George Washington Carver

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George Washington Carver
Born July 12, 1864(1864-07-12)
Diamond, Missouri, U.S.
Died January 5, 1943 (aged 78)
Tuskegee, Alabama, U.S.

George Washington Carver (July 12, 1864January 5, 1943)[1] was an American botany researcher and educator in the field of agronomy who worked in agricultural extension at the Tuskegee Institute, in Tuskegee, Alabama, teaching former slaves farming techniques for self-sufficiency. His exact birth day (and year) are unknown, yet he knew it was some time before slavery was abolished in Missouri in January, 1865.[2] To commemorate his life and fabulous inventions, George Washington Carver Recognition Day is celebrated every January 5, on the day Carver died.

To bring education to farmers, Carver designed a mobile school, called a Jesup Wagon after the New York financier, Morris Ketchum Jesup, who provided funding.[3] In 1921, Carver spoke in favor of a peanut tariff before the Ways and Means Committee of the United States House of Representatives. Given the times, it was unusual for a black person to be called as an expert. Carver’s well received testimony earned him national attention, and he became an unofficial spokesman for the peanut industry. Carver wrote 44 practical agricultural bulletins for farmers.

George Washington’s father died in a fatal ox-hauling agricultural voyage. One of the supply wagons toppled thereby suffocating him.

In the Reconstruction South, an agricultural monoculture of cotton depleted the soil; and, in the early 20th century, the boll weevil destroyed much of the cotton crop. Much of Carver’s fame was based on his research and promotion of alternative crops to cotton, such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. He wanted poor farmers to grow alternative crops as both a source of their own food and a cash crop. His most popular bulletin contained 105 existing food recipes that used peanuts. His most famous method of promoting the peanut involved his creation of about 100 industrial products from peanuts, including cosmetics, dyes, paints, plastics, gasoline, and nitroglycerin. His industrial products from peanuts excited the public imagination, but none was a successful commercial product. There are many myths about Carver, especially the myth that his industrial products from peanuts played a major role in revolutionizing Southern agriculture.[4][5]

Carver’s most important accomplishments were in areas other than industrial products from peanuts, including agricultural extension education, improvement of racial relations, mentoring children, poetry, painting, religion, and advocacy of sustainable agriculture and appreciation of plants and nature. He served as a valuable role model for black Americans and others, and as an example of the importance of hard work, a positive attitude, and a good education. His humility, humanitarianism, good nature, frugality, and lack of economic materialism also have been admired widely.

One of his most important roles was in undermining, through the fame of his achievements and many talents, the widespread stereotype of the time that the black race was intellectually inferior to the white race. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed him a “Black Leonardo”, a reference to the white polymath Leonardo da Vinci[6]

National Basketball Association star David Robinson and his wife, Valerie, founded an academy named after Carver; it opened on September 17, 2001, in San Antonio, Texas.[7]

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[edit] Early years

He was born into slavery in Newton County, Marion Township, near Diamond Place, now known as Diamond, Missouri on July 12, 1864[8]. His owner, Moses Carver, was a German American immigrant who had purchased George’s mother, Mary, from William P. McGinnis on October 9, 1855 for seven hundred dollars. The identity of Carver’s father is unknown but he had 10 sisters and a brother, all of whom died prematurely.

When George was an infant, he, a sister, and his mother were kidnapped by night raiders and sold in Arkansas, a common practice. Moses Carver hired John Bentley to find them. Only Carver was found, orphaned and near death from whooping cough. Carver’s mother and sister had already died, although some reports stated that his mother and sister had gone north with the soldiers. For returning George, Moses Carver rewarded Bentley with his best filly that would later produce winning race horses. This episode caused George a bout of respiratory disease that left him with a permanently weakened constitution. Because of this, he was unable to work as a hand and spent his time wandering the fields, drawn to the varieties of wild plants. He became so knowledgeable that he was known by Moses Carver’s neighbors as the “Plant Doctor.”[9]

One day he was called to a neighbor’s house to help with a plant in need. When he had fixed the problem, he was told to go into the kitchen to collect his reward. When he entered the kitchen, he saw no one. He did, however, see something that changed his life: beautiful paintings of flowers on the walls of the room. From that moment on, he knew that he was going to be an artist as well as a botanist. This love of both science and beauty was evident in one of his hobbies of hybridizing ornamental bulbs of the genus Hippeastrum [10].

After slavery was abolished, Moses Carver and his wife Susan raised George and his brother Jim as their own children. They encouraged George Carver to continue his intellectual pursuits and “Aunt Susan” taught him the basics of reading and writing.

Since blacks were not allowed at the school in Diamond Grove and he had received news that there was a school for blacks ten miles (16 km) south in Neosho, he resolved to go there at once. To his dismay, when he reached the town, the school had been closed for the night. As he had nowhere to stay, he slept in a nearby barn. By his own account, the next morning he met a kind woman, Mariah Watkins, from whom he wished to rent a room. When he identified himself “Carver’s George,” as he had done his whole life, she replied that from now on, his name was “George Carver.” George liked this lady very much and her words “You must learn all you can, then go back out into the world and give your learning back to the people,” made a great impression on him.

