Quick–when you hear the phrase “America’s Founding Fathers,” what’s the first image that pops in your head? You’re picturing a few no-nonsense gentlemen topped with powdered wigs and draped to the knees in woolen frock coats, aren’t you? You might even have a few familiar faces in mind–George Washington perhaps, or Thomas Jefferson–those same solemn faces stamped across the greenbacks you’ve still got stuffed in your wallet in case of emergency.
What you probably aren’t picturing are the distinctive, sharp-pointed leaves of the cannabis plant. But did you know that both the men mentioned above were known cultivators of cannabis? It’s true. These men weren’t planning to pass around a few pipefuls of the stuff before signing any declarations, though. They were growing industrial hemp, a workhorse of a plant whose many uses gave it a vital place in the everyday lives of the earliest Americans.
Indeed, the Declaration of Independence itself was printed on high-quality hemp paper, and the threads of the earliest American flags were strung from hemp’s rugged fibers. So in 2018, when curators at Washington’s Mt. Vernon estate planted the first hemp crop to be grown there in more than two centuries, they were merely reclaiming a time-honored American tradition. The truth is, though, hemp’s impact on history goes even deeper than that–tracing a route across whole oceans, and backward in time nearly ten thousand years, to the very dawn of the Agricultural Revolution.
Follow us now as we take you on a brief tour through hemp’s storied past…
As you can see from this brief hop through time, hemp hasn’t merely helped give shape to the shared ideals of individual liberty and personal enterprise that set the American experiment apart from anything that came before it; rather, hemp’s civilizing effect has roots running all the way back to the earliest agricultural societies.
Let’s set all current backward thinking about hemp aside for a moment and recall that it was Mark Twain–perhaps the most quintessentially American of American authors–who said that, “History doesn’t repeat itself–but it does rhyme.” With the weight of ten millennia of human history giving voice to hemp’s strengths as an industrial staple, it would be a fool’s bet indeed to think the resume of this multi-talented plant will sound any less impressive after another ten thousand years of hard work.