Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company

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Inter-Island Steam Navigation Co.
FounderThomas R. Foster
Area served
Hawaiian Islands
Key people
John Liwaikalaniopuu Ena - Pres.
James A. Kennedy - Pres.
Stanley Kennedy Sr. - Pres.
ServicesPassenger and Cargo Transportation between the Hawaiian Islands

Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company was headquartered in Honolulu and ran steamship passenger and cargo service between the Hawaiian Islands from 1883 until 1947. Inter-Island constructed the Kona Inn in 1928, the first hotel in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. In 1929, Inter-Island created an airline subsidiary, Inter-Island Airways, that is still operating as Hawaiian Airlines.


Shipbuilder Thomas R. Foster moved to Hawaii in 1857 and founded Inter-Island Steam Navigation in 1883.[1] Inter-Island's early ships included the James Makee, Iwalani, and the Helene.[1] James A. Kennedy was recruited from the Honolulu Iron Works to become President of Inter-Island in 1902.[1] In 1905, Kennedy absorbed the Wilder Steamship Co. into Inter-Island, creating the largest fleet of steamers serving the Hawaiian Islands.[2] In 1925, Inter-Island had four steamers: SS Humuula, SS Hawaii, SS Waialeale, and SS Haulalai[3]

Kona Inn[edit]

Kona Inn Shopping Village, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 2 (4549530456)

To promote travel to the Big Island, Inter-Island's Board of Directors approved the construction of the Kona Inn, the first hotel in Kona.[1] They hired architect Charles William Dickey, who was known for his distinctive Hawaiian style design.[4] The oceanfront Kona Inn opened in 1928, with 20 rooms, a salt water swimming pool, tennis courts, spacious lawns, cocktail lounge, and luaus.[5] The Kona Inn eventually expanded to 220 rooms, and helped turn Kona into a premier tourist destination[1] The Kona Inn was converted into the Kona Inn Shopping Village in 1980.[6]

Inter-Island Airways[edit]

James Kennedy's son, Stanley Kennedy Sr., returned from WWI after flying Curtiss H-16 flyingboats for the US Navy and joined his father in management at Inter-Island. Stan Kennedy convinced the Inter-Island Steam Navigation Board of Directors to expand their business into the fledgling aviation industry.[2] On January 30, 1929, the company founded a subsidiary, Inter-Island Airways, that would later become Hawaiian Airlines.

Strike of 1938[edit]

On August 1, 1938 protests against the company by several unions resulted in the Hilo massacre.[3] Inter-Island's SS Waialeale arrived in Hilo crewed by strike-breakers, to be met by 200 protesting longshoremen. A riot ensued between the police and longshoremen with at least 16 rounds fired (7 birdshot and 9 buckshot), at least one bayonet stabbing, clubs, and fire hoses.[7] There were no fatalities, but many injuries.[3]


During WW II, Inter-Island Steam Navigation's ships were commandeered into military service by the War Shipping Administration.[1] The lack of civilian cargo ships led to the proliferation of airborne cargo and passenger transportation between the Hawaiian Islands. The 14 hour voyage from Honolulu to Hilo on a steamer, could now be done in 100 minutes on a DC-3 aircraft. [1] Inter-Island Steam Navigation's passenger and cargo service was essentially a victim of Inter-Island Airways success, as well as the creation of Aloha Airlines in 1946, and discontinued operations in 1947.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Banham, Russ (2014). Hawaiian. Nashville, TN: Greenwich Publishing. p. 33, 47. ISBN 978-1-941800-00-3.
  2. ^ a b c Cohen, Stan (1986). Hawaiian Airlines: A Pictorial History of the Pioneer Carrier in the Pacific. Pictorial Histories Publishing Co. pp. 10–11. ISBN 0-933126-81-6.
  3. ^ a b c Puette, William. "Hilo Massacre". Retrieved 28 January 2018.
  4. ^ "A Look Back at Hawaii's Earliest, most Historic Hotels". Hawaii Magazine. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  5. ^ Dechape, Chantel. "Historical Kona Inn Shopping Village". Aloha Visitors Guide. Retrieved 18 October 2018.
  6. ^ "Kona Inn Shopping Village". Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  7. ^ Dziedziech, Alexis. "Hawaiians strike against Inter-Island Steam Navigation Company Limited, 1938". Non Violent Database Retrieved 19 October 2018.

External links[edit]

In 1898, Inter-Island had three steamers:

Lehua, Mokolii, and LikeLike[1]

  1. ^ The Pacific commercial advertiser. (Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands), 17 Feb. 1898. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>.