February 2004:  The Lower Hamakua Ditch

By: C. S. Papacostas

The December, 2003 issue of the Wiliki o Hawaii announced the 2003 ASCE Hawaii Section Outstanding Civil Engineering Award winner. It was the Lower Hamakua Ditch By-Pass Tunnel project on the Big Island of Hawaii by the Design/Build team of Jas. W. Glover Ltd. and the URS Corporation.


As it is common in Hawaiian place names, districts by the same name, in this case "Hamakua," are found on several islands. 


In the same vein, we must not confuse the Hamakua Ditch Company organized by Alexander and Baldwin in 1876 to complete the Hamakua Ditch on Maui in 1878 with the Hamakua Ditch Company formed in 1904 to construct and operate irrigation ditches in the vicinity of the Waipi`o Valley of the Big Island. The former company eventually became the East Maui Irrigation Company, whereas the latter became the Hawaii Irrigation Company.


It is interesting to note that the pre-eminent engineer Michael Maurice O'Shaughnessy worked for both of these as well as other companies during the first decade of the 20th century! 


A 1913 "Drainage Map" of the Kohala-Hamakua districts of the Big Island is reproduced in the 1996 book by Carol Wilcox entitled "Sugar Water: Hawaii's Plantation Ditches." The map shows several "ditches" in the area named Upper and Lower Kohala Ditches, Woods Ditch, Pacific S. M. [i.e., "Sugar Mill"] Co. Ditch, Upper Hamakua Ditch, and finally the "New" Hamakua Ditch which later maps designate as the Lower Hamakua Ditch.


The initial nearly 25-mile length of this ditch was built, in extremely challenging terrain, between May 1909 and June 1910.


March 2004:  The Kohala Ditch

By: C. S. Papacostas

Volume XVII, No. 22 of “The Journal of Electricity, Power and Gas with Which is Incorporated The Engineers’ Architects’ and Builders’ News,” was published on December 1, 1906 in San Francisco. Included in this issue of the journal is what appears to be one in a series of articles entitled “Irrigation Works in the Hawaiian Islands,” by M. M. O’Shaughnessy, M. Am. Soc. C. E., San Francisco. 


Much of the article describes the construction of the first 14 or so miles of the Kohala Ditch on the Big Island of Hawai`i. O’Shaughnessy was both an investor in the Kohala Ditch Company and the Chief Engineer for the aqueduct. The narrative wanders a little to topics such as ground water sources on several islands and also contains a hand-written table of detailed “Statistics of Pumping Plants in the Hawaiian Islands.” Surprisingly, the article about the first 14-mile segment of the Kohala Ditch appeared in print only several months after the segment’s completion in June 1906.


As I reported back in August 1998, the ditch drops about 80 feet in elevation from 1,045 feet at “the bottom of the intake above sea level at first large stream (Honokane)” to 956 feet “at the terminus in the plantation fields.” But the grade is not constant over the entire length. Rather, “the fall in tunnels and flumes is one foot in 833 feet, and in ditch to Hawi is one foot in 1000 feet.” Of the 71,000 feet of aqueduct, 46,000 consisted of 45 tunnels, flumes “of the most substantial kind” traversed 2,000 feet, and the remaining length was open ditching. The longest of the tunnels “was 2,500 feet, and was cut through in 10 months, being completed on the 24th of March 1906.” In his peculiar prose, the author explains that, given the average labor wages of $1 per day, hand drilling proved to be “more economic than the use of either air or electric drills. An experiment was made in one case with a highly advertised gasoline drill, which proved an absolute failure and had to be consigned to the scrap heap.”


Coarse as well as fine aggregates for the concrete lining were obtained by crushing blue rock at the site. It was found that “the beach sand was rather poor in quality and the cost of packing, hauling and handling to the point where used in the ditch made it more expensive.” The cement was “A-1 imported Alsen and Germania brands, averaging $2.60 per barrel in Honolulu. The steamer and other transportation rates from Honolulu averaged $1.30 per barrel more.” The construction materials were “trammed through the tunnels in cars pulled by mules ... The type of track used by me in all this work consisted of band rails 1 1/2 inches wide and 3-16 of an inch thick, 16 feet long, with holes reamed out for track spikes about twofoot centers...”


The 600 Japanese laborers were housed under corrugated iron roofs, with sidewalls of eight-ounce duck tacked to light scantling frames. The raised floors “nearly always two feet above the ground and higher if practicable” provided “a place for drying the men’s clothes in wet weather.” Additionally, “an hospital and medical department was also provided for the men, who were assessed 50 cents a month apiece for this object.”


Although the author makes numerous references to the “men” that made up the labor force, two pictures show very young children of both genders. A particularly spectacular of these pictures carries the caption “Aqueduct Under Waterfall” and shows several workers as well as a woman carrying a young girl on a ledge behind the waterfall. There is no mention of female workers or whether family members resided at or whether they simply visited the workers’ camp.


