Why Hemp History Is Important

Why Hemp History Is Important

Hemp textiles have a long history. Hemp has been used as a textile almost 1000 years longer than cotton. In the 1700s there were more people wearing hemp than anything else!

Until the industrial revolution there was widespread hemp-based fashion. Due to the amount of work it took to create hemp clothing compared to other textiles it fell out of popularity.

Machines made it easier to create cotton clothing or use other textiles, so hemp fell out of taste due to prices compared to easily manufactured choices.

Hemp requires fewer pesticides and herbicides, leading to lower levels of chemical runoff. It is one of the best plants for growing fabric-producing materials in an environmentally friendly way.

historical writing scribe

Hemp Across The World

India, Europe, Africa, and Asia all have strong histories with hemp. It is used for practical items such as rope, paper, seed for food, or medicine. Its origins go back ancient China.

6000 years ago, it was used for Rope and fishing nets due to its resistance to water salinity. China even had a hemp deity called Goddess Mag who translates to “Hemp Maiden”.

Hemp has been integral to military and diplomatic success throughout recent human history. Hemp was grown in Jamestown, one of the earliest colonies in the United States. It has even been mandated to be grown many times throughout history. The purpose of these laws forcing the growth of hemp were to produce more sails and ropes for Navies.

The first drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper. In the 1700s hemp became one of the biggest cash crops in Kentucky. Elijah Craig was one of the benefactors of the great wealth that came from hemp in the late 18th century. Hemp has made a resurgence in Kentucky due to the limestone-rich soil and the difficulty of growing other crops in that area.

The U.S. Navy had one instance of using over 120,000 pounds of hemp on one ship, the USS Constitution. Hemp was used for all the rope and sails onboard. This was a massive ship known as the “Old Ironsides” with over 40 guns on board. During World War II hemp was even mandated to be grown to produce more American Flags.

hemp overhead field

Hemp in More Recent History

Marijuana was taxed by the United States government in 1937. This made it unprofitable to grow hemp and hemp farming vanished completely. Stigmas revolving around drugs caused hemp to become completely unheard of in the United States for nearly any use. In 1970 there was also a decision to make hemp a schedule one narcotic, putting it in the same category as heroin and cocaine.

Only recently has there been any traction for hemp to become legalized for farmers to grow. Hemp was first brought back to legality partially by the Farm Bill Act of 2014. This created the Hemp Research Pilot Program, which allowed schools and state agricultural departments to grow hemp for research purposes.

The Farm Bill Act did not change the federal status and still labeled hemp as illegal to grow. The Farm Bill Act of 2018 defined marijuana as any plant having a THC content level greater than 0.3 percent. This allowed farmers in the US to grow hemp legally if their crops contained less than 0.3 percent THC.

Hemp and Marijuana come from the same plant family, Cannabis Sativa, but are different plants. Unfortunately, until recently U.S. laws treated hemp like marijuana, making legal commercial cultivation impossible.

There is now a moment in American and Global history where hemp is making a much-needed resurgence as the environmental situation deteriorates. Check out our clothing or any sustainably developed hemp products to get started on your journey to a more sustainable wardrobe.


Hemp: A Reintroduction To One Of The Original Textile Inputs | Textile World

The Forgotten History of Hemp Cultivation in America - Farm Collector

US Hemp History | Hemp Industries Association (thehia.org)

A Timeline of Hemp in America » Whalebone (whalebonemag.com)

History Of Hemp In The US | Hemp History - Ministry of Hemp

IF11984 (congress.gov)

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