Did you know that it was once illegal not to grow hemp in the U.S.?
Read on to find out why, plus learn seven other surprising hemp history facts!
1. Legal Changes
Although it is now illegal to grow industrial hemp in the United States, the exact opposite used to be true during the 17th and 18th centuries.
Hemp was a required crop back then because it was crucial in the production of sails and rope for ships. Refusing to grow hemp could get you thrown in jail in Virginia between 1763 and 1769.
It was only in the 1930s that the U.S. government banned hemp.
2. Several Founding Fathers Grew Hemp
Since it was a required crop, even founding fathers like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew hemp. Jefferson actually smuggled hemp seeds into the U.S. from China.
Benjamin Franklin also processed hemp in one of the U.S.'s first paper mills.
3. Many Common Products Used To Be Made From Hemp
In addition to sails and rope, hemp used to be the primary material used in a number of other common products, including the following:
- Bed sheets
The introduction of the cotton gin in the 1820s was partially responsible for the decrease in the use of hemp for these products.
4. Hemp Has Been Farmed For Thousands Of Years
Although it was only introduced in the U.S. in the 17th century, hemp has been a popular crop in other countries for thousands of years.
The oldest records of hemp farming date back 5,000 years ago in China. It has been suggested, though, that it was being farmed even before that in ancient Egypt.
5. Hemp Has Been Used In The Auto Industry
Henry Ford actually constructed his first Model-T from hemp! The car's hemp plastic panels are said to have been 10 times stronger than steel.
A hemp farmer himself, Ford even took things a step further and designed the car to run on hemp gasoline.
6. Hemp Fuel Helps the Environment
In more recent history, hemp has been used in the auto industry again as a means of cutting down on emissions produced by cars.
In 2001, a 1980s diesel Mercedes station wagon powered by 600 gallons of hemp bio-diesel fuel made a 13,000 mile trip across North America.
It was discovered that this car's exhaust emissions of carbon monoxide were 47 percent lower than emissions from regular diesel fuel.
7. Historical Documents
Hemp paper used to be very common.
After it was created in China over 1,000 years ago, hemp paper was used in a number of important historical documents. Both the Gutenberg Bible and the King James Bible were originally printed on hemp-based papers. Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson wrote the first two drafts of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper in 1776.
8. Art History
In addition to being used to make paper, hemp was also a key component in canvases used by famous artists like Van Gogh and Rembrandt. The word "canvas" actually comes from the Latin word cannapaceus, which means "made from hemp."
Hemp seed oil was also used in many paints and varnishes prior to the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act.
Let Us Know What You Think About Hemp History
What do you think of our eight fascinating hemp history facts? Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments below.