Business History Review

Research Article

The American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, 1899–19191

Thomas C. Cochrana1 and Ray Gingera2

a1 Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania

a2 Former Assistant Professor of Business History at Harvard University


At a time when American shipping generally was finding it difficult to compete in international trade, certain American shipping groups were profiting largely. The strength of the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company derived from conservative financial policy, bold but not reckless expansion, astute analysis of trading opportunities, skillful handling of competition, and decisive adaptation to emergencies. A closely knit group of owner-managers held the reins of control. Internal strength permitted optimum realizations from a favorable commercial environment and even helped to make that environment favorable.


1 During the period discussed in this article, American-Hawaiian was a very closely held corporation which did not even publish annual reports. Therefore, unless otherwise noted, this article is based on the unpublished records of the American-Hawaiian Steamship Company, which are still in the firm's files. Mr. Edward P. Farley, chairman of the board of American-Hawaiian, has kindly consented to the publication of this material.