The Dope On Hemp History

The Dope On Hemp History
Posted by FoM on October 15, 2001 at 15:20:05 PT
By Jon Rutter
Source: Sunday News 
So how do you think East and West Hempfield were named? Cousin to pot plant proliferated here years ago; some would like to see it growing like a weed again. Several hemp stones repose peacefully under walnut trees at the Landis Valley Museum. Few visitors ask about the cone-shaped millstones or their ties to hemp, said curator Bruce Bomberger. "It's so much forgotten, so much in the past." 
Long confused in the public mind with marijuana, its psychoactive cousin, hemp inhabits a regulatory gray area that has discouraged cultivation. It hasn't been grown commercially in this country since the late 1950s. Once, though, hemp was a key ingredient of American and Lancaster County culture. Before the Revolutionary War, Pennsylvania's hemp-growing epicenter lay along the Susquehanna River, in Lancaster and York counties. The original Hempfield Township, which was divided into the present- day East and West Hempfield townships in the 1800s, was named after Cannabis sativa, the genus name for both hemp and marijuana. Dense green plantations of hemp yielded oil, seed and fiber vital to early American commerce. For more than a century, people lit their lamps and clothed their families with hemp. Patriots drafted early versions of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper. Muleskinners shrouded lurching Conestoga wagons and prairie schooners with hempen canvas. Sailors propelled the U.S. frigate Constitution "Old Ironsides" with more than 60 tons of hempen rope and sail. After 1850, hemp lost ground to cheaper products manufactured from cotton, jute, sisal and petroleum. Hemp reinvented itself in the 1930s, thanks to new technology that eased processing and expanded its use. But, hemp proponents claim, timber and oil interests crushed competition from plant-based cellulose by demonizing marijuana and exaggerating its link with hemp. American hemp got a temporary reprieve during World War II, when enemy forces in India and the Philippines cut off sources of jute and other cordage materials. Today, outgoing Lancaster County Farm Bureau President Mary Jane Balmer said, local hemp has the potential to bolster farm incomes and provide an economical and environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum, cotton and pulp wood. After all, she said, it's happened before. "This is something that helped build America." " According to writer John W. Roulac, hemp also shaped ancient civilizations. The Chinese used Cannabis to make rope and fishnets as long ago as 4,500 B.C., Roulac writes in his 1997 book "Hemp Horizons, The Comeback of the World's Most Promising Plant." Hemp cultivation spread to Japan and Korea and then Europe where, Roulac notes, Renaissance artists committed their masterpieces to hemp canvas. An important new hemp venue rose in the 17th and 18th centuries when Europeans colonized the North American wilderness. In 1683, said hemp historian Les Stark of Ephrata, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed a pro-hemp act that was reinforced by similar measures in 1715, 1726 and 1730. Raising hemp helped the struggling colonies cut European imports, Stark noted. "It was part of our drive for self-sufficiency." Along with flax, the plant became a multi-use staple for colonists, who spun it into cloth and converted it to cordage and paper on which to print bibles and maps. Men often bequeathed hemp to their widows, said Stark, who has written several books on hemp. Records at the Lancaster County Historical Society and the courthouse show that at least 2,500 residents inherited hemp, Stark added. Many more must have grown and handled it. The Pennsylvania hemp industry seems to have been concentrated in this area, Stark said. "Every township in Lancaster County grew hemp. Between 1720 and 1870, there were more than 100 mills that processed hemp fiber." According to an unidentified writer who chronicled the local hemp industry in a Sept. 2, 1928 Sunday News article, the water-driven mills employed cone-shaped grinding stones. The stone "runners" were rolled on their sides across wooden floors to separate the hemp stem from the fibrous bark without crushing it. Bidders have ponied up thousands to buy hemp stones at several recent auctions. But the hemp mills themselves were long gone by 1928, noted the Sunday News, which surmised that "probably they were a Lancaster County idea, adapted from Chilean mill grinders." Hemp farmers sometimes paid the miller for his equipment and did the rolling themselves, the article reported. The task was hard, according to Lancaster historian Jack W.W. Loose, who noted that a machine called a hemp brake was also used to crush the stems. Loose said part of the local crop went to the rope-walk that once stood between Grant and East King streets, near Charlotte. Rope-walks were long, low sheds in which hemp strands were woven into rope. The 1928 story reported that "Much of the Lancaster County grown hemp was sent in Conestoga wagons to the rope-walks of Philadelphia of which there were 10 in 1810." The tall, thick shocks of hemp resisted processing in more ways than one, according to 1928 sources. "There was a belief that there was a devil in the flax stalk (likewise that of hemp) who had fuzzy hempen hair and the girls feared it to the extent of having the boys stand by to fight the devil should he appear." But it wasn't Old Scratch that did hemp in. Eli Whitney started the decline by inventing the labor-saving cotton gin in 1793. Hemp farmers continued to harvest and process by hand until much later. The advent of steam and oil powered ships reduced demand for hempen rigging in the 1800s, when the center of hemp production shifted to the Midwest. Hemp prospects dipped and soared like a rollercoaster after the turn of the century. By the early 1900s, Roulac writes in "Hemp Horizons," the material was used only for cordage and specialty products like birdseed and varnish. But during the war, inventor George W. Schlichten developed technology to separate hemp fibers more efficiently. That, combined with new technology to fashion paper and plastics from hemp-derived cellulose, gradually breathed new life into the industry. Then came the 1937 "Marihuana Tax Act," which outlawed marijuana and required hemp farmers to obtain a government license. The resulting red tape, coupled with the drug stigma, drove most growers and processors out of business, Roulac writes. Other hemp researchers have tied the fall of hemp to conspiracies by big business. Competition from high-cellulose hemp pulp threatened the Hearst Paper Manufacturing Division and other timber companies