To bring education to farmers,
Carver designed a mobile school, called a Jesup Wagon after the New York
financier, Morris Ketchum Jesup, who
In 1921, Carver spoke in favor of a peanut tariff before the Ways and Means
Committee of the United States
House of Representatives. Given racial discrimination of the time, 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
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 existing 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
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.
He was born into slavery in Newton County, Marion
Township, near Diamond Grove, now known as Diamond, Missouri. He was born on July 12, 1864.
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 sisters and a brother, all of whom
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
In 1910, Carver submitted a letter of resignation in response to a
reorganization of the agriculture programs.:
Carver again threatened to resign in 1912 over his teaching assignment.
Carver submitted a letter of resignation in 1913, with the intention of heading
up an experiment station elsewhere.
He also threatened to resign in 1913 and 1914 when he didn't get a summer
teaching assignment 
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.
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.
Despite their clashes, Booker T.
Washington praised Carver in the 1911 book, My Larger Education: Being
Chapters from My Experience.
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. 
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 .
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.
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
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
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. 
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.
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. 
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
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
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. 
From 1933 to 1935, Carver was
largely occupied with work on peanut oil massages for treating infantile
paralysis (polio). 
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
In 1937, Carver attended two chemurgy conferences. 
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. 
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
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.
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.
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
The bill passed in both houses without a single vote against.
1948 US Postage Stamp
On July 14, 1943,
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 Template:Convertnational 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 
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.
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.
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.
He did not keep a laboratory notebook.
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 
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.
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.
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
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. 
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
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.
Exaggerations of the number and impact of Carver's inventions are why
historians now consider Carver's scientific reputation to be substantially
The rise in U.S. peanut production
in the early 1900s was due to the following: 
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. 
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
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"
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.
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. 
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.
==Carver bulletins== During
Carver's time at Tuskegee (over four decades), Carver's official published work
consisted mainly of 44 practical bulletins for farmers.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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) 
have often been mis-stated as the number of items invented by Carver.
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.
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. 
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.
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.
From this child-like beginning he matured in his faith by placing his
understanding of God firmly in the Words of the Bible. 
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Be too brave to lie.
Be too generous to cheat.
Take your share of the world and let others take
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.
Unconventional in respect to both his scientific method and his ambition as a
teacher, he inspired as much criticism as he did praise.
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."
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.
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.
George Washington Carver Recognition Day is celebrated
every January 5, on the day Carver died,
because his birthdate is unknown.
After Thomas Edison's death in 1931,
Carver claimed in speeches that Edison offered him a job at the then huge
salary of $100,000 or $200,000 per year depending on the speech. Carver
earned about $1,000 per year when he started at Tuskegee. Edison's
associates could never confirm the job offer.
Carver was exceptionally frugal. He saved most of his
yearly salary because his room and board were free.
Carver lived on the second floor of a women's dormitory
at Tuskegee and accessed his room via the fire escape.
Carver was an unorthodox scientist. He claimed that God
gave him the ideas for his plant products, and he never wrote down the
formulas but kept them all in his head.
Carver was often evasive when others requested more
details on his inventions. When the Farm Security Administration asked for
a list of Carver's peanut products, Carver replied "I do not attempt
to keep a list, as a list today would not be the same tomorrow, if I am
allowed to work on that particular product."
Linda O. McMurry, George Washington Carver:
Scientist and Symbol, New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. 
WASHINGTON CARVER'S VISION OF SUSTAINABILITY AND SOME EXAMPLES OF SUSTAINABLE
S. Ebenezer, Ph.D.
Environmental Stewardship and Hunger Education
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
8765 West Higgins Road
Chicago, IL 60631
The United Nations (UN) report
entitled "Our Common Future" introduced the concept of sustainable
development to the world of politicians, economists, international development
workers and religious community in 1987. The United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development (UNCED) convened in 1992 brought together
bothgovernment representatives and the non governmental agencies in Rio de
Janeiro, Brazil to further develop this concept of global sustainability and to
implement appropriateactions worldwide. Recently, several secular organizations
like the Union of Concerned Scientists recognizes the importance of religious
communities in the discussions and practices of global sustainability.
Increasingly, many scientists are realizing the need for applying moral values
in dealing with the environment. They also recognize the fact the environmental
degradation problem cannot be solved by applying more science and technology.
Combination of religious teachings about creation and scientific knowledge of
the biosphere will enable many to take care of God's creation which will pave
way to global sustainability.
George Washington Carver, an outstanding scientist and a deeply religious
person, promoted global sustainability several decades ago when he worked at
the Tuskegee University in Alabama. He recognized long ago that sustainability
can be achieved through combining science and faith. He applied religious
values such as justice to the poor and to creation and humility and reverence
towards God's creation in his scientific exploration. He firmly believed that
through proper keeping of creation motivated by religious values one can
In this presentation, we will explore Carver's vision of global sustainability
and we will describe a few sustainable technologies appropriate to present
conditions that are inspired by Carver's work.
