the first time, and to have easy access buying canned pineapple at their local grocery store even if they lived in a small rural town.

Dole was responsible for a lot of technical innovations literally transformed the pineapple industry of Hawaii.  In the early days of his factory Doles Cannery and other canneries always had to rely on labor to prep and peel the pineapples to be canned.  1913 Henry Ginaca created a machine that could automatically peel and core pineapples at a fast rate.  This machine allowed Dole to drastically cut down on his labor expenses.  The success Dole was experiencing by growing and exporting pineapple was high regardless of what criteria you used to judge his operation.  Although he was deemed a very successful pineapple businessman, he was about to put everything at risk as he attempted to become the biggest pineapple grower and distributor in the entire world.

Dole was able to raise enough money to purchase an entire island.  The entire island of Lanai was transformed into the world’s largest plantation.  The entire island was dedicated to growing pineapple which was to be exported and sold around the world.

In addition to having the world’s largest plantation of Dole rapidly expanded the use of automation and where workers were still needed he was still able to cut down the cost further by using low-cost employees from other Countries.  Dole was able to drive the cost of his product much lower than his competitors and still make more profit.  Dole was able to sell his pineapples for a much lower cost than his competitors and it forced many of them out of business.  Although many of his competitors were forced out of business, the extremely low cost of Dole pineapples was enough to allow all people of society regardless of how or they may be the luxury of buying canned pineapple.  No longer was pineapple considered a food they can only be afforded by certain segments of society.  The average everyday working family could now drive to the grocery store and buy canned pineapple and a very reasonable cost.

Dole continued being an extremely successful pineapple farmer and distributor until the early 1930s.  The great depression hit hard and it drastically affected the pineapple business in Hawaii. Dole was forced to sell a stake in the company and eventually he was forced out of control of the pineapple company day he had started from scratch.  Although Dole was no longer head of the company he founded he did continue to work hard to tell you be tired and 1848. Dole remained in Hawaii happily married until his death in 1958.

Today when we are going to the grocery store we take for granted that we can buy cheap canned pineapple as well as fresh whole pineapple. The ability to do this is directly traced back to the ingenuity of James Drummond Dole.



Nov 10, 2012 4:40pm
Hi--as a history buff I enjyed your article a lot and thought you were kind to the Dole family by leaving out the politics. Nevertheless, a great bit of reporting and tw thumbs up from me.
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