April 2004:  Cement Use in Hawai`i

By: C. S. Papacostas

Last month's article quoted the Chief Engineer of the Kohala Ditch on the Big Island of Hawai`i who specified "A-1 imported Alsen and Germania brands" of cement averaging $2.60 per barrel in Honolulu and $3.90 delivered to Kohala. 


In my even earlier February 1998 article I gave a brief history of non-bituminous cements from ancient times to a little after 1824, that year being when Joseph Aspdin blended what is now known as Portland cement. Although natural hydraulic cements were produced in America as early as 1818, Portland cement did not become available until 1868 through importation (as ships' ballast) from England, Germany and other European origins.


It is safe then to assume that the cement used at the 1906 Kohala Ditch was of the Portland cement type. But what else is known about the use of natural and Portland cements in Hawai`i? In order to answer this question, I embarked on a fascinating quest that will continue to weave an intricate web for some time to come.


In the meantime here are some facts that have emerged so far: At about the same time that the above-quoted prices prevailed in Hawai`i, Rolfe Cobleigh, Associate Editor of the "American Agriculturist" published a book in New York entitled "Handy Farm Devices and How to Make Them." In Chapter 9 ("When We Build"), he extols the virtues of Portland cement concrete. He estimates that "Portland cement of the most approved brands costs about $1.60 per barrel..."


Hmm! Sounds like the high differential cost of building materials in Hawai`i is not a new phenomenon after all!


Cobleigh goes on to assert that "experience both in practical work and in the laboratory has proven beyond a doubt that the best brands of cement, as in all other goods, are the cheapest in the end, and should be insisted upon by all prospective purchasers. Atlas, Alpha, Saylor's, Edison and Giant cements are among the leading brands..."


By the way, Saylor's Portland cement, produced in Coplay, in the Lehigh County of Pennsylvania, was the first to be patented in the U.S. by David Oliver Saylor. In the September 26, 1871 documents for Patent No. 119,413 "for the improvement of the manufacture of cements," he declares that his hydraulic cement weighted "from one hundred and ten pounds to one hundred and twenty pounds per bushel" and was "in every respect equal to the Portland cement, made in England and imported into this country." In contrast, "the ordinary cement now in our market such as Rosendale, Coplay, and other American brands, ... weighs from seventy to ninety pounds per bushel."


Interestingly, Saylor's Portland cement is available to this day, being marketed by the Essroc Cement Corp. of the Italcementi Group!

But to get back to Hawai`i, the brands Alsen and Germania preferred by the Kohala Ditch Engineer may be of European origin. An Internet article (at www.keyshistory.org) about building the Florida Keys Railroad around the time of the construction of the Kohala Ditch, says that "Alsen cement was a Belgium cement similar to our Portland cement. Tests revealed that Alsen was better for under salt water use." In a related article by Jerry Wilkinson ("History of the Railroad"), we learn that Alsen cement was used for underwater work and U.S. cement for above-water arches. 


Germania, the name of a German heroine, appears to have a more complicated story to be addressed later.

The earliest Hawaiian reference to cement that I was able to discover so far was from a July 1856 issue of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser which indicated that the ship Humboldt's load from San Francisco included "400 casks cement."


(To be continued) 


May 2004:  Early Sources of Cement

By: C. S. Papacostas


Historians often highlight the time when concrete sidewalks were first constructed during the development of many American cities and towns. For example, Robert C. Schmitt ("Firsts and Almost Firsts in Hawaii") says that Honolulu's (and Hawaii's) first concrete sidewalk was built in 1886. Perhaps, the press accounts of the time can shed some light on the local uses of this ubiquitous construction material.

In its March 26, 1886 issue, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser informs us that the said sidewalk was built by "Mr. John Bowler, the well-known plasterer," on Queen Street in Honolulu, in front of the store of J. T. Waterhouse. It was "similar to those in use in New York, San Francisco, and the Colonies" and could be made in slabs of any size. No details were given about the type, brand or source of the cement used or the mix design.


​While scanning the microfilm record, however, I noticed that, at that time, Wm G. Irwin & Co. offered for sale "lime and cement" among other items; Wilder & Co. were "Importers and Dealers in Portland Cement," etc.; and the California firm of Davis and Cowell described itself as "manufacturers of Santa Cruz Lime" and "Importers of English Cement."


It is clear then that ample supplies of American and European building materials, including natural and artificial cements, were available locally. Even earlier, the Reciprocity Treaty that was ratified in 1875 and took effect in 1876 between the U. S. and the Kingdom of Hawai`i listed "bricks, lime and cement" in the schedule of items that could be brought "into all the ports of the Hawaiian Islands free of duty."