Carver was invited by Booker T. Washington, the founder of the Tuskegee
Institute, to create a department of agricultural sciences. In his letter of
acceptance, Carver expressed his desire to cooperate with Washington and do all
he can through Christ who strengthens him to better the condition of our
people. He recognized that a mono-culture, cotton, was degrading the soil and
was also keeping the black farmers who were only one generation removed from
slavery in poverty. In 1897, he established an experimental station with one
horse to power all equipment. He wrote in one of his bulletins,
"For eight years the Tuskegee station has made the subject of soil
improvement a special study, emphasizing the subject of crop rotation, deep
plowing, terracing, etc., keeping in mind the poor tenant farmer with one-horse
equipment; so therefore, every operation performed has been within his reach,
the station having only one horse." 1
He applied the principles of loving one's neighbor and caring for the
vulnerable persons to degraded and abused soil. He wrote an article in 1914
entitled "Being Kind to the Soil." In that article he observed,
"Unkindness to anything means an injustice to that thing. If I am unkind
to you I do you an injustice, or wrong you in so me way. On the other hand, if
I try to assist you in every way that I can to make a better citizen and in
every way to do my very best for you, I am kind to you. The above principles
apply with equal force to the soil. The farmer whose soil produces less every
year, is unkind to it in some way; that is, he is not doing by it what he
should; he is robbing it of some substance it must have, and he becomes,
therefore, a soil robber rather than a progressive farmer." 2
He called on the farmers to use biblical teachings on Sabbath to the land in
soil management. In a lecture to farmers in 1921, he noted,
"We take this very book, here - go way back here, almost to the beginning
of time and we find.....the farmers were obliged to rest their lands and every
fifty years was jubilee year. This was picnic time for the soil. Nothing must
be taken off of it. Everything it produced was to go back to the soil. Now
then, you know as well as I know that ever since that time we have heard such
terms as diversify, diversify, diversify-rest your soil. We paid absolutely no
attention to it." 3
Carver considered exploitation of land as sinful. An Atlanta newspaper quoted
him as saying,
"Conservation is one of our big problems in this section. You can't tear
up everything just to get the dollar out of it without suffering as result. It
is a travesty to burn our woods and thereby burn up the fertilizer nature has
provided for us. We must enrich our soil every year instead of merely depleting
it. It is fundamental that nature will drive away those who commit sin against
Carver teaches us that in order to achieve global sustainability, we need to
apply biblical principles of justice, love, frugality, creativity, and
sacrifice even in the area of caring for God's creation.
Carver emphasized the "Divine inspiration" in his scientific
exploration. In 1924, Carver expressed his reliance on divine inspiration in
the following words,
"I never grope for methods; the method is revealed at the moment I am
inspired to create something new. With our God to draw aside the curtain, I
would be helpless." He was criticized by an anonymous editorial writer in
the New York Times for Carver ascribing to divine inspiration for his success.
But Carver stood his ground and responded to the editorial with these words,
"I regret exceedingly that such a gross misunderstanding should arise as
to what was meant by Divine inspiration.' Inspiration is never at variance with
information; in fact, the more information one has the greater will be the
Nearly 70 years later, the Union of Concerned Scientists have recognized the
need for including religious perspectives in caring for creation. A recent
video produced by the Union of Concerned Scientist entitled "Keeping the
Earth" uses passages from the scripture with scientific perspective on
creation to challenge congregations to get involved in the care of creation. Christians
who are involved in the environmental sciences should follow Carver in
developing innovative solutions through Divine inspiration and by following
Carver's vision of global sustainability was grounded in his deep Christian
faith. His reverence for all of God's creation and his humility were essential
ingredients for establishing global sustainability. One of the most important
aspects of Carver's philosophy regarding global sustaianability is hope. Hope
based on the abundance of God's creation to fulfil the basic needs of God's
creation. Carver demonstrated through his work that by using God given talents
one can find multiple usage for even ordinary plants like peanuts, sweet
potatoes and soy beans. Carver also showed us that as Christians we need to be
concerned about the persons farthest down. Without justice for the poor, we
cannot achieve global sustainability.
Following the vision and practices of Carver, several simple, appropriate
technologies have been developed by the author during the last two decades. The
following slides show a number of technologies that promote sustainability in
the areas of urban agriculture, building techniques, and alternative energy.
Some Appropriate Technologies that can be Developed with Carver's Vision
1. Food Producing Technologies:
As many institutions have developed and are developing some extremely
innovative food production systems, we will focus only on those technologies
that others are not pursuing and which have potential to help the poor.
It is estimated that in the next century more than 50% of the population will
be living in urban areas. One of the consequences of the urbanization is the
destruction of productive land all over the world. While it is necessary to
slow down or even halt the destruction of productive agricultural lands, wet
lands and other habitats for birds and animals, we need to look for innovative
ways to grow food in the urban areas to decentralize food production and to
reduce energy and other resources spent on transporting and processing food. At
the churchwide offices of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), an
experimental urban gardening is being tried on the seventh floor of the parking
garage. Using 4' diameter wading pools, a variety of vegetables and fruits are
grown in a 9" soil medium. Last year we produced 500 pounds of vegetable
in 15 productive containers. It is estimated that each container can yield
about 30 to 50 pounds of vegetable during the growing season. The seventh floor
garage can hold about 600 such containers and therefore theoretically can yield
between 9 to 15 tons of vegetables.
Urban aquaculture involving decentralized fish production is yet another system
that can be promoted in cities. Unlike other animals fishes may not be barred
from cities. They can be kept inside houses without endangering the health of
human beings and they do not make noises or produce wastes that cannot be
processed easily. The Ocean Ark International at Falmouth, Massachusetts has
developed a suitable unit for urban conditions. By converting roofs or top
floors of garages that are being underutilized to roof top gardens and fish
farms, substantial amount of food can be raised in cities. These techniques
also assures food security and safety.
2. Alternative Energy Technologies
One of the sustainable energy sources that does not get enough attention and
publicity is the use of human energy for transportation and power production.
The World Watch Institute has been promoting bicycle as the best urban
transportation system which can reduce pollution and congestion. While bicycles
are designed to be used for transportation, they can also be modified to
produce power to operate small-scale agriculture and industrial implements. The
author has designed an attachment to the bicycle that transforms the bicycle
into a small power source to operate a rice thresher, a peanut sheller, a corn
sheller, a water pump, grinders, a circular saw, a wood working lathe, and a
small metal lathe.
