The book Hempstone Heritage I is the first book in a series that will explore the old Pennsylvania hemp industry. Hemp was a big industry in early Pennsylvania but for some reason the story has never before been told. Although the growing of hemp for fiber was grown in all parts of Pennsylvania, larger scale commercial production of hemp was primarily centered in Lancaster and York Counties.
Between the years 1720-1870 there were over 100 water-powered hemp mills for processing hemp fiber in Lancaster County alone and there were dozens more in York County plus many more in the surrounding region. Before the invention of the Cotton Gin and for decades after, hemp was the number one fiber for use in homespun clothing.
Hemp fiber was used for everything from course cloth to fine linen and all shades in-between. The Conestoga wagons were covered in hemp canvass. In fact the word canvass is the Dutch pronunciation of the Latin word Cannabis. Hemp was also used for grain bags, rugs, curtains, tablecloths, napkins, handkerchiefs, towels, pillow cases, sheets, tough, durable work clothes and even fine linen.
Hemp fiber was often blended with wool, flax, silk or cotton. The tow fibers were carded like wool and made very soft. The fabric was often dyed and made into a variety of fashions.
There were almost as many mills for processing hemp seed oil as well as flax seed oil. The oil was used in paints, varnishes, lacquers, lubricants, printers’ ink and as lamp oil. The remaining seed cake was fed to the livestock. Seed was also saved for the next years crop, sold to other hemp farmers, used as poultry feed and for many years was a leading ingredient in birdseed mixes.
In 1999 and again in 2000, the Lancaster Farm Bureau passed resolutions in favor of re-introducing hemp to Lancaster County. (Lancaster County’s East and West Hempfield Townships were named for the vast amounts of hemp raised there.)
In November of 2000, the Lancaster Farm Bureau advanced the issue at the Pa. State Farm Bureau meeting and every Farm Bureau representative from every farm district in Pa. voted in favor of the resolution supporting the re-introduction of hemp to Pennsylvania. At the recent state session for the Pennsylvania State Grange, the standing committees voted in favor of a resolution to “support development of industrial hemp research and education on its use.” The Pennsylvania Farmers Union also supports growing hemp.
Philadelphia was a major manufacturer of sailing ships. Wherever there was a major ship building center there was always a major hemp growing region right next door. Every ship took up to 60 tons of hemp fiber for the anchor cables, rope rigging and canvass sails. All that fiber had to be replaced every couple of years, thus ensuring an insatiable demand for hemp from the interior of Pennsylvania.
Hempstone Heritage I contains important information that those in the hemp industry, those interested in creating a revived American hemp industry and those interested in the history of hemp need to know.
Facts: Price $22.50, 154 pages, 40 photographs
Ordering information can be found at the Hempstone Heritage web site at: www.hempstoneheritage.com
Source: www.hempreport.com, press release 2005-06-15.