At the age of thirteen, due to his desire to attend high school, he relocated to the home of another foster family in Fort Scott, Kansas. After witnessing the beating to death of a black man at the hands of a group of white men, George left Fort Scott. He subsequently attended a series of schools before earning his diploma at Minneapolis High School in Minneapolis, Kansas.

After high school, George started a laundry business in Olathe, Kansas.

[edit] College

At work in his laboratory

At work in his laboratory

Over the next five years, he sent several letters to colleges and was finally accepted at Highland College in Highland, Kansas. He travelled to the college, but he was rejected when they discovered that he was an African American.

Carver’s travels took him to Winterset, Iowa in the mid-1880s, where he met the Milhollands, a white couple whom he later credited with encouraging him to pursue higher education. The Milhollands urged Carver to enroll in nearby Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, which he did despite his reluctance due to his previous rejection at Highland College.

In 1887, he was accepted into Simpson as its second African-American student. While in college at Simpson, he showed a strong aptitude for singing and art. His art teacher, Etta Budd, was the daughter of the head of the department of horticulture at Iowa State: Joseph Budd. Etta convinced Carver to pursue a career that paid better than art and so he transferred to Iowa State. The encouragement Etta Budd gave Carver to seek a better-paying career was well-warranted, at least for Etta. She died a poor retired art teacher in a Boone, Iowa retirement home.

He transferred in 1891 to Iowa State Agricultural College, where he was the first black student, and later the first black faculty member. In order to avoid confusion with another George Carver in his classes, he began to use the name George Washington Carver.

At the end of his undergraduate career in 1894, recognizing Carver’s potential, Joseph Budd and Louis Pammel convinced Carver to stay at Iowa State for his master’s degree. Carver then performed research at the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station under Pammel from 1894 to his graduation in 1896. It is his work at the experiment station in plant pathology and mycology that first gained him national recognition and respect as a botanist. George W Carver was a very inspiring person in his time and up to today.

[edit] At Tuskegee with Booker T. Washington

In 1896, Carver was invited to lead the Agriculture Department at the five year old Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, later Tuskegee University, by its founder, Booker T. Washington, in Tuskegee, Alabama. Carver accepted the position, and remained there for 47 years, until his death in 1943. Carver never married.

Carver had numerous problems at Tuskegee before he became famous. Carver’s perceived arrogance, his higher than normal salary and the two rooms he received for his personal use were resented by other faculty.[11] Single faculty members normally bunked two to a room. One of Carver’s duties was to administer the Agricultural Experiment Station farms. He was expected to produce and sell farm products to make a profit. He soon proved to be a poor administrator. In 1900, Carver complained that the physical work and the letter-writing his agricultural work required were both too much for him.[12]

In 1902, Booker T. Washington invited a nationally famous woman photographer to Tuskegee. Carver and Nelson Henry, a Tuskegee graduate, accompanied the attractive white woman in the town of Ramer. Several white citizens thought Henry was improperly associating with a white woman. Someone fired three pistol shots at Henry and he fled. Mobs prevented him from returning. Carver considered himself fortunate to escape alive.[13]

In 1904, a committee reported that Carver’s reports on the poultry yard were exaggerated, and Washington criticized Carver about the exaggerations. Carver replied to Washington “Now to be branded as a liar and party to such hellish deception it is more than I can bear, and if your committee feel that I have willfully lied or [was] party to such lies as were told my resignation is at your disposal.” [14] In 1910, Carver submitted a letter of resignation in response to a reorganization of the agriculture programs.[15]: Carver again threatened to resign in 1912 over his teaching assignment.[16] Carver submitted a letter of resignation in 1913, with the intention of heading up an experiment station elsewhere.[17] He also threatened to resign in 1913 and 1914 when he didn’t get a summer teaching assignment [18][19] In each case, Washington smoothed things over. It seemed that Carver’s wounded pride prompted most of the resignation threats, especially the last two because he did not need the money from summer work.

In 1911, Washington wrote a lengthy letter to Carver complaining that Carver did not follow orders to plant certain crops at the experiment station.[20] He also refused Carver’s demands for a new laboratory and research supplies for Carver’s exclusive use and for Carver to teach no classes. He complimented Carver’s abilities in teaching and original research but bluntly stated his poor administrative skills, “When it comes to the organization of classes, the ability required to secure a properly organized and large school or section of a school, you are wanting in ability. When it comes to the matter of practical farm managing which will secure definite, practical, financial results, you are wanting again in ability.” Also in 1911, Carver complained that his laboratory was still without the equipment promised 11 months earlier. At the same time, Carver complained of committees criticizing him and that his “nerves will not stand” any more committee meetings.[21]