3. Building Technologies
Sustainable building technologies have been developed through the centuries in
several parts of the world. Rammed earth techniques from China, adobe (mud
bricks) building technology from the Native American settlements in the
Southwest US, and straw bale construction technology from the early settlers
from Nebraska are examples of sustainable technologies that can be adapted to
modern conditions and requirements. Recently, some people living in modern
buildings are experiencing Multiple Chemical Sensitivity syndrome. It is
suspected that the chemical used in the production of the building materials
may be the cause for this sickness. There is a definite need to produce safe
building products like wood stains, paints, and others. Carver was able to see
in the clays of Georgia and Alabama the various color paints that could be made
without harmful chemicals. There is so much that nature can give us in terms of
building materials if only we can see like Carver did.
The author introduced plastered straw construction to Indian villages last
year. Preliminary results show that locally grown non-edible straws can be used
as building materials and that such use will reduce the burnt bricks, cement,
and other energy intensive materials usage.
Today, the proponents of sustainable society realize that science and
technology alone cannot establish sustainability and are beginning to give
importance to religious beliefs and values. At the turn of this century Carver
showed us the need for combining scientific exploration and one's faith. We see
the effects of decades of separating faith and values from our daily life
resulting in the increase of lawlessness, greed, poverty, violence,
environmental degradation, and unsustainable life styles. The churches hurt by
the creation and evolution controversy failed to provide vision and leadership
based on the kingdom values in the area of environmental stewardship.
Environmental degradation, poverty, and violence which all lead to unsustainable
society need to be confronted with faith and moral values. Carver's vision and
work which combined justice, humility, creativity and scientific exploration
provide models for the church to follow as it strives to contribute to global
1. George Washington Carver, "How to Build up
Worn out Soils," Tuskegee Institute Experiment Station, Bulletin 6,
Tuskegee, Alabama, 1905.
2. George Washington Carver, "Being Kind to the
Soil," Negro Farms, January 31, 1914.
3. George Washington Carver, Stenographic Report of
Lecture ar Voorhees Farms Conference, Voorhees Normal and Industrial School,
Denmark, S.C., February 16, 1921.
4. James H. Cobb, Jr., "Ford and Carver Point
South's Way," Atlanta Journal, March 17, 1940.
5. John Ferrel, Fruits of Creation: A Look at Global
Sustainability as Seen Through the Eyes of George Washington Carver, Macalaster
Park Publishing Company, Shakopee, Minnesota, 1994.
Carver, George Washington
Student, Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University
He could have added fortune to fame,
but caring for neither, he found happiness and honor in being helpful to the
world. Epitaph on the grave of George Washington Carver (quoted in American
George Washington Carver (1860? -
1943) was an extraordinary individual, dedicated to lifelong learning and the
practical application of the sciences. Through a blend of spiritual
inspiration, artistic inclination and scientific talent, Carver made many
contributions to this world and the environment, such as creating more than 300
peanut-based products, numerous developments for the sweet potato, and
developing revolutionary crop rotation theories. His passion and service
extended beyond the walls of a classroom, permeating the American South, by
educating and empowering farmers in agricultural techniques. In addition to
being a gifted teacher, researcher and innovator, Carver was known as a skilled
artist, musician and gardener.
Carver was the first black man to
study at Iowa State University, earning a Bachelor of Science in 1894. He was
then appointed to the faculty and received his master's degree in agriculture
and bacterial botany in 1896. Months later, he accepted an invitation, or
rather a calling, to make his indelible mark at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama,
where he served for forty-seven years. This humble genius, who was often
referred to as the "plant doctor" or the "peanut man," died
in his sleep in Tuskegee on 5 January 1943. Shortly before his death, Carver
donated his entire savings to the institute to found the Carver Research
Foundation for research in agriculture.
Carver received a number of awards
for his achievements. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Simpson
College in 1928. He was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts of London.
He received the Theodore Roosevelt Medal for Valuable Contributions to Science
and the Spingarn Medal for Distinguished Service in Agricultural Chemistry by
the NAACP. Carver was honored with a United States commemorative postage stamp
in both 1947 and 1998. He was elected to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans
in 1977 and the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1990. That same year, Iowa
State awarded him a Doctor of Humane Letters. His birthplace in Diamond Grove,
Missouri, is the first National Monument to honor an African American, a
teacher, or even a scientist.
George Washington Carver was born
the second son to his mother, Mary. His birthdate was never recorded, through
scholars think it was in the early 1860s. He was born into slavery during the
Civil War and grew up on a plantation owned by Moses and Susan Carver. As an
infant, night raiders (presumed members of the Ku Klux Klan) kidnapped both
George and his mother. He was recovered, due to a request put forth by his
slave owners, after being found abandoned in Arkansas. His mother, Mary, was
never to be seen again and was presumed killed. Equally unfortunate was that
his father (enslaved on a nearby plantation) was killed in a logging accident
shortly after George's birth. The Carvers became surrogate parents to George,
whose surname he took, although they never adopted him. As a sickly child, he
spent many hours observing and collecting plants, flowers, rocks, and other
natural objects that fascinated and captured his attention. The Carvers
encouraged his thirst for knowledge, which prompted him to travel to different
parts of the state, in search of schools that would educate blacks. At twelve,
George left the couple, traveling to communities in Missouri and Kansas,
working odd jobs until he received a high school education (Holt 1943; Elliot
Carver drifted from place to place
in the hope of becoming college educated, experiencing hardships and rejection along
the way, due to the color of his skin. While working as head cook at a hotel,
he befriended one of the owners who shared a passion for art. The relationship
opened a door to his admission into art school at Simpson College in Iowa in
1890. Torn between agriculture and art, witnessing the harsh realities of black
artists, Carver chose a more vocational trade. He transferred to Iowa
Agricultural College, now known as Iowa State College, where he majored in
After teaching and graduating with a
master's degree in 1896, Carver made a life-altering decision when he consented
to head the agricultural department at Tuskegee Institute. Without having much
needed resources or pay comparable to that he received in his former job,
Carver used his imagination to "create living laboratories." He used
available materials to create a makeshift lab. His passion encouraged his
students to excel despite the odds.
