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Aerial view of Pearl Harbor, Ford Island in center. Arizona memorial is the small white blob just below island, on the right side.|
History of Pearl Harbor before 1941
Originally an extensive, shallow inlet or bay called Wai Momi, meaning "Water of Pearl", or Pu'uloa, by the Hawaiians, Pearl Harbor was regarded as the home of the shark goddess Ka'ahupahau and her brother Kahi'uka.
The harbour was teeming with pearl-producing oysters until the late 1800's. In the early days following the arrival of Captain James Cook, Pearl Harbor was not considered a suitable port due to the shallow water.
The United States of America and the Hawaiian Kingdom signed the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 as Supplemented by Convention on December 6, 1884 and ratified in 1887. On January 20, 1887, the United States Senate allowed the Navy to lease Pearl Harbor as a naval base (the US took possession on November 9 that year). As a result, Hawai'i obtained exclusive rights to allow Hawaiian sugar to enter the United States duty free. The Spanish-American War of 1898 and the need for the United States to have a permanent presence in the Pacific both contributed to the decision to annex Hawaii.
After annexation, Pearl Harbor was refitted to allow for more navy ships. Schofield Barracks, constructed in 1909 to house artillery, cavalry and infantry units, became the largest Army post of its day.
In 1917 Ford Island in the middle of Pearl Harbor was purchased for joint Army and Navy use in the development of military aviation. As Japanese presence increased in the Pacific, the US increased the ships' presence there.