Despite their clashes, Booker T. Washington praised Carver in the 1911 book, My Larger Education: Being Chapters from My Experience.[22] Booker called Carver “one of the most thoroughly scientific men of the Negro race with whom I am acquainted.” Like most later Carver biographies, it also contained exaggerations. It inaccurately claimed that as a young boy Carver “proved to be such a weak and sickly little creature that no attempt was made to put him to work and he was allowed to grow up among chickens and other animals around the servants’ quarters, getting his living as best he could.” Carver wrote elsewhere that his adoptive parents, the Carvers, were “very kind” to him. [23]

Booker T. Washington died in 1915. His successor made fewer demands on Carver. From 1915 to 1923, Carver’s major focus was compiling existing uses and proposing new uses for peanuts, sweet potatoes, pecans and other crops [24]. This work and especially his promotion of peanuts for the peanut growers association and before Congress eventually made him the most famous African-American of his time.

[edit] Rise to fame

Carver had an interest in helping poor Southern farmers who were working low quality soils that had been depleted of nutrients by repeated plantings of cotton crops. He and other agricultural workers urged farmers to restore nitrogen to their soils by practicing systematic crop rotation, alternating cotton crops with plantings of sweet potatoes or legumes (such as peanuts, soybeans and cowpeas) that were also sources of protein. Following the crop rotation practice resulted in improved cotton yields and gave farmers new foods and alternative cash crops. In order to train farmers to successfully rotate crops and cultivate the new foods, Carver developed an agricultural extension program for Alabama that was similar to the one at Iowa State. In addition, he founded an industrial research laboratory where he and assistants worked to popularize use of the new plants by developing hundreds of applications for them through original research and also by promoting recipes and applications that they collected from others. Carver distributed his information as agricultural bulletins. (See Carver bulletins below.)

Peanut specimen collected by Carver

Peanut specimen collected by Carver

Much of Carver’s fame is related to the hundreds of plant products he supposedly invented. However, the number and impact of Carver’s inventions have been greatly inflated. After Carver’s death, lists were created of the plant products Carver compiled or originated. Such lists enumerate about 300 applications for peanuts and 118 for sweet potatoes, although 73 of the 118 were dyes. He made similar investigations into uses for cowpeas, soybeans and pecans. Carver did not write down formulas for most of his novel plant products so they could not be made by others. None of Carver’s peanut products was ever a commercial success so they did not revolutionize Southern agriculture as frequently claimed. Carver is also often incorrectly credited with the invention of peanut butter (see Reputed inventions below).

Until 1921, Carver was not widely known for his agricultural research. However, he was known in Washington, D.C. President Theodore Roosevelt publicly admired his work. James Wilson, a former Iowa state dean and teacher of Carver’s, was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1897 to 1913. Henry Cantwell Wallace, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1921 to 1924, was one of Carver’s teachers at Iowa State. Carver was a friend of Wallace’s son, Henry A. Wallace, also an Iowa State graduate. [25] The younger Wallace served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1933 to 1940 and as Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s Vice President from 1941-1945.

In 1916 Carver was made a member of the Royal Society of Arts in England, one of only a handful of Americans at that time to receive this honor. However, Carver’s promotion of peanuts gained him the most fame.

In 1919, Carver wrote to a peanut company about the great potential he saw for his new peanut milk. Both he and the peanut industry seemed unaware that in 1917, William Melhuish had secured patent #1,243,855 for a milk substitute made from peanuts and soybeans. Despite reservations about his race, the peanut industry invited him as a speaker to their 1920 convention. He discussed “The Possibilities of the Peanut,” and exhibited 145 peanut products.

By 1920, U.S. peanut farmers were being undercut with imported peanuts from the Republic of China. White peanut farmers and processors came together in 1921 to plead their cause before a Congressional committee hearings on a tariff. Carver was elected to speak at the hearings because he had spoken at the convention of the United Peanut Associations of America. Carver was a novel choice because of U.S. racial segregation. On arrival, Carver was mocked by surprised Southern congressmen, but he was not deterred and began to explain some of the many uses for the peanut. Initially given ten minutes to present, the now spellbound committee extended his time again and again. The committee rose in applause as he finished his presentation, and the Fordney-McCumber Tariff of 1922 included a tariff on imported peanuts. Carver’s presentation to Congress made him famous, while his intelligence, ability to communicate, and amiability and courtesy delighted the general public.

[edit] Life while famous

During the last two decades of his life, Carver seemed to enjoy his celebrity status. He was often traveling to promote Tuskegee, peanuts or racial harmony. Although he only published six agricultural bulletins after 1922, he published articles in peanut industry journals and wrote a syndicated newspaper column, “Professor Carver’s Advice.” Business leaders came to seek his help, and he often responded with free advice. Three American presidents — Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge and Franklin Roosevelt — met with him, and the Crown Prince of Sweden studied with him for three weeks.