Because Portland cement standards were unavailable at that time, both military and civil engineers tended to order by specific brand. This practice lasted even after the adoption of standards (c. 1904). The engineer's call for imported Alsen and Germania brands in 1906 for the construction of the Kohala Ditch on the Big Island is but one example.


The preference of imported over American cements is also reflected in actions of the U.S. Corps of Engineers. According to a 1999 San Francisco "Seacoast Fortifications Preservation Manual" prepared for the U.S. Interior Dept. by Joe C. Freeman et al., Utah-produced Red Diamond was the only American Portland cement among those that the Army tested during the 1890s and "Josson's was still a preferred Belgian Portland cement sold in San Francisco as late as 1907."


As I indicated last month, Alsen may have been a Belgian brand as well but since then, I uncovered some additional possibilities, to wit:

In 1863, Otto Friedrich Alsen established "Alsen Portland Zement" in Germany. This company was the precursor of Alsen AG, now known as Holcim Deutschland, a German subsidiary of the Swiss multinational Holcim.


In 1902, the Alsen American Portland Cement Corporation was established at Alsen, Greene County, N.Y. and a 1915 book by F. A. Gallt about this Hudson Valley locale ("Dear Old Greene County") states that the plant was "a German concern and has been doing a great business." In 1925, the plant was added to the proliferating holdings of the Lehigh Cement Company that had been established in 1897 by General Harry C. Trexler and others in the Pennsylvania birthplace of American Portland cement.


The 1895 annual report of the U.S. Army Chief of Engineers reports that Alsen brand Portland cement was used in the construction of Locks on the Cumberland River in Tennessee, and that Louisville cement (furnished by J. B. Speed & Co.) was also accepted after rigorous testing prior to shipment because "a knowledge of the careless methods of manufacturers of Louisville cement makes the thorough testing of it essential."


Clearly, the chronology given above precludes the Alsen plant in New York from being the source of the cement used for the Cumberland River locks but could it be the source of Kohala Ditch cement? Moreover, was the plant at New York owned by Otto Alsen's company and was the town of Alsen named after the plant or was the plant named after the town?


June 2004:  The 1893 Statue of Germania

By: C. S. Papacostas

In antiquity, "Germania" was a region north of the Roman Empire. Gaius Julius Caesar mentions the tribe of "Germani" he encountered in 58 B.C.E., and, using secondary sources, Cornelius Tacitus in his 98 C.E. treatise associates the name "Germania" with that of the first of several related tribes that attacked the Gauls across the Rhine. In several languages, "Germania" stands for Germany.


Jumping to the 21st century, the Portland Cement Association's "Executive Report" of March 14, 2003 carried this notice: 

"The Chicago Sun-Times reports today that crews rebuilding South Lake Shore Drive unearthed fragments of [a] statue used to promote concrete at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition... [T]he helmeted heroine Germania was used to promote a German company's expertise in portland cement and concrete."


From the historical description, we know that the statue of "Germania" did not represent a personage but was the personification of a country. But, could all this be in any way related to the imported Germania brand of cement used at the Kohala Ditch on the Big Island in 1905-06?


Thanks to the Paul V. Calvin Library Digital History Collection (Illinois Institute of Technology), I was able to access "The Book of the Fair" written by Hubert Howe Bancroft in 1893. Chapter 16 was about "Mines, Mining, and Metallurgy" in which domestic and foreign cements played a major role. Here is an example:


"Elsewhere in Germany's section... [a] Heidelberg firm has erected an elaborate structure composed of cement and gravel, though seemingly fashioned of limestone of a bluish tint. At the entrance is an archway with female figures in classic pose. Of cements there are several exhibits, and in the display of a Berlin laboratory are machines and apparatus for comparative tests of this compound, especially of the Portland variety, the experiments conducted in accordance with regulations framed by the government. By the Lehrte and Misburg firm of Manske and company was erected, near the live-stock pavilion, a portal of artificial sandstone, on which is a heroic statue of Germania..."

Published by the N. D. Thompson Co. at that time, "The Dream City: A Portfolio of Photographic Views" includes a view of the Germania statue assembly that, according to the caption, was


"cast in Portland cement, a material that came into widespread use when the tall-building era began, about 1882. It is not understood that the laws governing the preservation of cement are yet discovered, for there seems to be more fortune than skill in the laying of the material. Sometimes it drinks water and gets harder; sometimes dampness disintegrates the formation. It has been alleged that cement was a disappointment to Chicago builders."


This assessment was consistent with American (but, perhaps, not German) experience at the time: Describing the U.S. situation, ASTM's "1898-1998: A Century of Progress" states that "[a]fter the turn of the century, ASTM formed several new committees... Committee C-1 on Cement, Lime and Clay Products, for example, founded in 1902, played a key role in standardizing test methods in the cement and concrete sector."


