Originally settled by Polynesians during the first millennium, Hawaii organized itself into a native kingdom before the United States annexed it in 1900. Hawaii was a flash point for World War II after the Japanese attacked the U.S. naval port at Pearl Harbor in 1940.
The early Polynesian settlers on Hawaii traveled there in double-hulled canoes from either Southeast Asia or the South Pacific. English captain James Cook was the first European to see the Hawaiian Islands in 1778, which he found ruled by hereditary chiefs. After exposure to European disease and weapons, one chief consolidated his power over all of Hawaii, creating the Kingdom of Hawaii.
Hawaiian kings organized their society with a constitution, a bicameral legislature and private property by 1848, and major powers, such as the United States, Britain and France, officially recognized the kingdom. However, as American and European presence on the island increased with sugar plantations and international shipping, calls for American annexation increased. A number of monarchs continued to hold control until a American-led revolution led to the creation of a republic in 1894 and annexation in 1900.
Hawaii moved to tourism and military uses in the 20th century, with the United States using Pearl Harbor as a major naval port and fueling depot. The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1940. Hawaii became the 50th U.S. state on Aug. 21, 1959.