Hemp History for Author

I have a question about the history of hemp production in the U.S. Was hemp farming practiced by the small-scale farmer, or was it so labor intensive that it was only profitable for larger operations? Specifically, what I need to know is: could a family farmer make more than a subsistence living growing hemp in the pre- and early Civil War period? I am considering making a minor character in a novel I am writing a hemp farmer if it’s realistic to do so. I have been unable to find any books or web sites that give a detailed historical account of hemp cultivation in this country. If you know of any, I would appreciate the information. Thank you very much, David Blankenship

A #2. David, all the best with your book. There are a number of books on hemp history, including two published in 1900: Hemp, by S.S. Boyce, and The Reign of Law, by James Lane Allen. Boyce, the northerner, tends to speak in terms of a single farmer, but there was the fact that hemp was labour intensive and much slave labour was employed. Les Stark, in his Hempstone Heritage Series has researched hemp in Pennsylvania, using wills as his records, and I believe there is evidence of single farmers from this. Perhaps the best works on hemp in the south are James Hopkins’ “A History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky” and Brent Moore’s “A Study of the Past, the Present, and the Possibilities of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky”. There will be relevant information also on the web at www.hempforvictory.blogspot.com, where you can use a key word search to take you right to where you want to look. Please feel free to contact me as well if you have further questions. Kenyon Gibson, author of “Hemp for Victory: History and Qualities of the World’s Most Useful Plant.”

A #1. Regarding your question about small hemp farmers: Yes. Read “The Reign of Law: A Tale of the Kentucky Hemp Fields” by James Allen. It’s out of print (of course) but it’s a beautiful American story. As far back as the first American colonies, it was mandatory to grow hemp so the communities would have enough to survive. You could also pay your taxes with hemp. Good luck, www.HempFarm.org

One response to “Hemp History for Author

  1. If you want to read The Reign of Law: A Tale of the Kentucky Hemp Fields, by James Allen, there is a free Etext at Gutenberg Project. Go to: http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext03/rolaw10.txt and enjoy!

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