Prior to 1900, "the cement industry suffered from a lack of basic standards that defined the material?s chemical composition and performance, leading to conflicts between manufacturers and their customers in the construction industry... As a result, construction companies often received cement that was unsuitable for a given project because it did not meet performance requirements."


By contrast, the October 1888 issue of the New York trade publication "Manufacturer and Builder" marvels at the fact that "[i]n Berlin, and other large cities in Germany, mortar is manufactured in large quantities and sold to builders by the barrel." In other words, reliable ready-mix was available as early as that!


In July 1892, the same publication takes delight in informing its readers that, for the first time in the history of world fairs, the upcoming Chicago Exposition would dedicate an entire building to "Mines and Mining" rather than in "the manufactures building, or in annexes to other structures..."


Zooming in on the pedestal of the Germania statue of 1893, we discern the inscription "Portland CementFabrik Germania" around a carved circular company logo.


Another clue to aid our quest. Stay tuned! 


July 2004:  Cement from East and West

By: C. S. Papacostas

Last month, I explained that at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the Lehrte and Misburg firm of Manske & Co. displayed a concrete statue of Germania.


With help from Gregor Fischer of the University of Hawai`i, I obtained a translation of several German narratives about the history of cement production in the vicinity of Hanover ("Hannover" in German) where the aforementioned towns are located.


A cement-manufacturing expert by the name of Hermann Manske severed his employment with the first cement plant in the area to establish a competing enterprise in 1881. Other local competitors soon sprang up but by 1905, "Germania" was making 5% of the total cement production in all of Germany. Among its overseas customers were the Kohala Ditch Company and, also, "The Coal, Cement and Supply Co." of Wilmington, North Carolina. A 1902 local Chamber of Commerce publication explains that 
"they handle the 'Giant' brand of Portland Cement, manufactured by the American Cement Company of Philadelphia, 'Germania' imported cement from Germany, the 'Union' Rosendale cement, made in Philadelphia, all high grade products..."


About the Kohala Ditch, a June 3, 1906 article in the Commercial Pacific Advertiser says:


"Mr. Renear, father of Dan Renear the swimmer, returned from Kohala yesterday on the Kinau, having finished work on the Kohala ditch. Mr. Renear went to Hawaii last September to do the cement lining for the ditch. He states that water was to have been turned into the ditch yesterday for a test."


The test was successfully run and the ditch, which the Hawaiian Star described as "a great feat of engineering," was officially opened on June 11, 1906. Undoubtedly, Mr. Renear handled the "A-1 imported Alsen and Germania brands" of cement specified by the ditch's engineer, M. M. O'Shaughnessy.


By that time, the global availability and cost of cement were severely impacted by the April 18, 1906 Great San Francisco Earthquake and the subsequent reconstruction activities there. Following are some effects on the Territory of Hawai`i:

Several trade publications tell us that the Davenport cement plant being built in Santa Cruz County in 1906 "to supply the Panama Canal and satisfy the demand created by the US Navy's construction of Pearl Harbor" became a major cement supplier to the Bay Area recovery effort instead.


In response to the local shortages, cement was also brought into the territory from Asia. For example, the July 27, 1906 issue of the Hawaiian Star states that


"[a] large consignment of cement arrived by the S. S. Manchuria yesterday. The consignment came to H. Hackfeld & Company... from Hongkong. The consignment consisted of 2500 barrels. The shortage of cement in the islands was the cause of the shipment. There has been a shortage here for months. Several steamers ago Hackfeld & Company received a special shipment of cement and by the Manchuria another shipment arrived. The vessel carried no shipment of cement for San Francisco, however, although there is a big demand for cement in the reconstruction of San Francisco."


Incidentally, Hackfeld's Dry Goods was established in 1849, renamed H. Hackfeld & Co. in 1898, became Liberty House in 1918 and, under the ownership of the Federated Department Stores Inc. of Cincinnati since 2001, is now known as Macy's. 


As for the so called "oriental cement" I am all but convinced that it was actually produced in Macau (or Macao) and transshipped via Hong Kong to Hawai`i. A cement plant was founded in 1887 on Green Island (Ilha Verde in Portuguese, Tsing Chau or Qingzhou in Chinese). At the time, Green Island was connected to the Macau peninsula by a causeway but, due to land reclamation, was absorbed into the peninsula by the early 1920s. 


Next: the first production of portland cement in Hawai`i.


​August 2004:  First Production of Portland Cement in Hawaii

By: C. S. Papacostas

The first volume of "The Minerals Yearbook" by the U.S. Bureau of Mines bears the dates 1932-33 and was designed to replace various earlier documents including "Mineral Resources of the United States" which had been issued for 50 years. Providing information about "all commercially important minerals," it says this about portland cement: 


"Before 1900 prices of portland cement were relatively high... for the product was new, manufacturing technique had not yet been perfected, production was small, and demand was increasing rapidly."


