In 1902, Japanese immigrant Sometaro Sheba published the first newspaper on Kauaʻi. Based in Lihuʻe and appearing in two editions (English and Japanese), the Garden Island, has continued to cover life on Kauaʻi to the present day. In 1903, prominent Kauaʻi citizens Mason Fay Prosser, Edward DeLacy, Johan Ludvig V. Hjorth, and Frank Crawford formed a corporation to purchase the Garden Island. Sheba continued to serve as the publisher and editor, producing English and Japanese language editions until 1904, when the editions were separated into two. The Japanese edition became the Kauai Shinpo. The Garden Island was published weekly from 1902 to 1964, then switched to twice a week from 1964 to 1976, when it was published three times a week. Presently it appears daily.
In its first decade, the Garden Island presented local, national, and international news; as well as editorials, regular columns, sports news, fiction, advertisements, legal notices, and the schedule for the Garden Island steamer. Local news included crimes on plantations, deaths, and arrivals of new immigrant plantation workers. Regular column topics included poultry care, library new book lists, Sunday sermons, and “Our Little Boys and Girls,” which featured 500-word short stories by children on Kauaʻi.
During World War I while the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, and Wailuku’s Maui News expressed extreme anti-German sentiment, the Garden Island was more moderate toward local Germans. The December 25, 1917 edition stated, “Bitterness and enmity may find an inevitable place on the battlefield; in rural communities such as ours, far removed from the scenes of war, it can do no good on either side to foment strife and stir up bad feeling ... that will continue to bear an evil harvest when the actual war is over and peace should reign again.”
Hawaiʻi was under martial law for most of World War II. Five days after the Pearl Harbor attack, the “Governor’s Proclamation” under General Order No. 14 went into effect, allowing only a few newspapers to continue publishing. One of these was the Garden Island. From December 10, 1941, to January 14, 1942, Charles “Charlie” Fern, owner of the Garden Island and civilian defense director of Kauaʻi, distributed the Garden Island War Daily as a daily supplement, with a circulation of 5,000 copies. During the war, the newspaper published columns in two Filipino languages, Tagalog and Visayan, and in Japanese. The Garden Island was the only establishment paper to defend Japanese Americans in Hawaiʻi, who were under suspicion after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Ownership of the Garden Islandchanged several times. In 1965, after 44 years at the Garden Island, Fern sold the paper to the Scripps League and Hagadone Newspapers of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Fern’s son Mike continued as publisher until 1966. In 1977, the partnership between the joint owners ended, leaving the Scripps League as the exclusive owner. In 1996, the Pulitzer Publishing Company acquired the newspaper. In June 2005, Lee Enterprises of Davenport, Iowa, purchased the Garden Island, along with other Pulitzer papers. Today, the Garden Island continues to serve Kauaʻi as its major daily newspaper, with a print and an online edition (including news of the privately owned island of Niʻihau).