Heinrich (Henry) Hackfeld was born in Almsloh, a village in the parish of Ganderkesee, in the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. He eventually became part of the Bremish mercantile elite, but was atypical in that he came from a humble background. His firm, H. Hackfeld & Co. of Honolulu, was one of a number of German mercantile businesses founded in Melanesia and Polynesia during the nineteenth century. Initially the main focus of the firm’s business was both indirect and direct involvement in the North Pacific whaling industry. After the demise of this industry, at the beginning of the 1870s, the firm shifted its focus to another part of its business, the provision of factoring services to the Hawaiian sugar industry. By the time of the incorporation of Hawaii as a United States Territory in 1900 the firm was one of a small group of sugar factors that dominated the islands’ economy.