Carver was sought after by
noteworthy individuals, such as Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, because of the
innovation and importance of his work. He never married, nor had children, but
he left an eternal legacy to agriculture, science, and African-American higher
an Environmental Steward
Carver felt that the earth is
"not just a treasure house to be ransacked and plundered and to be
profited from. [It is] our home and a place of beauty and mystery and God's
handiwork" (Stanley 1996, 55). This quote affirms that, as an
environmental steward, Carver relied heavily on God's revelation for the simple
purposes of things.
Carver made significant impact on
how humans serve as stewards and conscientiously utilize the Earth's natural
resources. As an agricultural researcher and a chemist, his creative inventions
for new uses for common plants opened a door to natural and environmental
benefits. His contributions to science were extensive. He developed over 300
commercial applications for peanuts, including milk, cheese, flour, ink, dyes,
wood stains, soap, and cosmetics. In addition, Carver developed 118 uses for
sweet potatoes, including vinegar, molasses, rubber, ink, and postage stamp
glue. His technique of rotating crops was beneficial for soil conservation not
only in the South, but across the nation and world. He also extracted the
brilliance of colors available in Alabama clay and earth, making paints
Carver's ideas about nature and
earth led to developments that revolutionized agriculture in the South. His
techniques for crop rotation enlightened Southern farmers on how to cooperate
with natural laws, thereby allowing them to grow better crops, prevent erosion
and improve production. He discovered that through crop rotation, using
peanuts, soybeans and cowpeas, nitrogen was replenished in the soil.
I have been preparing myself for
these many years; feeling as I do that this line of education is the key to
unlock the golden door of freedom to our people. George Washington Carver (quoted
in Elliott 1966, 104)
As a passionate and humble teacher,
George Washington Carver affected many lives and generations. Booker T.
Washington requested Carver to assume the position of Director and Instructor
of Scientific Agriculture and Dairy Science at Tuskegee Institute. Tuskegee was
a school that had attracted many black students from the South, emphasizing
vocational skills that would be useful for teaching, technicians and farming.
Carver's dedication as a teacher was
demonstrated when he turned down the opportunity to work with Thomas Edison for
a $100,000 yearly salary (Kremer 1987). This generous salary would have been a
great incentive for many people at the time, but not for Carver, who earned
$125 a month during his nearly half a century of work at Tuskegee Institute.
Not discouraged by the lack of resources at Tuskegee, Carver viewed his
professorship as a calling, a challenge, and an opportunity to uplift his
people. Although he was told he was dealing with the worst soil in Alabama,
through his resourcefulness, Carver and his students produced a profitable crop
every year (after his first year). People from all over the world, including
Russia, Poland, China, Japan, India, and Africa came to Tuskegee Institute to
listen to Dr. Carver's techniques of agriculture and his successful experiences
in the rural South. His achievements at Tuskegee helped African Americans gain
respect in the fields of science and technology.
the Southern Farmer's Friend
Frustrated with the lack of hope
displayed by many black Southern farmers, George Washington Carver began the
Farmers Institute. He selflessly shared his knowledge with the rural farmer -
insights of the land and how it operated with nature. He reached day laborers,
sharecroppers and tenant farmers through his movable school on wheels. With his
"Tuskegee Wagon," Carver visited those who were willing to listen,
teaching insights that extended their understanding of farming beyond their
natural survival mentality, including land conservation techniques. While he
provided food for their soul, Carver also fed them. This gave him a natural
opportunity to teach nutrition information, advocating the benefits of fresh
fruit and vegetables. He also offered home improvement ideas and medicinal
advice, such as the cure for pellagra. Carver was most pleased with the humble
beginnings of the movable school, once operated by a rickety mule-drawn cart.
It later became known as the "Jesup Agricultural Wagon," a fully
equipped traveling experiment station (Elliot 1966).
George Washington Carver was an
agriculturalist advocate when the need arose. He spoke on behalf of Congress,
to the House Ways and Means Committee, as a supporting witness on a pending
bill that proposed to place a tariff on the peanut. Also, when the United
Peanut Association of America was formed, the group asked Carver to represent
them on the 1921 congressional committee in Washington. Carver was adamantly
against the exploitation of land, which he felt depleted the nature God had
provided (Stanley 1996).
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
"It is not the style of clothes
one wears, neither the kind of automobile one drives, nor the amount of money
one has in the bank, that counts. These mean nothing. It is simply service that
measures success." George Washington Carver (as quoted at GWCNM
The degree of Carver's impact
extends beyond his agricultural contributions, encompassing his service to help
others obtain a higher quality of life. Carver contributed to the economic
improvement of the Southern farmer by offering alternative crops beneficial to
them and their land. He brightened the homes of impoverished men and women
throughout the South and gave hope to the next generation of farmers. As a
teacher, Carver used a personal, hands-on method and was not limited by the
walls of a classroom. Yet, his vision extended beyond his students and Southern
rural farmers to the national and international communities. He strived to help
his students to view the world as one.
Though Carver prides his success on
service, his environmental contributions were substantial. He conscientiously
utilized bio-based products and industrial products made from renewable
resources rather than those made from scarce or non-renewable resources.
Environmentally, his contributions were viewed by some as an agricultural
revolution (Stanley 1996; Holt 1943). He was an extraordinary man who
recognized the natural relationships of living things, both plants and people.
He was a deeply religious man who
treasured the world of nature and saw himself as a vehicle by which the secrets
of nature could be understood and harnessed for the good of mankind. That was
his mission in life, and his reward for performing this mission was the simple
knowledge that he was performing well God's will. (Kremer 1987, 17)
When Carver died in 1943, he was
still earning the same $125 a month he had agreed to as an acceptable income
forty-seven years prior; he had refused to accept a single increase in salary.