In 1923, Carver received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, awarded annually for outstanding achievement. From 1923 to 1933, Carver toured white Southern colleges for the Commission on Interracial Cooperation. [24]

Carver was famously criticized in a Nov. 20, 1924 New York Times article “Men of Science Never Talk That Way.” The Times considered Carver’s statements that God guided his research were inconsistent with a scientific approach. The criticism garnered a lot of sympathy for Carver because Christians viewed it as an attack on religion.

In 1928, Simpson College bestowed Carver with an honorary doctorate. For a 1929 book on Carver, Raleigh H. Merritt contacted Carver. Merritt wrote “At present not a great deal has been done to utilize Dr. Carver’s discoveries commercially. He says that he is merely scratching the surface of scientific investigations of the possibilities of the peanut and other Southern products.” [26] Yet in 1932, Professor of Literature, James Saxon Childers wrote that Carver and his peanut products were almost solely responsible for the rise in U.S. peanut production after the boll weevil devastated the American cotton crop beginning about 1892. Childer’s 1932 article on Carver, “A Boy Who Was Traded for a Horse” in The American Magazine and its 1937 reprint in Reader’s Digest did much to establish this Carver myth. Other major magazines and newspapers of the time also exaggerated Carver’s impact on the peanut industry. [27]

From 1933 to 1935, Carver was largely occupied with work on peanut oil massages for treating infantile paralysis (polio). [24] Carver received tremendous media attention and visitations from parents and their sick children; however, it was ultimately found that peanut oil was not the miracle cure it was made out to be–it was the massages which provided the benefits. Carver had been a trainer for the Iowa State football team and was skilled as a masseur. From 1935 to 1937, Carver participated in the USDA Disease Survey. Carver had specialized in plant diseases and mycology for his Master’s degree.

In 1937, Carver attended two chemurgy conferences. [24] He met Henry Ford at the Dearborn, MI conference, and they became close friends. Also, in 1937, Carver’s health declined. Time magazine reported in 1941 that Henry Ford installed an elevator for Carver because his doctor told him not to climb the 19 stairs to his room. [6] In 1942, the two men denied that they were working together on a solution to the wartime rubber shortage. Carver also did work with soy, which he and Ford considered as an alternative fuel.

In 1939, Carver received the Roosevelt Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Southern Agriculture enscribed “to a scientist humbly seeking the guidance of God and a liberator to men of the white race as well as the black.” In 1940, Carver established the George Washington Carver Foundation at the Tuskegee Institute. In 1941, the George Washington Carver Museum was dedicated at the Tuskegee Institute. In 1942, Henry Ford built a replica of Carver’s slave cabin at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI as a tribute to his friend. Also in 1942, Ford dedicated the George Washington Carver Laboratory in Dearborn, Michigan.

[edit] Death and afterwards

Upon returning from home one day, Carver took a bad fall down a flight of stairs; he was found unconscious by a maid who took him to a hospital. Carver died January 5, 1943 at the age of 78 from complications (anemia) resulting from this fall. He was buried next to Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee University. Due to his frugality, Carver’s life savings totaled $60,000–all of which he donated in his last years and at his death to the Carver Museum and to the George Washington Carver Foundation. [28]

On his grave was written the simplest and most meaningful summary of his life. He could have added fortune to fame, but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the world.

Before and after his death, there was a movement to establish a U.S. national monument to Carver. However, because of World War II such non-war expenditures were banned by presidential order. Missouri Senator Harry S Truman sponsored a bill anyway. In a committee hearing on the bill, one supporter argued that “The bill is not simply a momentary pause on the part of busy men engaged in the conduct of the war, to do honor to one of the truly great Americans of this country, but it is in essence a blow against the Axis, it is in essence a war measure in the sense that it will further unleash and release the energies of roughly 15,000,000 Negro people in this country for full support of our war effort.” [24] The bill passed in both houses without a single vote against.

1948 US Postage Stamp

1948 US Postage Stamp

On July 14, 1943[29], President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dedicated $30,000 for the George Washington Carver National Monument west-southwest of Diamond, Missouri – an area where Carver had spent time in his childhood. This was the first national monument dedicated to an African-American and first to a non-President. At this 210-acre (0.8 km²) national monument, there is a bust of Carver, a ¾-mile nature trail, a museum, the 1881 Moses Carver house, and the Carver cemetery. Due to a variety of delays, the National Monument was not opened until July, 1953.

In December 1947, a fire destroyed all but three of 48 of Carver’s paintings at the Carver Museum [30] Carver appeared on U.S. commemorative stamps in 1948 and 1998, and was depicted on a commemorative half dollar coin from 1951 to 1954. The USS George Washington Carver (SSBN-656) is also named in his honor.

In 1977, Carver was elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans. In 1990, Carver was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 1994, Iowa State University awarded Carver the Doctor of Humane Letters. In 2000, Carver was a charter inductee in the USDA Hall of Heroes as the “Father of Chemurgy.” [31]

In 2005, Carver’s research at the Tuskegee Institute was designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society. [32] On February 15, 2005, an episode of Modern Marvels included scenes from within Iowa State University’s Food Sciences Building and about Carver’s work. In 2005, the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri opened a George Washington Carver garden in his honor, which includes a lifesize statue of him.

