In honor of National Black History Month, we want to take time to recognize a man known as “The Father of the Peanut Industry.” George Washington Carver was a leader in agriculture in the early 1900’s. He worked as a botanist and agriculture teacher, and his work led to the creation of more than 300 peanut uses.
George Washington Carver was born on a farm in Missouri in 1864. From a very early age, Carver had an interest in plants and eventually became known as the “plant doctor” to farmers from the surrounding areas. He assisted farmers with diagnosing and treating whatever they may be growing.
Carver started attending school in Missouri at the age of 11. He was displeased with the education he was receiving, so he then packed up and traveled to Kansas to receive a better education. After making it through grade school, he enrolled in the Iowa State Agricultural School to study botany. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, he went on to earn his master’s degree in agriculture. It was then that he made his way south to Tuskegee, Alabama. He received an offer from Booker T. Washington to come work at the Tuskegee Institute, now known as Tuskegee University.
Carver’s time at the Tuskegee was an up and down battle. Many individuals resented him due to his interest in agriculture, his skin color and his salary. He was well known and loved by his students but his interest in teaching was little. His time was spread thin as he was left to manage two farms, teach, work in maintenance and sit on multiple committees. It wasn’t until Booker T. Washington passed away that his teaching duties were lifted. He then began focusing on his agricultural developments.
Carver’s time in the laboratory and in the field led to many developments. Carver invented more than 300 products using peanuts. His creation of peanut products led to his overall success. Some of the inventions he created with peanuts are from one extreme to the next. He created items such as chili sauce, dry coffee, laundry soap, shaving cream, and so many more. From food, household products, medicine, and cosmetics, he created it all. Many people think that George Washington Carver invented peanut butter, but, contrary to popular belief, peanut butter was around centuries before he was!
Carver truly was an innovator and agriculturalist. Before sustainability was a pop culture topic, Carver promoted responsible farming practices, like planting peanuts in rotation with cotton since peanuts naturally add nutrients to the soil. Carver is largely to thank for the success of the peanut industry today!
To learn more about George Washington Carver, visit:
The History Channel – George Washington Carver
National Peanut Board – 16 Surprising Facts about George Washington Carver
Tuskegee University- George Washington Carver
Iowa PBS- George Washington Carver
Northern Kentucky University- George Washington Carver