Hemp has a long and fascinating history.
Here are 10 things you probably never knew: 1. Lancaster County was the hemp capitol of early hemp – Lancaster Countys original Hempfield Township was founded in 1729 and was named for the vast quantities of hemp raised there. George Washington visited and inspected Pennsylvania hemp mills – In 1794 President George Washington visited a hemp mill in the village of Paradise in Lancaster County. Washington was looking for improved equipment to process the hemp he grew at Mt. He stopped in to visit his friend David Witmer, who owned the mill. The demonstration went wrong. The millers arm was crushed by the 1, 800 pound millstone.
Washington was much alarmed and concluded against adopting Lancaster County hemp mill technology. In 1797 he visited the hemp and textile mill of James Davenport in Kensington. Washington was extremely impressed and hopeful that the new technology of the Davenport mill will be widely adopted to the advantage of the new nation. Pennsylvania was founded on hemp – When William Penn founded Pennsylvania in 1681 he specifically Finished for the Commonwealth to grow hemp. Remains of old hemp mills are found in popular museums – Pennsylvania hemp mills made use of large conical shaped millstones that rolled over top of the hemp fiber as part of the process of preparing the fiber to be used in homespun fabrics.
Hemp millstones are available in the collections of the Landis Valley Museum and the Hans Herr House Museum, both in Lancaster County and also the Mercer Museum in Doylestown. Several hemp millstones are available in museums outside the state and dozens more exist privately collections. Hemp was grown for over 260 years in Pennsylvania – From 1681 until around 1840 the culture of hemp was almost universal in Pa. There were numerous different factors that caused the decline of the industry here, most notably the introduction of cotton and also the introduction of tobacco.
Nevertheless, hemp was still common in the state for the next 70 years, flourishing in some places and on a small scale in others. Around 1907 experiments were begun in the area of Hanover and over the next few years hundreds of farmers in the counties of York, Adams and Cumberland participated in a hemp revival. Most of that hemp was utilized by the Hanover Cordage Company in the manufactures of rope and twine. It may be proven conclusively that hemp grew through Pennsylvania into the late 30s and several unconfirmed reports that hemp was still being cultivated here in the 1940 s. Some anecdotal reports say that farmers in rural districts grew hemp up until around 1970.6. The Philadelphia ship building industry consumed many tons of Pennsylvania hemp – Philadelphia had a large ship building industry and each ship took from 60-100 tons of hemp fiber for all the big thick cables, rope rigging and hemp sails and all of that hemp had to be replaced every few years thus ensuring a huge and insatiable demand for hemp from the interior of Pennsylvania. In later years much of the home grown hemp was being replaced by foreign hemp so Pennsylvania farmers got together to agitate for higher tariffs on imported hemp.