Moreover, 
"natural cement competed sharply with portland cement during the early years of its manufacture, but since 1900 portland cement has dominated the industry."


At the time, cements of varying quality and price proliferated worldwide, as a major California distributor, the F.A. HIHN COMPANY, responding to a complaint about price gouging, reflects it in a letter:


​"As there are so many different brands of cement it is a difficult matter to tell if we are high priced or not unless you ascertain the brand of cement the Rancher received..."


My recent chronicles showed that, since the mid 19th century, Hawai`i was importing this ubiquitous material from Europe, North America and, later, Asia. Apparently, it was more economical at the time to import good quality cements rather than to produce them locally. Shortages due to war, however, altered the picture, according to the 1959 volume of "The Minerals Yearbook:"


"During World Wars I and II, cement was produced at lime plants on Maui and Oahu to alleviate shortages of cement shipped from the Mainland."


Interesting! 


According to a July 27, 1951 Honolulu Advertiser story by Ray Coll, Jr., 
"Portland type cement was manufactured at Paia, Maui, during World War I and again at Waianae, Oahu during World War II. These plants produced satisfactory cement. Paia cement, after 30 years of service in the Haiku Ditch is still in excellent condition. Paia cement was also used to build the Mutual Telephone Building on Alakea St. 30 years ago... During the last war [read: World War II] the military required more and more cement for defense purposes and the old machinery from Paia... was assembled at Waianae, where two rotary kilns were available to again burn and grind cement..." 


According to the Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company's (HC&S) web site, what is now known as the Old Lime Kiln in Pa`ia, Maui was built in 1907 by the Maui Agricultural Company next to the modern Baldwin Beach Park and "until mid-1989, manufactured and supplied dry hydrated lime to sugar factories and others on Maui." The site verifies that in WWI the plantation "converted its lime kiln to cement production, continuing this activity until the shortage of cement eased."


Two years before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, industrialist and builder Henry J. Kaiser, the future developer of Hawaii Kai and the Kaiser (now Hilton) Hawaiian Village Hotel that gave radio station KHVH its call name, established the Permanente cement plant in the hills above Cupertino, South of San Francisco. Rio Permanente (Permanente Creek) was so named by the Spanish in the 1770s because it was a "permanent" source of water even during dry seasons. The primary purpose of the plant was to supply portland cement for the construction of Shasta Dam.


With the innovation of monthly bulk shipments of 58,000 barrels on the "Permanente Silverboat" and a Hawai`i distribution system, it soon became the chief cement source in the territory.


Shortages during WWII induced the Hawaiian Gas Products Co. (later Gaspro) to purchase and assemble the Pa'ia equipment at the site of the Waianae Lime and Cement Company it acquired in 1938, near "the pure calcium limestone and trachyte deposits" as a Star-Bulletin story described the site. The Minerals Yearbook reports that cement production at this site commenced in May 1945 and lasted to the end of 1946.


General limitation orders during WWII affected everything. For example, the 1943 volume of the Minerals Yearbook points out that "makers of new cloth and paper bags were limited by the War Production Board in 1943 to the manufacture of only one size of bag - 94 pounds net weight - for portland cement."


And this, of course, is the U.S. standard p.c. bag (or sack) to this day!


September 2004:  Not One, but Two Cement Plants

By: C. S. Papacostas

A 1900 order by the territorial Board of Health to control inter-island commerce in response to a plague epidemic on O`ahu that, because of carelessness, resulted in the Great Chinatown fire restricted the shipment of many commodities but permitted items "not liable to infection" from the port of Honolulu. Among them were lime, machinery, coal, bricks and portland cement, all vital to the economic health of the islands.

As I described last month, with only two minor exceptions prior to 1946, Hawai`i was totally dependent on imported portland cement. Following the closure of a temporary plant in Waianae in 1946 by Hawaiian Gas Products (Gaspro), industrialist Henry Kaiser's Permanente Cement Co. in California remained the chief supplier of the material to Hawai`i.


Responding to the effective monopoly, according to local papers, the President of Hawaiian Gas Products, Allan Renton, announced plans in May, 1951 to construct a plant at the old site using a $4 million loan from the federal Reconstruction Finance Corp. obtained on the basis of national defense needs. The location was selected, the Star-Bulletin (S-B) said, "because of the pure calcium limestone and trachyte deposits there." Trachyte pumice has a very high content of silica. 


It is interesting that the officers of the so named Hawaiian Cement Co. were all residents of Honolulu. In addition to Renton, they included E. I. Parker, E.E. Black, P.K. McLean, H.W.B White and L.H. Bingham.


