“Saipan: A Brief History” - Guam Business Magazine - 05/01/2017
Guam Business Magazine
on May 1, 2017
Saipan: A Brief History” takes the reader from “prehistory” to present times.
Though author and historian Don A. Farrell calls it brief, the book contains plenty of detail, dates and background to satisfy the interested reader in its 100-plus pages.
The book gives plenty of details of Saipan’s place in geo-political history through the years until the present day.
“First contact” with Spanish-backed voyagers in Guam to the South in the 16th century resulted in Spanish rule and Catholic conversion in Saipan and its sister islands in the Northern Mariana Islands, and a reduction of the population by disease.
In the 19th century, war and the resultant carving up of the Pacific led the Northern Marianas through partition until the years of German administration from 1899 brought more positive changes. As Farrell shows, headquartered in Saipan, the first administrator introduced a civic framework that included separation of church and state, public education and training in trades.
George Fritz, the German district officer also introduced the fundamental infrastructure “needed for economic development: improved roads and harbor facilities,” to quote Farrell.
A clear photo of the administration building Fritz built behind Garapan shares with the reader that, “This was the first time the ancient Chamorro latte stone was used as a cultural symbol.”
Such nuggets of information and plentiful photos give the reader a sense of the eras covered in the book.
The Japanese administration from 1914 also boosted economic development and provided Saipan with a thriving sugar cane industry and a new hospital and the first moves to militarization.
As Farrell’s succinct text describes, Chamorros from Guam were also drawn to Saipan by the prospect of economic opportunity.
Saipan remained in Japanese hands until its capture by U.S. forces. A sense of the devastation and deaths of both U.S. Marines and Japanese troops during the hostilities of 1944 and the securing of the island into 1945 is well-depicted, as is Saipan’s role as a staging area as war-time events progressed elsewhere. Aside from existing destinations on the island, before and after photos illustrate that, “Many sites on Saipan today are reminiscent of World War II activities …”
Besides important eras, moments in economic history such as that of Saipan’s role as the administrative headquarters of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands are featured, as is the formation of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce in 1959.
This book clearly details the importance of tourism to the island. “Saipan: A Brief History” acknowledges the rise and fall of the Saipan garment industry in the 1980s and 1990s and the resurgence of tourism in recent years, to include the Imperial Pacific casino construction.
The cover features a photo by Corey Shadow of Wayang Photography, courtesy of the Marianas Visitors Authority and Discover Flying. A new edition of the book, presently in production, will appear in Korean and a Chinese version is already on sale.
The book is the third in a series that includes “Tinian: A Brief History” and “Guam: A Brief History.”