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Timeline of Immigration to Hawaii

Hawaii is a land of immigrants, some ancient and some recent. Some historians estimate the population of Native Hawaiians in 1778 at about 300,000, others believe it was much larger. The introduction of diseases unknown in isolated Hawaii decimated the population after European contact. The population of Hawaii decreased from first contact until 1872 when it hit a low of 56,000. The Hawaiian population was so low that sugar planters needed to import labor from other countries. Originally intended to return to their homelands when their contracts expired, many decided to stay in the islands. 

Timeline of Immigration to Hawaii

700 - 900 CE - Polynesian migrations to Hawaii islands. (some estimates are much earlier)

1778 CE - Captain James Cook of England 'discovers' Hawaii.

1821 CE - American missionaries arrive from New England.

1852 CE - First Chinese contract laborers (195) arrive in Hawaii.

1852 - 1898 CE - Approximately 50,000 Chinese laborers, mostly single men, come to Hawaii.

1868 CE - First Japanese laborers (153) arrive in Hawaii.

1877 CE - Portuguese laborers recruited in the Azores.

1878 to 1884 CE - 9,471 Portuguese workers arrive in Hawaii.

1880 CE - Castle & Cook recruits 629 Norwegians to come to Hawaii.

1881 CE - German immigrants recruited to come to Hawaii.

1883 CE - Kingdom of Hawaii limits Chinese importation to 600 per three month period.

1885 CE - Hawaii and Japan resolve issues regarding treatment of contract workers. First large group of Japanese laborers arrive.

1885 to 1924 CE - 200,000 Japanese workers come to Hawaii.

1900 CE - First workers arrive from Puerto Rico, eventually 5,000 would come to Hawaii.

1900 to 1908 CE - Over eight thousand laborers arrive from Okinawa. Okinawa is part of Japan.

1902 CE - First Korean laborers arrive. 7,843 Koreans arrive between 1902 and 1905.

1905 CE - First laborers arrive from the Philippines, then a U.S. territory. By 1916, 18,144 Filipinos arrive in Hawaii.

1907 CE - 2,250 Spanish workers from Malaga arrive to work on the plantations.

1911 to 1920 CE - 3,000 Filipinos arrive in Hawaii each year.

1921 to 1930 CE - more than 7,000 Filipinos arrive annually.

Note: CE means common era and means the same as AD.


Immigration to Hawaii was in three big waves: Chinese, Japanese, and then Filipino. There were smaller but substantial migrations of Portuguese, Koreans and Puerto Ricans, as well as Europeans and Americans.