Many institutions honor George Washington Carver to this day, particularly the American public school system. Dozens of elementary schools and high schools are named after him. Ironically, despite his fame and wish to share his work with all mankind, few of Carver’s writings are available online, just 3 of 44 bulletins, a poem or two and a few dozen inspirational quotations.

[edit] Reputed inventions

George Washington Carver reputedly discovered three hundred uses for peanuts and hundreds more uses for soybeans, pecans and sweet potatoes. Among the listed items that he suggested to southern farmers to help them economically were adhesives, axle grease, bleach, buttermilk, chili sauce, fuel briquettes, ink, instant coffee, linoleum, mayonnaise, meat tenderizer, metal polish, paper, plastic, pavement, shaving cream, shoe polish, synthetic rubber, talcum powder and wood stain. Three patents (one for cosmetics, and two for paints and stains) were issued to George Washington Carver in the years 1925 to 1927; however, they were not commercially successful in the end. Aside from these patents and some recipes for food, he left no formulas or procedures for making his products.[33] He did not keep a laboratory notebook.

[edit] Peanut products

Carver’s fame today is typically summarized by the claim that he invented more than 300 uses for the peanut. However, Carver’s lists contain many products he did not invent; the lists also have many redundancies. The 105 recipes in Carver’s 1916 bulletin [34] were common kitchen recipes, but some appear on lists of his peanut inventions, including salted peanuts, bar candy, chocolate coated peanuts, peanut chocolate fudge, peanut wafers and peanut brittle. Carver acknowledged over two dozen other publications as the sources of the 105 peanut recipes.[35] Carver’s list of peanut inventions includes 30 cloth dyes, 19 leather dyes, 18 insulating boards, 17 wood stains, 11 wall boards and 11 peanut flours.[36] These six product types account for 106 “uses”. If the multiple listings for the same product, redundant listings and uses unoriginal to Carver are removed, the list of Carver’s peanut inventions is about 100 rather than 300.

Even many seemingly innovative uses, such as cocoa, coffee and soap were not new. An 1885 peanut book by B.W. Jones, The Peanut Plant: Its Cultivation and Uses, included recipes for peanut chocolate and peanut coffee and reported that soap had been made from peanuts. [37] Carver’s nine stock feeds from peanuts were not new either. Jones reported that “Every kind of stock, horses, cows, sheep, hogs and poultry, are exceedingly fond of the Peanut and will leave any other food to partake of it.”

Recipe number 51 on the list of 105 peanut uses describes a “peanut butter” that led to the belief that Carver invented the modern product with this name. It is a recipe for making a typical gritty, oily peanut butter of the period. It does not have the key steps (which would be difficult to achieve in a kitchen) for manufacturing stable, creamy commercial peanut butter that was developed in 1922 by Joseph L. Rosefield. Carver is also often incorrectly credited with the invention of the original oily type of peanut butter. In 1890, even before Carver was in college, George A. Bayle Jr. of St. Louis marketed a crude form of peanut butter as a food easily eaten by people with poor teeth.

Carver’s original uses for peanuts include radical substitutes for existing products such as gasoline and nitroglycerin. These products remain mysterious because Carver never published his formulas, except for his peanut cosmetic patent. Many of them may only have been hypothetical proposals. Without Carver’s formulas, others could not determine if his products were worthwhile or manufacture them. Thus, the widespread claims that Carver’s peanut inventions revolutionized Southern agriculture by creating large new markets for peanuts have no factual basis.[38] Exaggerations of the number and impact of Carver’s inventions are why historians now consider Carver’s scientific reputation to be substantially mythical.[39]

The rise in U.S. peanut production in the early 1900s was due to the following: [40]

  • The boll weevil’s devastation of cotton farming
  • The growing popularity of peanut butter after John Harvey Kellogg began promoting it as a health food in the 1890s
  • Introduction of a big-selling roasted peanut vending machine in 1901
  • The start of major commercial production of peanut candy in 1901
  • Introduction of a peanut picking machine in 1905
  • Increased demand for peanut oil during World War I due to wartime shortages of other plant oils

Although his industrial uses of peanuts found no significant application in the U.S., Carver gave a peanut milk recipe to an African nurse in 1918. [24] In a letter written after Carver’s death, the nurse claimed that in some parts of interior Africa, tigers and tsetse flies made it impossible to raise domestic animals as a source of milk. She related that peanut milk had saved the lives of hundreds of infants whose mothers were unable to nurse them. A problem with the story is that tigers are not native to Africa.

Despite a common claim that Carver never tried to profit from his inventions, Carver did market a few of his peanut products. None was successful enough to sell for long. The Carver Penol Company sold a mixture of creosote and peanuts as a patent medicine for respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis. Other ventures were The Carver Products Company and the Carvoline Company. Carvoline Antiseptic Hair Dressing was a mix of peanut oil and lanolin. Carvoline Rubbing Oil was a peanut oil for massages.