In what appears to be a drawn-out process, this initiative failed to obtain the necessary rezoning. A 1956 S-B story, for instance, indicates that the request by Gaspro Limited to rezone land from "rural protective" to "noxious industrial" was vehemently opposed by Waianae and Nanakuli residents. In February 1957, the Honolulu Advertiser (HA) ran a story having Reston promising that the plant would be "almost dust-free," but to no avail.


Amid statehood celebrations in 1959, a new Hawaiian Cement Corp. consortium consisting of Alexander & Baldwin, several Dillingham interests, Gaspro, Cyprus Mines Corp. of Los Angeles, and American Cement Corp., a leading producer of portland cement, announced plans for the construction, by 1961, of a cement manufacturing plant at, as the S-B put it, "Campbell Estate's fast growing industrial area at Barbers Point." According to an April 1959 S-B article, local raw materials were already successfully tested in the U.S. and in Europe. The president of the new company, Robert Fisher, was quoted to promise that the company would produce "the five standard types [of cement] recognized in the trade" as compared to the two (standard and high-early) imported by Kaiser. In addition, he announced that the company would provide needed education and training to local engineers, contractors and architects about the various uses of cement.


As an aside, I find the involvement of Cyprus Mines Corp., the multinational mining, timber, oil & gas, and freight company, of particular interest as I was born on the island of Cyprus where this company owned several copper mines.


Only two months later (June, 1959), the HA reported that Kaiser had acquired a "$1.5 million Lualualei cement site...from Clarence C. T. Loo" and that he planned quarry operations and also production of cement by August 1, 1961, before Hawaiian Cement's planned opening at the near-by location. Another story in the same issue of the paper explained that the Honolulu supervisors (i.e., the city council) "went over the head" of the stalemated City Planning Commission and approved Kaiser's rezoning application from "rural" to "noxious."


Ironically, Hawaiian Cement's contractors (Hawaiian Dredging and Bechtel) used the competitor's imported cement for construction of their plant! At opening, the dry-process plant was rated at either 1.0 or 1.4 million barrels/year (depending on which report one accepts). Initially, the raw materials used included limestone, basalt and trachyte from Oahu, silica from Vietnam and gypsum from Mexico.


Kaiser himself attended the dedication ceremony of the Hawaiian Cement plant in mid-August 1960, as did Governor Quinn who echoed hopes heard for several years that the plant would contribute to self-sufficiency for Hawai`i. Truck driver Gilbert Matua was reported hauling the plant's first load of cement to another Hawaiian Dredging construction site.


Boasting cleanliness, good landscaping and dust control by electrostatic precipitators, the wet-process, 1.7 million barrel/year Permanente Cement plant opened a few days later (on August 20, 1960), ready to supply "Hawai`i, Guam and other Pacific areas."


Thus, market forces resulted in not one, but two major cement factories within a stone's throw away from each other, one at Barbers Point and the other in the Waianae district of the island of O'ahu! According to "The Minerals Yearbook" for 1960, only three other new cement plants opened that year in the U.S.


October 2004:  Kaiser vs. Cyprus Hawaiian Cement

By: C. S. Papacostas

This month's article represents a milestone of sorts, being as it is the 100th in the series that I began way back in March 1995. 

The topics covered have ranged far and wide, but, as a general rule, pivoted around Hawai`i nei. 


Lately, the adventure took us from the construction of certain irrigation "ditches" on the Big Island at the turn of the 20th century to the intriguing story of importation and local production of portland cement. 


The story led us to a point in August, 1960 when not one, but two major competing cement plants opened on the island of O`ahu: the "old" Hawaiian Cement Corporation's dry-process plant at Barbers Point and the Kaiser Permanente Cement Co. wet-process plant at nearby Nanakuli. At that time, the rated capacity of each plant exceeded the total consumption of the material within the newly admitted 50th State of the American Union. Naturally, the competition between the two plants was fierce. 


Whereas "[Henry] Kaiser saluted the Hawaiian Cement Corp. and the competition that now exists," according to the Honolulu Advertiser (HA), in competing pronouncements, newspaper advertisements and other notices, the two companies sought to get the upper hand. Thus, reflecting on the 20-year or so near-monopoly enjoyed by its California parent company, one boasted that "Hawaii is built with Kaiser Permanente Cement" and the other retorted with "Building with Hawaii for Hawaii" ("Oke kukulu ana me Hawaii, no Hawaii") and with informing readers that it was "the only island member" of the prestigious national Portland Cement Association. 


Curiously, however, sorting the copious notes I have amassed on the unfolding story, I came to realize that, on a broad outline, the two companies seemed to move as if in lockstep with each other. This, I am all but convinced, was more due to the similarity of their responses to the prevailing market and technological conditions and less the result of collusion that, as we shall soon see, on occasion, they were accused of carrying out. 