with losses in the "billions," according to Jack Herer's "The Emperor Wears No Clothes." Hemp fibers also endangered the plastics revolution, according to Herer, who writes that "Coincidentally, in 1937, ( the DuPont corporation ) had just patented processes for making plastics from oil and coal." Such allegations have never been proven, according to Roulac. Whatever the cause of its decline, however, hemp was back in official favor five years later. As had the Civil War and World War I before it, World War II disrupted foreign fiber shipments and revived domestic production. In 1942, according to a "Hemp For Victory" film produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, "patriotic farmers" planted 36,000 acres of seed hemp, an increase of several thousand percent from the previous year. "Hemp is staging a comeback," proclaimed the narrator as the camera zoomed in on some of hemp's "countless naval ( and military ) uses," which included rope, fire hose and parachute webbing. The rally lasted only as long as the fighting, though. Closing of the wartime mills torpedoed cultivation once more. Global hemp production sank to its lowest level in the early 1990s, according to Roulac, but has since rebounded outside the United States with the dawn of specialty hemp markets. Nobody contacted for this story remembered when hemp last grew in East or West Hempfield Township, or whether "Hemp For Victory" inspired local growers. But while the plant may be down, it's not plowed under. Over the next two years, said Landis Valley Museum President Steve Miller, the museum plans to develop a comprehensive exhibit on the historical uses of hemp in the county. The trend toward heritage tourism has Les Stark seeing green. "If we can start growing hemp again in Lancaster County," he said, "I think it's one angle that will get tourists in here." Source: Sunday News (PA)Author: Jon RutterPublished: October 14, 2001Copyright: 2001 Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.Contact: sunnews lnpnews.comWebsite: Hemp Links Hemp Archives
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Comment #4 posted by firedog on October 15, 2001 at 22:56:08 PT
If the DEA had a time machine...
...they would go back to the 1770's and arrest Washington, Jefferson, and company. The Founding Fathers would be busted for growing hemp (of course, the DEA would call it "manufacture of a controlled substance") and using the proceeds to finance the Revolutionary War (which the DEA would call "terrorist activities").What if Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and company had a time machine and came to 2001?
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Comment #3 posted by E_Johnson on October 15, 2001 at 17:13:35 PT
If the DEA had a time machine
Patriots drafted early versions of the Declaration of Independence on hemp paper.If the DEA had a time machine, would they go back and arrest Washington and Jefferson for manufacturing a controlled substance?Let's extradite those druggie hemp bastards from America's past and set a strong example of Zero Tolerance for our children today.But if team of flak-jacketed DEA agents costumed for a major hemp takedown showed up in Mount Vernon, how would the fledgling US government of President Washington react?Imagine George Washington being told his hemp field was being confiscated by federal agents from the American government of the year 2001.
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Comment #2 posted by Cannabis Dave on October 15, 2001 at 16:09:42 PT
And Bangladesh, Bengal, Bangalore, etc...
So much history behind cannabis hemp has been "hidden" from people. Jack Herer's "The Emperour..." book enlightened me to the fact Napolean went to war against Russia to cut-off the Russian hemp on which the Royal Navy depended to keep themself afloat, and the English Empire in power. Since he hadn't been able to cut-off their hemp in other ways, Napolean went to war over it, and that led to his disasterous invasion of Russia. I still shudder to think of the savagery inflicted on his French legions by people living in lands they invaded. Cannabis hemp was also extremely vital to America's navy too, which eventually became the greatest navy on earth. Our "Constitution" class ships used a huge amount of hemp for their sails and rigging, etc. The amount of hemp used on those magnificent ships is incredible - all the way down to caulking. What really made America's ships the best was the live oak trees, which provided an extremely strong natural structure for the ships hulls. Live oak has an amazing ability to avoid rot in salt water - it even seems to last forever! The crothes of live oak trees were hued into the super-structure of our navy's ships, and since no other country had trees like ours that would allow them to build ships as strong and agile, they couldn't compete with our ships. America's cannabis hemp crop was crucial to its own maritime history, and hemp was also used in a myriad of other ways. Most cultures of the world have adopted hemp in one form or another, and it seems to keep spreading to those who don't yet have it. Cannabis originally originated in central Asia, which was once in the middle of the original land mass that eventually became the continents. Cannabis goes back to the beginning of time it seems - it emerged right in the middle of terestial life and has spread all over the planet since then...WE WILL OVERGROW!
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on October 15, 2001 at 15:47:52 PT
News Brief from MSNBC
Harrelson’s Hemp Ways     Woody Harrelson has been making guest appearances on “Will & Grace,” but a source on the set says the main attraction during his visits there has been his bus.    The insider says that Harrelson has been coming to work in a converted 1977 Chicago Transit Bus that runs on hemp fuel. “It’s painted in psychedelic colors with all sorts of pro-hemp slogans on it and has hemp curtains inside,” says the insider. “He calls it the Mother Ship. The crew and some of the cast have been making trips out to the bus to be photographed in front of it.”    The source says that Harrelson also travels with an entourage of pro-hemp proselytizers who all wear hemp-made clothes. “This place has been like Woodstock since they came and started hanging with us,” says the source. “One of them told me that they travel around to colleges to give lectures about the benefits of hemp. I asked him if they don’t sometimes get pulled over by the police — since they have all these pro-hemp slogans on their bus. He said that the opposite is true; that on a couple of occasions, they’ve received police escorts on their trips.” 
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