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Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers from Hawaiʻi and the U.S.: Pearl Harbor

Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers from Hawaii and the U.S.

Topics in Chronicling America - Pearl Harbor


Before 1778: The Native Hawaiians called the Pearl Harbor area Wai Momi ("pearl water") or Puʻu Loa ("long hill"). The wetland area received its water from both the stream and the ocean, and birds, fish, and sea animals lived there. Because of the oysters with small pearls in the area, the area will eventually be named Pearl Harbor. From at least the mid-1400s, Native Hawaiians raised fishes in the fishponds along the coast.1792-1794: The first known foreigner to enter the channel of the Pearl Harbor area, Captain George Vancouver started to explore the area, but stopped when he realized that the entrance was not deep enough for large ships to pass through.

1794: Crew members of American ships aided the King Kalanaikupule, the king of Oʻahu, in a land battle near the Pearl Harbor area to defeat a Kauaʻi chief, who tried to conquer Oʻahu.image_681x432_from_143,2275_to_1342,3036

1825: Lieutenant C.R. Malden, with other English scientists, surveyed and charted the entrance channel and three lochs of Pearl Harbor. The British Hydrographic Office published their findings in 1841.

1840: Commodore Charles Wilkes from the U.S. Navy surveyed the area of Pearl Harbor and reported "if the water upon the bar should be deepened, which I doubt not can be effected, it would afford the best and most capacious harbor in the Pacific."

1873: Major General J.M. Schofield and Lt. Col. B.S. Alexander secretly surveyed the area of Pearl Harbor, wrote a secret report for the Secretary of War, and said, "If this coral barrier were removed, Pearl Harbor would seem to have all the necessary properties to enable it to be converted into a good harbor of refuge."

1875: The United States and Hawaiʻi signed the reciprocity treaty, which gave United States land in the area of Puʻu Loa, which will eventually be known as the Pearl Harbor naval base. Under the treaty, sugar and other products from Hawaii can be sold in the United States without a tariff.

1887: The reciprocity treaty was reaffirmed, allowing the United States to create a naval coaling station in Pearl Harbor to serve American ships.

1900: The coral reef across the channel was dredged to a depth of 35 feet.

1901: With the passage of the Appropriation Act, Pearl Harbor acquired land in the present area of the shipyard, Kuahua Island, and a strip of land on the south-east coast of Ford Island.

1908: U.S. Congress passed the Act of May 13, 1908, appropriating $6,200,000 for the further dredging of the canal to allow large ships to access Pearl Harbor and construction of shops, supply houses, and the first drydock.

December 6, 1911: After the dredging of the channel, the first large ship, USS California, entered Pearl Harbor.


February 17, 1913: Underground water pressure caused Dry Dock 1 to collapse, destroying a structure that took two years to construct.

1919: The dry dock was reconstructed by this time.

December 7, 1941: The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, destroying its fleet and killing 2,350 people. The United States declared war against Japan the next day, entering World War II.

1941-1943: Dry Docks 2, 3, and 4 were built.

1950: Due to the Korean War, more ships needed to be repaired, leading to the increase in shipyard personnel.

1962: Built to honor the people who died during the Pearl Harbor attack, the USS Arizona Memorial was dedicated.

Suggested Search Terms

1. Enter "pearl harbor" in the field "with the phrase"

2. Enter "ford island" in the field "with the phrase"

3. Enter "mokuumeume" in the field "with any of the words"

4. Select "Hawaii" in the "Select state(s)" field and enter "pearl river" in the field "with the phrase"

Sample Articles From Chronicling America

"Honolulu and Pearl Harbor Vital Centers of America's Power in Pacific Ocean"

Evening bulletin. (Honolulu [Oahu, Hawaii) 1895-1912, July 16, 1908, Fleet Edition, Section II, Image 9

"Dreadnoughts will lie in war canoes' wake in Pearl Harbor"

The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, August 14, 1912, Image 15

"Pearl Harbor and the Fleet"

The sun. (New York [N.Y.]) 1833-1916, August 16, 1908, Third Section, Image 28

"Pearl Harbor: Representatives Bowl Over the Appropriation"

The Independent. (Honolulu, H.I.) 1895-1905, May 26, 1897, Image 1
"Urge Necessity of Opening Pearl Harbor to Commerce"
The Hawaiian gazette. (Honolulu [Oahu, Hawaii]) 1865-1918, August 27, 1907, Image 3

"Flagship California Drops Anchor in Pearl Harbor"
The Hawaiian gazette. (Honolulu [Oahu, Hawaii]) 1865-1918, December 15, 1911, Image 1

"Fleet's Visit Shows Need of Pearl Harbor"
The Washington herald. (Washington, D.C.) 1906-1939, August 16, 1908, Third Part, Image 27

"General Bell Insists on Defense of Pearl Harbor"
The Hawaiian gazette. (Honolulu [Oahu, Hawaii]) 1865-1918, March 03, 1908, Image 2

The Daily bulletin. (Honolulu [Hawaii]) 1882-1895, January 31, 1889, Image 3

"Sea Chemicals to Blame for Drydock Hitch: Engineers at Pearl Harbor Are Still Struggling with the Stuff that Rots Concrete"
The Hawaiian gazette., March 22, 1912, Page 8, Image 8