[edit] Sweet potato products

Next to peanuts, Carver is most associated with sweet potato products. In his 1922 sweet potato bulletin, Carver claimed 118 uses but only listed a few dozen recipes “many of which I have copied verbatim from Bulletin No. 129, U. S. Department of Agriculture”[41] USDA Farmer’s Bulletin 129 was written by David Montgomery Nesbit in 1901. When Raleigh Merritt reprinted Carver’s sweet potato bulletin in his 1929 book, the acknowledgement of USDA Farmer’s Bulletin 129 as the source of the recipes was omitted. Merritt’s book also claimed that by 1928 Carver had “178 different and attractive products” made from sweet potato.[26]

The list of Carver’s sweet potato inventions compiled from Carver’s records contains many multiple listings, such as 73 dyes, 17 wood fillers, 14 candies, 5 library pastes, 5 breakfast foods, 4 starches, 4 flours and 3 molasses. [42] When just the multiple listings are removed, there are only 40 uses. There are also some duplications such as vinegar and spiced vinegar, dry coffee and instant coffee and candy, after dinner mints, orange drops and lemon drops.

Some of the products also do not appear to be original to Carver, including such obvious products as dried sweet potato, flour, starch and sugar. The sweet potato was well known to be a good source of starch, flour and sugar before Carver began his studies. Gerard’s 1633 Herbal (p. 926) mentioned that sweet potato roots “may serve as a ground or foundation whereupon the clever confectioner or sugar-baker may work and frame many comfortable delicate and restorative conserves and sweetmeats.” Contrary to the popular perception that sweet potato was an obscure crop before Carver starting working with it, there were many books and agricultural bulletins on sweet potato in the 1890s and early 1900s. For instance, Carver’s list of sweet potato products includes hog feed, which John Duggar of Auburn University had already written about in an 1898 bulletin on Peanuts, Cowpeas and Sweet Potatoes as Food for Pigs.

As with his peanut products, there seemed to be no written formulas for his industrial uses for sweet potato, such as paint, writing ink, shoe blacking, paper, medicine, synthetic silk, synthetic cotton and rubber compound. His 1918 bulletin #37, How to Make Sweet Potato Flour, Starch, Sugar Bread and Mock Cocoanut contains some formulas for basic food products and is partly reprinted in Merritt’s book.[26]

[edit] Carver bulletins

During his time at Tuskegee (over four decades), Carver’s official published work consisted mainly of 44 practical bulletins for farmers.[43] His first bulletin in 1898 was on feeding acorns to farm animals. His final bulletin in 1943 was about the peanut. He also published six bulletins on sweet potatoes, five on cotton and four on cowpeas. Some other individual bulletins dealt with alfalfa, wild plum, tomato, ornamental plants, corn, poultry, dairying, hogs, preserving meats in hot weather and nature study in schools.

His most popular bulletin, How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption, was first published in 1916[44] and reprinted many times. It gave a short overview of peanut crop production but was mainly a list of recipes from other agricultural bulletins, cookbooks, magazines and newspapers, such as the Peerless Cookbook, Good Housekeeping and Berry’s Fruit Recipes. Many people mistakenly believe that Carver created the 105 peanut recipes and that Carver was first to promote peanuts as a replacement crop for cotton. Carver’s was far from the first American agricultural bulletin devoted to peanuts.[45][46][47][48][49] Nor was it the first agricultural bulletin on peanut recipes, since Mrs. Jessie P. Rich of the University of Texas published “Uses of the Peanut on the Home Table” in 1915.[50] It is notable that Carver’s 1916 peanut bulletin did not mention any of the novel industrial uses for peanuts that he later advocated. His 1916 bulletin came right before U.S. peanut production peaked in 1917, and then declined. Peanut production did not reach the 1917 level again until 1927.

[edit] Beyond the Peanut Man legend

The life history and achievements of George Washington Carver have been exaggerated by many admirers, as is the case for many admired historical figures.

Perhaps the legend most often told to young children is that Carver “invented peanut butter.” This legend, and the related legend that Carver invented 300-plus peanut products, derive from Carver’s years of research into novel end-uses for southern crops other than cotton, whose monoculture was depleting southern soils. Carver himself made it clear that he used recipe books and other sources when compiling (for example) his booklet How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing It for Human Consumption. [51]

After Carver’s death, lists were created of the plant products Carver compiled or originated. The number of items on such lists (for example, about 300 applications for peanuts) [36] have often been mis-stated as the number of items invented by Carver.

Carver oil painting

Carver oil painting

The legend that “Carver invented crop rotation” is a similar exaggeration of Carver’s role promoting crop rotation in the post-Civil-War South. Carver’s advocacy for crop rotation gave special stress to the nitrogen-replenishing role of legume crops like the peanut. He was not, however, the original discoverer of this feature of legume crops.