A common temporary setback surfaced early on: The U. S. Bureau of Standards had a stringent quality control rule that required new plants to test each and every batch of cement intended for use on federal projects. This requirement did not affect many older mainland plants, including Kaiser's. So, until a "full test program" was implemented under the auspices of the U. S. Navy around March 1961, mainland U. S. cement was again imported in bulk. 


​By 1965 "cement and concrete," including many old and new products by old and new companies was recognized, according to the Star-Bulletin (SB), as the "biggest island manufacturing industry." 


Four years later, in 1969, both the renamed "Kaiser Cement & Gypsum Corp." and Hawaiian Cement announced plans to greatly expand their production capacities in response to rising demands precipitated by a construction boom. A staged expansion program continued into the mid-1970s. 


In 1974, Hawaiian Cement also got a new name after the Cyprus Mines Corporation increased its ownership to 90.8%, having bought 45.4% from its partner in the enterprise, the American Cement Corporation, then known as Amcord, Inc. And this is how the "Cyprus Hawaiian Cement Company" came into being. 


In October of the same year, the State's Department of Planning and Economic Development (DPED) convened special hearings at the behest of then Governor George Ryoichi Ariyoshi to investigate the soaring prices that the two competitors were charging new customers. The state characterized the two as constituting a "shared monopoly" and accused them of engaging in "inflationary profiteering." 

As expected, the accused offered alternate explanations.

November 2004:  Cement and Energy in the 1970s

By: C. S. Papacostas

The year was 1974, the month was August, and the Department of Planning and Economic Development (DPED) of the State of Hawai`i, now known as the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), launched a probe into the soaring prices that the two newly renamed portland cement plants on O`ahu were charging their new customers. 


In public hearings, the State leveled accusations of collusion and price-fixing against Cyprus Hawaiian Cement and Kaiser Cement & Gypsum. The two companies defended themselves by attributing the high prices to shortages driven by the increasing demands of a construction boom, reduced supplies due to a temporary break-down of a kiln at Cyprus, and a steep rise in fuel oil costs. 


If not then, then now, it is understood that the 1973 Energy Crisis, precipitated by the oil export embargo of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), has had a profound effect on global (and local) economic conditions. Kaiser also claimed that other production costs, such as those of imported silica, were on the rise as well, and it was said that long-term contracts limited the prices that old customers could be charged, but dictated higher prices for new accounts. 


This situation must have persisted into the next year for, in April 1975, the Honolulu Advertiser (HA) reported that both companies turned to importing clinker from Japan in order to meet the demand. 


Some relief came in August when Cyprus inaugurated a significant expansion to its facilities. In what appears to me to be a conciliatory move, the keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony was Hideto Kono, director of DPED. Parenthetically, Kono's recent passing on October 2, 2004 at age 82 was widely reported locally. As the HA put it, "one of Kono's chief legacies... was his leadership in the drive to wean Hawai`i from its dependency on fossil oil." 


Energy concerns became more alarming as the 1970s progressed, prompting Fred B. Smales, President of Cyprus Hawaiian Cement, to strike a cautionary note, in a July 1978 speech to the Engineering Association of Hawaii, about the competitive advantage that the U.S. Mainland competitors enjoyed. But, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (S-B), for three years in a row, in an apparent reversal of the normal state of affairs, the local cement plants were actually exporting cement to the U.S. West Coast. 


Interestingly, Cyprus' shipments were "limited only by the local plant's capacity and the four-ply Kraft paper bags in which cement is shipped." This shortage of paper, by the way, resulted from labor strikes against paper mills in the Northwest sector of the United States. 

As for prices, the S-B continued, "a bag of cement that sells for $3.59 here will sell for $5.18 in California due to packing, shipping and handling costs." 


Ultimately, however, Smales' fear proved to be real, especially when the second energy crisis, which U. S. President Jimmy Carter characterized as "the moral equivalent of war," hit the globe in 1979 after the Shah of Iran was deposed. 


Again, as if in lockstep with each other, the two competitors reacted in the same way: First Kaiser Cement, in July, and then Cyprus Hawaiian, in December 1979, announced their intention to switch their operations from oil to coal. Both were to receive the material at Honolulu Harbor, a little more than twenty miles away. It is my recollection that, naturally, both were in favor of the then proposed and highly controversial nearby Barbers Point Harbor at Kalaeloa. 


Kaiser completed the conversion in June and Cyprus in October 1980. 


And then, on October 6, 1981, the HA ran the following headline: "Cyprus Hawaiian Cement up for sale." 


Stay tuned! 


December 2004:  And Then There Was One (Cement Plant)

By: C. S. Papacostas

Last month's chronicle had the two cement plants on O`ahu, Cyprus Hawaiian and Kaiser Cement & Gypsum, converting fuel from petroleum to coal. The "Minerals Yearbook" for 1980 indicated that both plants imported their coal from the Newcastle District, NSW, Australia.