When asked why, Carver humbly responded, "What would I do with more money?
I already have all the earth" ( George Washington Carver 1980).
Carver's explicit desire was to serve and uplift his people. He declined
lucrative career opportunities with other institutions, to keep his commitment
of sharing knowledge with the poor black farmer. He was committed to making an
impact, which he did for his people, his students, the scientific community,
farmers, community members, policy makers, and food consumers around the world.
Key Related Ideas
Agricultural chemist :
A scientist specializing in chemistry and the science, art, and business
of cultivating soil, producing crops, and raising livestock; farmer
One who specializes in the study of plants
Crop rotation :
The agricultural process of growing different types of crops at different
seasons to replenish the soil
One who advocates for, or works toward, protecting the natural environment
from destruction or pollution.
Important People Related to the
Morris K. Jesup was a New York philanthropist who made his money in banking
and manufacturing. Jesup donated the funds necessary to upgrade Carver's
movable learning cart to a mobile teaching wagon, which he used to educate
Southern farmers about agricultural techniques. His movable school became known
as the Jesup Agricultural Wagon.
President Theodore Roosevelt (1830-1908) was the twenty-sixth President of the United
States of America. George Washington Carver advised him on racial problems and
policies. In 1939, Carver received the Theodore Roosevelt medal, which stated,
"To a scientist humbly seeking the guidance of god and a liberator to the
men of the white race as well as the black" (Elliott 1966, 221).
Henry A. Wallace was elected Vice President of the United States in 1940,
under President Roosevelt. As a student and mentee of Dr. Carver at Iowa State
University, Wallace was intrigued by his teaching, which sparked his lifelong
interest in plant genetics. Wallace was also the founder of the largest seed
corn company in the world, Pioneer Hybrid.
Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) was the founder and head of the Tuskegee Normal
and Industrial Institute for black students, established in 1897 in Tuskegee,
Alabama. He was one of the most influential black leaders and educators of his
time and extended the invitation for Carver to lead the agricultural department
at Tuskegee Institute, a school that advocated vocational education.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
The Carver Research Foundation was formed in 1940 to conduct agricultural research at
Tuskegee Institute. Currently, the university's multimillion-dollar Carver
Research Foundation and George Washington Carver Agricultural Experiment
Station received worldwide attention through noted research activities in
agriculture, the natural sciences, and other pure and applied sciences.
The George Washington Carver Museum was authorized by the trustees of Tuskegee Institute in 1938
at the request of its president, Frederick D. Patterson. The Carver Museum was
dedicated by President Henry Ford in 1941. It houses Dr. Carver's extensive
collections of native plants, minerals, birds and vegetables; his products
created from the peanut, sweet potato and various clays; and his numerous
paintings, drawings, and textile art. Also on display are plaques, medals and
artistic work created in tribute to Dr. Carver.
The George Washington Carver
National Monument , preserved by the National Park
Service, is located in Diamond, Missouri. The setting includes the 1881
Historic Moses Carver house and the Carver cemetery. His birthplace was
designated a national monument, the first honor bestowed to a black person, on
14 July 1943.
The George Washington Carver Outdoor
School was developed in 1990 to help young
people develop a rapport with nature and to better understand themselves and
their relationship to the world around them. The city-wide nonprofit school
allows children exposure to the outdoors, including activities that foster
respect for nature, such as hiking expeditions and camping trips.
Tuskegee Institute was established in 1880 by an act of the Alabama State
Legislature. The school's first President, Dr. Booker T. Washington, officially
opened the Normal School for Colored Teachers on 4 July 1881, which later
became known as the Tuskegee Institute.
Related Web Sites
The College of Agriculture - Iowa
State Fair exhibit section of the Iowa State University's Web site , at http://www.ag.iastate.edu/carver.html
, presents a celebration of the legacy of its first African-American
student and faculty member, George Washington Carver.
George Washington Carver National Monument Web site provides information
on the national park dedicated to George Washington Carver and includes his
boyhood home located just outside of Diamond, Missouri. The site contains
biographical information, photographs, Carver quotes, and information on the
210-acre park. Visit at http://www.nps.gov/gwca/
The National Park Service: Tuskegee
Institute National Historic Site Web site ,
at http://www.nps.gov/tuin/ , provides a
direct link to the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, located on the
campus of present day Tuskegee University, which became a part of the National
Park System in 1974.
Tuskegee University Web site , at http://www.tuskegee.edu
, provides i nformation about current students, faculty and programs, as
well as a tribute to Carver in the "History and Archives" section.
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Albus, Harry J. The Peanut Man .
Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949.
American Experience . "George Washington Carver." PBS, 1980.
Borth, Christy. Pioneers of
Plenty: The Story of Chemurgy . Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1939.
Dies, Edward Jerome. Titans of
the Soil . Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press,
Elliott, Lawrence. George
Washington Carver: The Man Who Overcame . Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:
Erbach, Donald C. and Frank Flora.
"Biobased products: America's second green revolution, " Agricultural
Research 50 (2002): 2.
Haber, Louis. Black Pioneers of
Science and Invention . New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1970.
Holt, Rackham. George Washington
Carver: An American Biography. New York: Doubleday, Doran and Company,
Kitchens, John W. and Lynne B.
Kitchens, eds. Guide to the Microfilm Edition of the George Washington
Carver papers at Tuskegee Institute . Tuskegee, Alabama: Tuskegee
Institute, 1975. (Guide accompanies #1-67 microfilm reels.)
Klein, Aaron E. Hidden
Contributors: Black Scientists and Inventors in America . Garden City, New
York: Doubleday, 1971.
Kremer, Gary R., ed. George
Washington Carver in His Own Words . Columbia, Missouri: University of
Missouri, 1987. ISBN: 0826207855 (1991 paperback).