Another common legend is that Carver generously made his new plant products freely available for everyone to use and never tried to financially profit from them himself. Carver did not write down the formulas for most of his new plant products so other people could not make them. Carver started four companies that made and sold a few of his peanut products. All four companies soon failed.

Finally, there were many people other than Carver who played a part in the rescue of post-Civil-War southern agriculture from cotton monoculture.

[edit] Religion

While George Washington Carver is most widely recognized for his scientific contributions regarding the peanut, he is also often recognized as devoted Christian. God and science were both areas of intrigue, not warring ideas in the mind of George Washington Carver. Like many other devout Christians of his era, he accepted the Creation account given in the Book of Genesis as literal truth. [52] He testified on many occasions that his faith in Jesus was the only mechanism by which he could effectively pursue and perform the art of science.[53][54]

George Washington Carver became a Christian when he was ten years old. He heard about Sunday school from a white neighborhood boy while working in a barn. When he was told that they sang songs and prayed at Sunday school, he followed suit and prayed to God for the first time in the loft of that same barn.[52] From this child-like beginning he matured in his faith by placing his understanding of God firmly in the Words of the Bible. [55][56] When he was still a young boy, he was not expected to live past his twenty-first birthday due to inconspicuously failing health. He used the diagnosis as an opportunity to exercise his trust in God and pushed forward. He lived well past the age of twenty-one and his trust in God’s provision deepened as a result.[57] Throughout his career, he always found friendship and safety in the fellowship of other Christians. He relied on them excedingly when enduring harsh criticism from the scientific community and newsprint media regarding his research methodology. [52][58]

Dr. Carver’s faith was foundational in how he approached life. He viewed faith in Jesus as a means to destroying both barriers of racial disharmony and social stratification.[59] For Dr. Carver, faith was an agent of change. It increased knowledge rather than competing against it. The greater his faith increased, the more he desired to learn. The more he learned, the greater his faith became.[60] In attempts to teach his students, he defaulted first and foremost to the proclamation of Christ. He taught that knowledge of God through the Bible and devotion to Jesus were paramount to what he could teach them pedagogically through numbers and formulas.[61] He was as concerned with his students’ character development as he was with their intellectual development. He even compiled a list of eight cardinal virtues for his students to emulate and strive toward:

  • Be clean both inside and out.
  • Neither look up to the rich or down on the poor.
  • Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  • Win without bragging.
  • Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.
  • Be too brave to lie.
  • Be too generous to cheat.
  • Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.[7]

Carver also led a Bible class on Sundays while at Tuskegee, beginning in 1906, for several students at their request. In this class he would regularly tell the stories from the Bible by acting them out.[7] Unconventional in respect to both his scientific method and his ambition as a teacher, he inspired as much criticism as he did praise.[62] Dr. Carver expressed this sentiment in response to this phenomenon: “When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”[63]

The legacy of George Washington Carver’s faith is included in many Christian book series for children and adults about great men and women of faith and the work they accomplished through their convictions respectively. One such series, the Sower series, includes his story along side such scientists as Isaac Newton, Samuel Morse, Johannes Kepler and the Wright brothers.[64] Other Christian literary references include “Man’s Slave, God’s Scientist,” by David R. Collins and the Heroes of the Faith series’ book “George Washington Carver: Inventor and Naturalist” by Sam Wellman. He is also included in Christian and homeschooling curriculum in the history units as in Heroes of History: George Washington Carver along with Abraham Lincoln, David Livingstone, and Eric Liddell.

