Dole landed in Hawaii in 1899, started Hawaiian Pineapple Co. two years later and was pounding out 2 million cases of the canned fruit by 1923.
James Dole was 22 when he set out for Hawaii in 1899.
He had little experience in business or farming.
In his arsenal were an agriculture degree from Harvard, a modest sum of cash and hopes of prospering from the territory’s efforts to diversify its sugar-dependent economy.
But his arrival at Honolulu in November that year wasn’t auspicious.
Attempts by farmers to grow coffee beans, rubber, vegetables and fruit had failed, and the town was placed in quarantine for six months due to bubonic plague. Dole waited out the plague at the home of his cousin Sanford Dole, who was soon to become Hawaii’s first governor.
By August 1900, James was ready to act. He bought a 64-acre farm in Wahiawa, near Honolulu.
And he tried growing crops before settling on the fruit that would make him famous: pineapple.
“After some experimentation, I concluded that the land was better adapted to pineapples than to peas, pigs or potatoes,” he said in the Harvard class of 1899’s 25th reunion report in 1924.
His Hawaiian Pineapple Co. was incorporated in December 1901.
Dole’s bold aim: Sell pineapples to every store in America.
At the time, few Americans were familiar with pineapples. The fruit was delicate and difficult to ship from the tropical areas where they grew. Efforts to distribute pineapples in cans had also failed.
“Back at the turn of the century it wasn’t a product that many people had tasted,” Dole spokesman Marty Ordman told IBD. “Jim Dole was really the one that brought it to the masses.”
But success didn’t come easy.