Hemp's History

Hemp was the first plant known to have been domestically cultivated. The oldest relic of human history is hemp fabric dated to 8,000 BC from ancient Mesopotamia, an area in present-day Turkey.

The paintings of Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Gainsborough, etc., were primarily painted on hemp canvas, as were practically all canvas paintings.

Hemp sails and ropes carried the European settlers to America for hundreds of years - 1492 to the advent of steamships in the early 1800's.

Cannabis hemp was legal tender (money) in most of the Americas from 1631 until the early 1800s. You could pay your taxes with cannabis hemp throughout America for over 200 years.

You could even be jailed in America for not growing cannabis during several periods of shortage, e.g., in Virginia between 1763 and 1767.

HEMPstead, Long Island; HEMPstead County, Arkansas; HEMPstead, Texas; HEMPhill, North Carolina; HEMPfield, Pennsylvania; among others, were named after cannabis growing regions, or after family names derived from hemp growing.

Maps, log books, Bibles, books were all made of rag bond paper that had a high hemp content from recycled clothes of homespun hemp, sails, ropes, tents made of hemp.

Hemp was used for clothing, military uniforms, ship's rigging, shoes, parachute webbing, baggage, and much more. Christopher Columbus' ships were fully rigged in hemp. The U.S.S. Constitution, "Old Ironsides," was outfitted with over 40 tons of hemp rigging.

Benjamin Franklin started one of America's first paper mills with cannabis. This allowed America to have a free colonial press without having to beg or justify paper and books from England.

It was not just any string that connected Ben Franklin to the clouds above for his famous experiment, it was hemp string.

Thomas Jefferson drafted both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution on hemp paper.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew cannabis on their plantations. Jefferson, while envoy to France, went to great expense—and considerable risk to himself and his secret agents—to procure particularly good hemp seeds smuggled illegally into Turkey from China. The Chinese Mandarins (political rulers) so valued their hemp seeds that they made their exportation a capital offense.

Betsy Ross allegedly made the first flag of the United States of America out of the finest, strongest fiber available, hemp fabric.

When Rudolph Diesel produced his famous engine in 1896, he assumed that the diesel engine would be powered by a variety of fuels, especially vegetable and seed oils. Rudolph Diesel, like most engineers then, believed vegetable fuels were superior to petroleum. Hemp is the most efficient vegetable.

The difference is that the vegetable source is renewable, cheap and clean, and the petroleum or coal sources are limited, expensive and dirty. By volume, 30% of the hemp seed contains oil suitable for high-grade diesel fuel, as well as aircraft engine and precision machine oil. Henry Ford's experiments with methanol promised cheap, readily-renewable fuel. And, if you think methanol means compromise, you should know that many modern race cars run on methanol.

Henry Ford himself manufactured the body of an automobile from hemp-based plastic in 1941. The plastic was much lighter than steel and could withstand ten times the impact without denting. The car was even fueled by clean-burning hemp-based ethanol fuel.

In the 1930s, the Ford Motor Company also saw a future in biomass fuels. Ford operated a successful biomass conversion plant that included hemp at their Iron Mountain facility in Michigan. Ford engineers extracted methanol, charcoal fuel, tar, pitch, ethyl acetate, and creosote—all fundamental ingredients for modern industry, and now supplied by oil-related industries.

The United States Census of 1850 counted 8,327 hemp "plantations" (minimum 2,000 acre farms) growing cannabis hemp for cloth, canvas and even the cordage used for baling cotton. (This figure does not include the tens of thousands of smaller farms growing cannabis, nor the hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of family hemp patches in America.)

In 1942, after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines cut off the supply of manila (Abaca) hemp, the U.S. government distributed 400,000 pounds of cannabis seeds to American farmers from Wisconsin to Kentucky, who produced 42,000 tons of hemp fiber annually for the war effort until 1946. In 1942–43 farmers were made to attend showings of the USDA film Hemp for Victory, sign that they had seen the film and read a hemp cultivation booklet. Farmers from 1942 through 1945 who agreed to grow hemp were waived from serving in the military, along with their sons; that's how vitally important hemp was to America during World War II.



New Billion-Dollar Crop appeared in the February 1938 issue of Popular Mechanics Magazine..
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Hemp advocates dig into the details of a diary kept by Lyster Dewey from 1896 to 1944. Dewey cultivated hemp on a plot called Arlington Farms, which today is the site of the Pentagon.
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Special Circular - November, 1942 - "What about growing Hemp?"
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Hemp - Farmers' Bulletin No. 1935 U.S. Department of Agriculture
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"Hemp For Victory" - By the US Department of Agriculture 1942
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December, 1942 - Bulletin P 49 - "Hemp A War Crop For Iowa"
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