1776: Clothes for Washington’s troops are sewn from hemp fabric


Washington at Valley ForgeDuring the American Revolutionary War which started in 1775,  thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America.

In 1776 Patriot wives and mothers were organizing spinning bees to clothe Washington’s troops, spinning the majority of the  thread from hemp fibers. Without hemp, the Continental Army would have frozen to death at Valley Forge.[1]

At the same time Common Sense was written by Thomas Paine. The pamflet was first published anonymously on January 10, 1776. In his pamflet he encourages the colonist to fight for freedom. He lists cordage, iron, timber and tar as America’s four essential natural resources and he writes “in almost every article of defense we abound. Hemp flourishes even to rankness, so that we need not want cordage”.

1777 – 1810: Spain subsidizes the growing of hemp in their colonies


King Charles IV of Spain by GoyaIn the eighteenth century, Spain’s economy began to change and Spain began to turn more and more to her colonies. In 1777, colonial outposts in Spanish America welcomed several hemp experts who were ordered to teach the inhabitants the intricacies of growing and preparing hemp for market. Growing hemp was mandated in all the Spanish Colonies and the viceroy of the New World colonies were encouraging hemp cultivation by providing seeds to the settlers.[1]

Three years later, special orders from the king Charles IV instructed all viceroys to encourage hemp production throughout New Spain by giving subsidies to the farmers.[1] The most important areas of hemp production were Chile, Mexico and California. In 1795 Spain opened up the Mississippi to international trade to encourage hemp exports, some of which was actually transacted using hemp as barter.

In California serious effort was made to raise hemp for market. The results were encouraging:  by 1807, California was producing 12,500 pounds of hemp.  By 1810, California was producing over 220,000 pounds of dressed hemp. But in 1810 a revolution in Mexico isolated California from the government seat. The subsidies that had stimulated hemp production were no longer available, and with the elimination of this impulse, commercial production of hemp ceased and was never started up again.[1]

Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale 1800Thomas Jefferson was an American Founding Father who was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence (1776) and he was the third President of the United States (1801–1809). Thomas Jefferson grew hemp on his farm. He kept a record of his business, thoughts and ideas about this in his account book, and other  writings.

Among many other agricultural matters he describes how one should grow hemp and make hemp seeds:

1791: Thomas Jefferson grows hemp on his farm


“Hemp. Plough the ground for it early and very deep, which should be in March. A hand can tend 3 acres of hemp a year. Tolerable ground yields 500 lb. to the acre. You may generally count on 100 lb. for every foot the hemp is over 4 ft. high. A hand will break 60 or 70 lb. a day, and even to 150 lb. if it is divided with an overseer, divide it as prepared.