Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Hemp in Illinois

Here is a piece I wrote in June of 2001. It is a historical note about hemp cultivation in Illinois during WW2.


Hemp has a very recent and interesting history in the Rockford, Illinois area.

The story starts in 1937 when marijuana was outlawed. Since American law enforcement was unable to tell the difference between hemp and marijuana hemp growing was outlawed.

Let jump forward to 1942. America is in a war with Japan and Japan has cut the US of A off from Asian hemp supplies from the Philippines and Java. Hemp was essential at that time for making naval ropes because of its long fibers, strength, and strength when wet. In addition it resisted rot and mildew making it relatively long lasting in a very harsh environment ranging from the frozen Arctic to the tropical Pacific.

The American response was to forget about hemp/marijuana prohibition and grant special licenses to mid-west farmers to grow hemp. In addition to educate and encourage farmers a film "Hemp for Victory" was made by the agriculture department to explain how important hemp was to the war effort and to encourage farmers to plant it.

Now we get closer to Rockford. A pilot plant built in Polo, Illinois in Ogle County was to serve as a center for hemp production in the surrounding area. It was expected that 42 hemp mills would be needed in the mid-west and 11 in Illinois.

The first harvest was in 1943. Because much of the machinery was untested, the hemp tangled machinery started breaking down. Production suffered and yet had to be completed before the end of harvest season. With a war on and labor at peak demand where could the Agriculture Department turn to fill its labor needs?

It turns out that Camp Grant in Rockford had quite a few German prisoners of war from the African campaign who were brought in by bus to help harvest the hemp. By January 6th of 1944 fifty-two truck loads of hemp had been brought to the hemp mill. One hundred and fifty one tons of fiber total were delivered to spinning mills on the East coast. The hemp brought a little over ninety-three dollars an acre.

By 1944 the government started closing the hemp plants because of the availability of alternate supplies from Central America and the Mediterranean region. By 1945 the Hemp for Victory Program was over.

If you would like to find out more about this story you can go to:

Polo's Hemp Mill.

Hemp for Victory video download.

Let me know if you have trouble with the Hemp for Victory video. All I have is a 28.8 dialup and haven't tested it.

Update: 29 Aug '06 2121z

The Hemp Industries Association has the latest hemp news. Today they are covering the California Hemp Bill Extensively.


linearthinker said...

I grew up on property that was part of old Camp Grant. After the war, the camp was closed and vets were given opportunities to buy acreages of various sizes through a lottery of some kind. Dad got 5 acres on Sandy Hollow Rd, about half way between 11th St and Sandy Hollow Golf Course. We used to play war games in the old bunkers and revetments. Occasionally an old artillery shell would pop up during spring plowing. I have one now that's on my work bench to-do list to make a door gong...roughly a 155mm. Dad grew the best sweet corn in Winnebago county, and we sold it from a roadside stand.

Anonymous said...


When I was a kid (in the 40's), school children used books that contained information on what a particular state's economic strength was. And, you got the usual. Tobacco. And, cotton. AND, HEMP.

The politicians got ahold of the pot. Sanctions came in that put small farmers out of business. Or when they died, took their farms away. In taxes. We're never going to go back to the days of self-sufficiency. TOO much harm from the democrats. And, their commie imbeds. But it's winding down. With the remnants left to strangle only the very poorest. Who will fight among each other for crumbs. WHILE WE BUILD THE PRISON BUSINESS EVEN BIGGER THAN IT IS.

We're a large country.

On the other hand, BOTH PARTIES have shifted to their extremes. The donks are losing MORE. Of course, but the holy-roly nutters on the right are also invested in moral equalalents. While today's kids still know more about sex and drugs than ANY previous generation ever did.

And, Schwartzenegger is taking on the FEDS. He's gonna have an army of support across this nation. So, I'll take a guess.

When things fall apart in party politics; and the stresses created by the Internet just adds weight to this ... What would you do if you were a Kennedy? And, you saw Schwuartzengegger as a relative?

Guess what, folks?

All the politicians do is "switch WHIGS."

I expect, if Karl Rove is NOT ON TOP OF THE GOP TENT, so that it can grow a MIDDLE of MAINSTREAM VOTERS; the nut rooters won't be holding onto much.

Politicians are faster than show producers of bouncing lemons off the stage; hoping to attract both new talent. AND, cash cows.

I think the police have had their marijuana run. Full tilt. They get to steal all the booty they can. And, by the way, the Feds steal this in California, too. IN SPITE OF BALLOT MEASURES PASSING EASILY, to the contrary. The police? The last to learn good table manners.

But they won't be cast out of work, ya know?

Schwartzenegger has a plan. He'll turn the rip off artists over to the borders' patrols. And, they'll have to be satisfied. Because enough is enough.

And, Schwartzenegger's got MOMENTUM.

The GOP needs a house cleaning. It needs to get rid of it's stiff armed "zeig heilers." Those who use politics to be the moral police. And, who try every which way to promote their church's ideals.

How long will it take to clean house?

Dunno. Depends. But so far? Every time the GOP pulls in "independents" to vote for GOPsters, the nutters take over. And, begin counting the wins as "theirs." It's gotta stop folks. Because just getting someone to vote for GOP candidates once a year. Or once every four years. Is not enough to stay a viable business.

That's why houses are tented for termites. It's the law. Can't sell real estate unless it's bug free.

And, the right looks lame. While the left looks looney.


I would like to post your article in full on our website at http://www.americansforcannabis.com/illinois.html With a link to the original post. would this be ok?

M. Simon said...