George Washington Carver


George Washington Carver : biography

1864 – 5 January 1943

Carver marketed a few of his peanut products. 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.

Carver was often credited with the invention of peanut butter. While he may have made peanut butter, the preparation arose in other cultures independently. The Aztecs were known to have made it from ground peanuts in the 15th century, and Marcellus Gilmore Edson was awarded (for its manufacture) in 1884, when Carver was 20.

Sweet potato products

Carver is also associated with sweet potato products. In his 1922 sweet potato bulletin, Carver listed a few dozen recipes, "many of which I have copied verbatim from Bulletin No. 129, U. S. Department of Agriculture". from the Texas A&M University website Carver’s records included the following sweet potato products: 73 dyes, 17 wood fillers, 14 candies, 5 library pastes, 5 breakfast foods, 4 starches, 4 flours, and 3 molasses. from the Tuskegee University website He also had listings for vinegars, dry coffee and instant coffee, candy, after-dinner mints, orange drops, and lemon drops.

Legacy and honors

  • 1923, Spingarn Medal from the NAACP, awarded annually for outstanding achievement.
  • 1928, honorary doctorate from Simpson College
  • 1939, the Roosevelt Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Southern Agriculture
  • 1940, Carver established the George Washington Carver Foundation at the Tuskegee Institute. *1941, The George Washington Carver Museum was dedicated at the Tuskegee Institute.
  • 1942, Ford built a replica of Carver’s birth cabin at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn as a tribute.
  • 1942, Ford dedicated a laboratory in Dearborn named after Carver.
  • 19xx?, the US Congress designated January 5, the anniversary of his death, as George Washington Carver Recognition Day.
  • 2007, the Missouri Botanical Gardens has a garden area named in his honor, with a commemorative statue and material about his work

Rise to fame

Carver developed techniques to improve soils depleted by repeated plantings of cotton. Together with other agricultural experts, he 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). These both restored nitrogen to the soil and the crops were good for human consumption. Following the crop rotation practice resulted in improved cotton yields and gave farmers alternative cash crops. To train farmers to successfully rotate and cultivate the new crops, Carver developed an agricultural extension program for Alabama that was similar to the one at Iowa State. To encourage better nutrition in the South, he widely distributed recipes using the alternative crops.

In addition, he founded an industrial research laboratory, where he and assistants worked to popularize the new crops by developing hundreds of applications for them. They did original research as well as promoting applications and recipes which they collected from others. Carver distributed his information as agricultural bulletins. (See Carver bulletins below.)

Carver’s work was known by officials in the national capital before he became a public figure. President Theodore Roosevelt publicly admired his work. Former professors of Carver’s from Iowa State University were appointed to positions as Secretary of Agriculture: James Wilson, a former dean and professor of Carver’s, served from 1897 to 1913. Henry Cantwell Wallace served from 1921 to 1924. He knew Carver personally as his son Henry A. Wallace and the researcher were friends. The younger Wallace served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1933 to 1940, and as Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s vice president from 1941 to 1945.