Coal, by the way, has had a very long history in Hawai`i. For example, a major early (1870s) reason for America's coveting of Hawai`i was to use it as a coaling station for the Navy! And the California Wreck Divers website (www.cawreckdivers.org) comments that


"In 1898, the 'Star of France' was sold to the Puget Sound Commercial Company under the managing ownership of J.J. Moore and registered under Hawaii. Over twenty other ships were similarly registered to Hawaii--all with hopes of obtaining American registry when the Hawaiian Islands became part of the United States. In 1900, the 'Star of France' became an American vessel, having been specifically named in the Organic Act of 1900, which made Hawaii a US territory. Soon the France was moved to Port Townsend, Washington regularly carried lumber between Puget Sound and Australia, returning to Hawaii with a cargo of Newcastle coal."


The Star-Bulletin (S-B) reported on January 15, 1981 that the conversion to coal resulted in cost savings to both companies, reducing air pollution emissions to boot, because "the kiln performs the same function as a scrubber for an electric utility. The sulfur and ash are absorbed in the cement." 


On October 6, 1981, the Honolulu Advertiser (HA) ran the headline "Cyprus Hawaiian Cement up for sale." 

The reason for this turn of events was not financial distress, however. It so happened that in 1979 Standard Oil Co. of Indiana took over Cyprus Mines Corp. of Los Angeles, the parent of the O`ahu-based cement company that had already bought out Alexander & Baldwin's 7% ownership in the company. Having no other interests in the cement business, Standard decided to divest. 


By June 1982, both cement companies faced a severe construction slump but, revealing optimism toward the future, the now renamed Kaiser Cement Corp. purchased the barge "Punapau" or "finished coral." 


Cyprus Hawaiian, on the other hand, found a buyer a month later in Lone Star Industries Inc. of Greenwich, Connecticut, then the largest U. S. cement producer. Through Hawai`i subsidiaries, Lone Star had been active in construction material (but not cement) supply since 1969 and real-estate development thereafter. Cyprus Hawaiian thus became the "Lone Star Hawaii Cement Corp." 


The business slump continued into 1983, adversely affecting not only the cement producers but also ready-mix concrete and construction materials suppliers such as Ameron HC&D, Pacific Concrete & Rock Co. (PC&R) and Lone Star's own Hawaii Rock Products. 

Ameron HC&D's (now known as Ameron Hawaii) initial Hawai`i presence was a joint venture in 1960 between the American Pipe and Construction Co. of Los Angeles and a Hawai`i firm, the Honolulu Construction and Draying Co. that had been established by several Honolulu-based businessmen in 1908 on Queen Street near Fort. The joint venture, originally named the American Concrete Pipe of Hawaii, sold the pressure pipe used in sewer projects throughout Honolulu. HC&D started out with horse and mule-drawn drays, entered the concrete business in 1918 and took lease on the Kapa`a Quarry in Kailua, O`ahu from Campbell Estate in 1949. It changed its name to HC&D, Ltd officially in 1963. Its mainland partner was renamed Ameron c.1982, hence, Ameron HC&D. 


Charging that the two cement companies lacked competition in setting prices, the new President of Ameron HC&D, Thomas Bastis, announced a "prototype program" of importing cement from Korea via a West Coast broker. The company, however, would continue to obtain 30% of its cement locally to meet the "Buy America" requirements of federally funded projects such as highways and airports. 

The two cement companies responded that the imported cement would constitute "dumping" that would violate U.S. trade laws, State Sen. James Aki introduced a bill to forbid imports, and the state's Attorney General's office characterized the bill's intent as an unconstitutional restraint of interstate trade. The then chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee, Benjamin Cayetano, urged the parties to find an alternate conflict resolution. Nevertheless, as the "Mineral Yearbook" reported, "although the two plants operated at less than capacity in 1983, some Hawaiian concrete manufacturing companies imported cement from the Republic of Korea." 


In May 1985, Lone Star along with an Australian partner, Adelaide Brighton Cement Holdings, acquired the assets of Kaiser Cement and proceeded to close that facility. At about the same time, Grace Brothers acquired PC&R to form Grace Pacific that got out of the ready-mix business, causing the S-B to declare that 
"the consolidation leaves Hawaii with one cement manufacturer, down from two, and two major ready-mix concrete suppliers, down from three." 


By October 1985 the "Hawaiian Cement Co." reappeared in Hawai`i, this time sporting a new logo designed by Momi Cazimero of Graphic House and described by the HA as being "developed from the letter 'C,' suggesting in its interlocked shape a familiar concrete block form." 

But the plot thickens. On December 11, 1990 a HA headline proclaimed: "Lone Star in bankruptcy: firm co-owns Hawaiian Cement." 



2014 Copyright ASCE Hawaii Section

History & Heritage 2004