Monday, February 15, 2016

President George Washington and the Hemp Plant

Most of our customers are well aware of our use of hemp fabrics, which we offer in six colors (Expresso, Bamboo, Loden, Natural, Taupe, and Toffee). What they may not know is that George Washington grew hemp at his Mount Vernon plantation estate, and fostered its development.

Washington believed in the commercial value of hemp for its wide range of uses. He saw that at a time when ships predominated, it could be used to make rope, sails, and fishing nets. Additionally, he envisioned hemp fibers being turned into the threads that would create clothing, possibly rivaling cotton.

A “gentleman farmer,” Washington was interested in experimenting with agricultural methods in order to establish new practices that could create superior products. He was a sharp business man, and understood that the hemp plant could be cultivated even on land that was not terribly productive in yielding other crops.

In his diaries, Washington wrote about hemp over ninety times  including his objective of finding the best types of seeds. He was knowledgeable about the varieties that were grown in East India and New Zealand. He understood the importance of the fact that all parts of the industrial hemp plant could be monetized. Beyond using the fibers for paper (what the Declaration of Independence was drafted on), rope, and cloth, he had the seeds pressed to extract their oil.

In 1791, Washington wrote to the Secretary of Finance, Alexander Hamilton (the letter is in the Library of Congress), suggesting that growing hemp could help the average citizen. He added that it merited “the serious attention of Congress.”

EcoSelect has chosen hemp rather than cotton for its furniture for numerous reasons. We love that it has greater mildew resistance than cotton. The plant grows easily in a range of temperatures and soils, and the resulting fibers are stronger than cotton. It doesn’t need herbicides or pesticides, unlike cotton, which is the recipient of half the world’s pesticide usage.
We always send out samples of our hemp fabrics so customers can get an accurate impression of the color. In order to make certain that sofas and chairs match perfectly, we make sure that a complete order come from one dye-lot.

So, on this President’s Day, I would like to personally thank George Washington for being an early supporter and promoter of hemp!