McMurry, Linda O. George
Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol . New York: Oxford University
Means, Florence Crannell. Carver's
George: A Biography of George Washington Carver . Boston: Houghton Mifflin,
Miller, Basil William. George Washington
Carver: God's Ebony Scientist . Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing
Podesta, James J. "George Washington
Carver, 1861(?)-1943." In Contemporary Black Biography: Profiles from
the International Black Community , edited by Barbara Carlisle Bigelow.
Detroit: Gale Group, 1994. ISBN: 0810385589.
Stanley, Phyllis M. American
Environmental Heroes. Springfield, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, 1996.
This paper was developed by a
student taking a Philanthropic Studies course taught at the Center on
Philanthropy at Indiana University. It is offered by Learning To Give
and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
This page may be reproduced for educational, noncommercial uses only, all other
A struggling peanut plant growing in heavy Alabama clay; a poor, black
orphan with no material resources; an ancient pecan tree standing solitary
sentry in a Georgia field: Many people would consider these at best mundane, at
worst pitiable. But George Washington Carver, eminent researcher and educator,
saw in all of these, and in much more, the very hand of God.
God's Little Workshop
The ability to discern the infinite in both the animate and inanimate
objects of his very finite world was one of Carver's unique hallmarks. In an
age where scientists had begun to view science and religion as mutually
exclusive, Carver stood out for his insistence that science provides proof of
God's existence. He was fond of paraphrasing the eighth chapter, 32nd verse of
the Gospel of John, "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make
you free," as, "And you shall know science and science shall set you
free, because science is truth." Or, more simply, "Science is simply
the truth about anything."
Carver's chemistry laboratory at Alabama's Tuskegee Institute, where he
investigated the chemical properties and economic possibilities of peanuts,
pecans, clay, soybeans, sweet potatoes and other substances, was filled with
vials, bottles, and insect, plant, mushroom and flower collections. He often
referred to his lab as "God's little workshop." He did not consider
himself a scientific genius--that is, he did not take credit for discovering
one or another product. Instead, he considered himself a conduit for divine
inspiration and revelation: "[I] ask the Great Creator ... to permit me to
speak to Him through the three great Kingdoms of the world, which He has
created, viz.--the animal, mineral and vegetable Kingdoms."
Nor was Carver reticent about how he worked. In 1924, he spoke to an
audience at a church in New York City, saying "I never have to grope for
methods: the method is revealed at the moment I am inspired to create something
new." The New York Times, strongly disagreeing with Carver's…
for Christian Colleges and Universities
and suggestions TO FARMERS: GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER AND RURAL CONSERVATION IN
His reputation as "the Peanut Man"
notwithstanding, George Washington Carver was very much a part of the nascent
conservation movement during the Progressive Era. From the Tuskegee Institute,
he sought to persuade black farmers that altering their environmental behavior
could mitigate, to some extent, the economic and political vicissitudes they
faced as a result of their race. His campaign on behalf of impoverished black
farmers provides an instructive case study of how one strand of Progressive
conservation was undone by its failure to adequately navigate the intersection
of the South's land use and social and political institutions.
GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER remains a staple of elementary
and junior high school social-studies classes, but academic historians have paid
scant attention to him in recent decades. Indeed, the last time Carver
excited much interest among them was during the 1970s when they debunked his
reputation as a scientist and recast him as an Uncle Tom for his relative
silence on racial injustice in the nation.1
In 1981, Linda O. McMurry rectified this depiction to a considerable extent
in her excellent and balanced biography, George Washington Carver:
Scientist and Symbol. With its publication, historians seemingly
considered the matter closed.2
Most apparently agreed with David Herbert Donald's conclusion that Carver was
"no longer part of our usable past."3
Such a conclusion is
short-sighted for many reasons, most especially because these critiques of
Carver were directed more at the myths surrounding him than his actual
achievements. The mythical Carver was "the Peanut Man," a cultural
icon that emphasized and inflated his scientific discoveries and obscured the
legitimate reasons for historians to consider him.4
In the swirl of accolades and tributes that had accompanied his rise to fame
as a "creative chemist," much of Carver's lasting significance had
The dearth of interest in
Carver among environmental historians is particularly lamentable. Carver
spent the better part of his life thinking about the interaction of people
and the natural world and making contributions to the development of sustainable
agricultural techniques, but environmentalists remain only vaguely aware of
his environmental vision. Believing it to be "fundamental that nature
will drive away those who com-mit sins against it," Carver attempted to
persuade southerners that their region's economic salvation lay in the
adoption of more sustainable agricultural methods. (Despite his depiction as
an Uncle Tom figure, he in fact took subtle jabs at the Jim Crow institutions
of the South when he enjoined southern farmers to "be kind to the
soil," reminding them that "unkindness to any-thing means an
injustice done to that thing."5)
His particular concern was the plight of impoverished black farmers in the
region, and over the course of his first decades at Tuskegee Institute, he
waged a campaign aimed at persuading them that they could defend themselves
against the economic and political vicissitudes they faced as a result of
their race by turning to the natural environment. Consequently, Carver offers
a unique lens through which historians can catch a glimpse of Progressive-era
efforts to navigate the intersection of land use, race, and poverty in the
rural South as part of the larger conservation movement.