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Birth and death dates from the Notable Names Database
  2. ^ http://www.nps.gov/archive/gwca/expanded/gwc_tour_01.htm
  3. ^ The first Jesup Wagon
  4. ^ McMurry, L.O. 1981. George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol. New York, Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ Smith, Andrew F. 2002. Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
  6. ^ a b Anon. Nov. 24, 1941 “Black Leonardo”, Time 38 (21): 81–82.
  7. ^ a b c Link Lookup
  8. ^ Pages 9-10 of George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol by Linda McMurry, 1982. New York: Oxford University Press (ISBN 0-19-503205-5)
  9. ^ http://www.nps.gov/archive/gwca/expanded/gwc_tour_01.htm
  10. ^ Harmon Collection
  11. ^ Pages 45-47 of McMurry
  12. ^ Volume 5, page 481 of Harlan
  13. ^ Volume 5, page 504 of Harlan
  14. ^ Volume 8, page 95 of Harlan
  15. ^ Volume 10, page 480 of Harlan
  16. ^ Volume 12, page 95 of Harlan
  17. ^ Volume 12, pages 251-252 of Harlan
  18. ^ Volume 12, page 201 of Harlan
  19. ^ Volume 13, page 35 of Harlan
  20. ^ Volume 10, pages 592-596 of Harlan
  21. ^ Volume 4, page 239 of Harlan
  22. ^ Booker T. Washington, 1856-1915 My Larger Education: Being Chapters from My Experience
  23. ^ GWC | His Life in his own words
  24. ^ a b c d e f Microsoft Word – Special History Study.doc
  25. ^ The legacy of George Washington Carver-Friends & Colleagues (Henry Wallace
  26. ^ a b c Raleigh Howard Merritt. From Captivity to Fame or The Life of George Washington Carver
  27. ^ Peanut Man – TIME
  28. ^ http://www.nps.gov/archive/gwca/expanded/gwc_tour_06.htm
  29. ^ George Washington Carver National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)
  30. ^ Change Without Revolution – TIME
  31. ^ USDA Hall of Heroes
  32. ^ George Washington Carver: Chemist, Teacher, Symbol
  33. ^ Mackintosh, Barry. 1977. George Washington Carver and the Peanut: New Light on a Much-loved Myth. American Heritage 28(5): 66-73. [1]
  34. ^ Carver, George Washington. 1916. How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption. Tuskegee Institute Experimental Station Bulletin 31. [2]
  35. ^ Page 88 of Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea by Andrew F. Smith, 2002. Chicago: University of Illinois Press (ISBN 0-252-02553-9) [3]
  36. ^ a b List of By-Products From Peanuts By George Washington Carver (as compiled by the Carver Museum)
  37. ^ Core Historical Literature of Agriculture
  38. ^ Mackintosh, Barry. 1977. George Washington Carver and the Peanut: New Light on a Much-loved Myth. American Heritage 28(5): 66-73. [4]
  39. ^ Page 127 of The Booker T. Washington Papers, Volume 4 by Louis R. Harlan, Ed., 1975. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. ISBN (025201152X) [5]
  40. ^ Pages 412-413 of Crop Production : Evolution, History, and Technology. by C. Wayne Smith, 1995. New York: Wiley (ISBN 0-471-07972-3) [6]
  41. ^ How the Farmer Can Save His Sweet Potatoes, Geo. W. Carver
  42. ^ Carver Sweet Potato Products
  43. ^ List of Bulletins by George Washington Carver [7]
  44. ^ Carver, George Washington. 1916. “How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption.” Tuskegee Institute Experimental Station Bulletin 31. [8]
  45. ^ Handy, R.B. 1895. Peanuts: Culture and Uses. USDA Farmers’ Bulletin 25.
  46. ^ Newman, C.L. 1904. Peanuts. Fayetteville, Arkansas: Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station.
  47. ^ Beattie, W.R. 1909. Peanuts. USDA Farmers’ Bulletin 356.
  48. ^ Ferris, E.B. 1909. Peanuts. Agricultural College, Mississippi: Mississippi Agricultural Experiment Station.
  49. ^ Beattie, W.R. 1911. The Peanut. USDA Farmers’ Bulletin 431.
  50. ^ Rich, J.P. 1915. Uses of the Peanut on the Home Table. Farmer’s Bulletin 13. University of Texas, Austin.
  51. ^ George Washington Carver and the Peanut
  52. ^ a b c http://www.georgiasouthern.edu/~etmcmull/CARVER.htm
  53. ^ Man of science-and of God: George Washington Carver believed that Providence guided his scientific investigations and that those investigations led to a better understanding of God and His handiwork. | The New American (January, 2004)
  54. ^ George Washington Carver – CreationWiki, the encyclopedia of creation science
  55. ^ George Washington Carver: Pocket Watch and Bible
  56. ^ http://www.mhmin.org/FC/fc-1293GeorgeC.htm
  57. ^ GWC | His Life in his own words
  58. ^ http://www.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/n/Newman,Wilson_L.
  59. ^ Quotes From Dr. Carver | Page 2
  60. ^ Legends of Tuskegee: George Washington Carver-From Slave to Student
  61. ^ The Educational Theory of George Washington Carver
  62. ^ George Washington Carver
  63. ^ George Washington Carver Quotes
  64. ^ Whole Life Stewardship – Books

[edit] References

  • Carver, George Washington. “1897 or Thereabouts: George Washington Carver’s Own Brief History of His Life.” George Washington Carver National Monument.
  • Kremer, Gary R. (editor). 1987. George Washington Carver in His Own Words. Columbia, Missouri.: University of Missouri Press.
  • McMurry, L. O. Carver, George Washington. American National Biography Online Feb. 2000
  • George Washington Carver : Man’s Slave, God’s Scientist, Collins, David R., Mott Media, 1981)
  • George Washington Carver: His Life & Faith in His Own Words (Hardcover) by William J. Federer Publisher: AmeriSearch (January 2003) ISBN-10: 0965355764
  • George Washington Carver: In His Own Words (Paperback)by George W. Carver Publisher: University of Missouri Press; Reprint edition (January 1991) ISBN-10: 0826207855 ISBN-13: 978-0826207852
  • H.M. Morris, Men of Science, Men of God (1982)
  • E.C.Barnett & D.Fisher, Scientists Who Believe (1984)
  • G.R. Kremer, George Washington Carver in His Own Words (1987)

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