about George Washington Carver, as well as a very extensive reading
Born near Diamond
Grove, Missouri, probably in 1864 but possibly as early as 1861. Youngest of
1 sister, 2 brothers. Slave father Giles died before birth. Slave mother Mary
kidnapped during George's infancy. Raised by Moses and Susan Carver. As youth
attended African Methodist and Presbyterian churches. Childhood distinctions:
ingenious, restless. Never married. 1874 had mystical experience with
pocketknife. 1875 moved to Neosho to begin school. 1877 moved to Fort Scott,
Kansas. 1879 left Fort Scott after black man lynched. 1880 lived Minneapolis,
Kansas, through high school. 1885 refused admission by Highland College. 1886
homesteaded in Ness County, Kansas. 1890 abandoned homestead, entered Simpson
College (Iowa). 1891 entered Iowa State. 1892 won awards for painting. 1893
first scientific paper: 'Grafting the Cacti'. 1894 graduated college. 1896
Master's Degree Botany (Iowa State), accepted position Tuskegee Institute
(Alabama). 1903 began classic studies on peanut. 1906 started 'Jesup
Agricultural Wagon'. 1915 Booker T. Washington died. 1916 international
recognition (Royal Fellow of Britain). 1921 dazzled U.S. Congress with
presentation on peanuts. 1923 Springarn Medal. 1924 lambasted by liberal
papers for religious beliefs. 1930's as national figure broke color barrier
by speaking in many southern white colleges. 1938 health began to fail. 1939
opened his Tuskegee museum. 1942 fall worsened health. Died January 5, 1943,
in Tuskegee, where he is buried.
Go to this page to learn five values that made him a hero of
Go to this page to find links to other websites about this hero.
Go to this page to give your opinion of this hero.
In association with Amazon.com.
Order key books by clicking:
BY GEORGE WASHINGTON
CARVER: Kremer, G. R. (ed.), George
Washington Carver: In His Own Words. Columbia:
Univ. of Missouri Press, 1987. Many scientific
publications exist but may be difficult to find. 1893 'Grafting the Cacti', in Transactions Iowa Horticulture Society.
1894 'Best Bulbs for the Amateur', in Transactions Iowa Horticulture Society.
1894 'Plants modified by man', Senior thesis Iowa State university.
1895 (with L. H. Pammel) 'Fungus Diseases of Plants at Ames, Iowa,'
Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science. Among his 44 years of Tuskegee Institute Experimental Station
papers are the following: 1898 Bulletin 1: Feeding Acorns.
1898 Bulletin 2: Experiments with Sweet Potatoes.
1901 Bulletin 3: Fertilizer Experiments with Cotton.
1902 Bulletin 4: Some Cercosporae of Macon County, Alabama.
1903 Bulletin 5: Cow Peas.
1905 Bulletin 6: How to Build Up Worn Out Soils.
1906 Bulletin 8: Successful Yields of Small Grains.
1906 Bulletin 10: Saving the Sweet Potato.
1907 Bulletin 12: Saving the Wild Plum Crop.
1909 Bulletin 16: Some Ornamental Plants of Macon County, Alabama.
1910 Bulletin 18: Nature Study and Gardening for Rural Schools.
1911 Bulletin 21: White and Color Washing with Native Clays from Macon
1912 Bulletin 24: The Pickling and Curing of Meat in Hot Weather.
1913 Bulletin 25: A Study of the Soils of Macon County...and Their
Adaptability to Certain Crops.
1915 Bulletin 27: When, What and How to Can and Preserve Fruits and
Vegetables in the Home.
1916 Bulletin 31: How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing It for
1916 Bulletin 32: Three Delicious Meals Every Day for the Farmer.
1917 Bulletin 33: Twelve Ways to Meet the New Economic Conditions Here in
1918 Bulletin 36: How to Grow the Tomato and 115 Ways to Prepare It for
1918 Bulletin 37: How to Make Sweet Potato Flour, Starch, Sugar, Bread and
1927 Bulletin 39: How to Make nd Save Money on the Farm.
1935 Bulletin 40: The Raising of Hogs, One of the Best Ways to Fill the
Empty Dinner Pail.
1936 Bulletin 41: Can Livestock Be Raised Profitably in Alabama?
1936 Bulletin 42: How to Build Up and Maintain the Virgin Fertility of Our
1942 Bulletin 43: Nature's Garden for Victory and Peace. Many articles
(especially on peanuts) are in Peanut Journal and similar trade
ABOUT THE LIFE AND TIMES OF GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER: Burchard, Peter, George Washington Carver: A Great Soul.
Serpent Wise, 1998. PB
Burchard, Peter, large George Washington Carver (major biography not
Calhoun, William G. (ed.), Fort Scott: A Pictorial History.Bourbon
Historic Preservation Assoc., 1978.
Centennial Committee, History of Ottawa County, Kansas, 1864-1984.
Centennial Committee, 1984.
Clark, Glenn, The Man Who Talks With Flowers: the Life Story of Dr.
Washington Carver. Macalester Pub., 1939.
Dick, Everett, The Sod-house Frontier, 1854-1890. New York:D.
Elliott, Lawrence, George Washington Carver: The Man Who Overcame.
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,
Holt, Rackham, George Washington Carver: An American Biography. New
Doubleday and Co., 1943.
Johnston, Sir Harry, The Negro in the New World, 1910.
Lupton, Frank, Farmer's & Housekeeper's Cyclopaedia, 1888. New
York: F. M. PB
Lupton, 1888. Reprint Crossing Press, 1977.
McMurry, Linda O., George Washington Carver: Scientist and Symbol. New
Oxford University Press, 1981.
Millbrook, Minnie D., History of Ness, Western County, Kansas.
Miner, Craig, West of Wichita: Settling the High Plains of Kansas,
Univ. Press of Kansas, 1986.
Perry, John, Unshakable Faith: Booker T. Washington and George
Washington HC Carver, a Biography. Multnomah, 1999.
Reude, Howard, Sod-house Days: letters from a Kansas homesteader, 1877-78.
Columbia Un. Press, 1937.
Smith, Alvin D., George Washington Carver: Man of God. NewYork:
Toogood, Anna C., Historic Resource Study and Administrative History,
Washington Carver National Monument, Diamond, Missouri.
Trexler, Harrison A., Slavery in Missouri, 1804-1865. AMS Press,
Wallace, Henry A., The Reminiscences of Henry Wallace.
Washington, Booker T., My Larger Education. New York: Doubleday,
Company, Inc., 1911.
Washington, Booker T., Up From Slavery. New York: Doubleday,
Wellman, Sam. George Washington Carver. Barbour, 1998.
Winters, Donald L., Henry Cantwell Wallace, as Secretary of
Yearbook of Agriculture, After A Hundred Years. Washington,
D.C.: U. S. Dept.
Agriculture, 1962. Many very
significant first-hand sources remain unpublished: Guzman, Jessie P., 'Investigative Trip Interview Notes', 1948
manuscript in GWC Papers
at Tuskegee Institute Archives.
Fuller, Robert P. and Merrill J. Mattes, 'The Early Life of George Washington
manuscript in GWC Papers at Tuskegee Institute Archives.
Crisp, Lucy Cherry, 'Notes of Interview with George Washington Carver':
but 1930's) in Lucy Cherry Crisp Papers in East Carolina
MS Collection, Greenville, N. C..
Carver, George Washington, 'Written Responses to Questionaire by Crisp',
in Lucy Cherry Crisp Papers in East Carolina MS
Collection, Greenville, N. C..
Milholland, Mrs., 'Notes on George Washington Carver', undated manuscript in
Crisp Papers in East Carolina MS Collection, Greenville,
In 1921 when George
Washington Carver testified on uses of the peanut before the Ways and Means
Committee of the House of Representatives the Committee Chairman grudgingly
granted him 10 minutes. But not only was George a spell-binding speaker -
mixing humor and fact with perfect timing - he had developed 300 uses of
the peanut. Two hours later George finished his presentation to thunderous
Washington Carver The Man, The Scientist, The Genius (DVD) $20.00
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
Occupation - Agricultural chemist
Awards - Spingarn Medal of the
NAACP, 1923; Theodore Roosevelt Medal, 1939.
George Washington Carver (1864-1943)
started his life as a slave and ended it as a respected and world-renowned
Born in Kansas Territory near
Diamond Grove, Mo., during the bloody struggle between free-soilers and
slaveholders, George Washington Carver became the kidnap victim of night
riders. With his mother and brother, James, he was held for ransom; but before
they could be rescued the mother died. Merely a babe in arms, Carver was
ransomed for a $300 racehorse by Moses Carver, a German farmer. Thus he was
orphaned and left in the custody of a white guardian from early childhood.
Carver had responsibility for his
own education. His first school was in Neosho, Iowa, some 9 miles from his
home. Neosho had once been a Confederate capital; by now it had become the site
of the Lincoln School for African American children. With James he walked there
every day. His first teacher was an African American, Stephen S. Frost. He and
his brother went faithfully to school for several years. Finally James tired of
formal schooling and quit to become a house painter, but not George. He continued
until he was 17. Then he went on to complete his high school work in
Carver really wished to become an
artist. His sketch of the rose Yucca gloriosa won him a first prize at
the World's Columbian Exposition (1893).
Carver applied to study at the Iowa
State College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts but was turned down when it
was learned that he was of African heritage. He then applied to Simpson College
at Indianola, Iowa, where he was the second African American to be admitted.
Tuition was $12 a year, but even this small amount was hard to come by. Carver
raised the money by working as a cook at a hotel in Winterset, Iowa.
After 3 years' attendance at Simpson
College, he once again applied for admission to Iowa State. He was admitted and
was placed in charge of the greenhouse of the horticultural department while
doing graduate work. He earned his master's degree in agriculture in 1896.
In April 1896 Carver received a
unique offer from the African American educator Booker T.
Washington to teach at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Said Dr. Washington:
"I cannot offer you money, position or fame. The first two you have. The
last from the position you now occupy you will no doubt achieve. These things I
now ask you to give up. I offer you in their place: work--hard, hard work, the
task of bringing a people from degradation, poverty, and waste to full manhood.
Your department exists only on paper and your laboratory will have to be in
Carver accepted the challenge. He
arrived at the tiny railroad station at Chehaw, Ala., on Oct. 8, 1896. In a
report to Dr. Washington he wrote: "8:00 to 9:00 A.M., Agricultural
Chemistry; 9:20 to 10:00 A.M., the Foundation of Colors (for painters); 10:00
to 11:00 A.M., a class of farmers. Additional hours in the afternoon. In
addition I must oversee and rather imperfectly supervise seven industrial
classes, scattered here and there over the grounds. I must test all seeds,
examine all fertilizers, based upon an examination of soils in different
Through the years Carver was gaining
national and international stature. Chinese and Japanese farmers raised many
unique problems for him. Questions were referred to him from Russia, India,
Europe, South America. He later had to turn down a request to journey to the
Soviet Union. In 1916 he was elected a member of the Royal Society for the
Encouragement of Arts in England; he went to Washington to the War Department
to demonstrate his findings on the sweet potato in 1918. He was awarded the
Spingarn Medal of the NAACP in 1923.
An early close friend of Carver was
Henry A. Wallace; the pair knew each other for 47 years. Wallace said that
Carver often took him on botanical expeditions, and it was he who first
introduced Wallace to the mysteries of plant fertilizers. Carver was a shy and
modest bachelor. An attack of whooping cough as a child had permanently caused
him to have a high-pitched tenor voice. He considered it a high duty to attend
classes and was seldom absent. In 1908 he returned to the West to visit his
96-year-old guardian, Moses Carver, and to visit the grave of his brother,
James, in Missouri.
A careful and modest scientist,
Carver was not without a sense of humor. When one of his students, hoping to
play a trick on him, showed him a bug with wings of a fly and body of a
mosquito, Carver was quick to label it "a humbug."
Carver utilized the materials at
hand. He was interested in crop rotation and soil conservation. From the clay
soil of Alabama he extracted a full range of dyestuffs, including a brilliant
blue. He created 60 products from the pecan. From the common sweet potato he
extracted a cereal coffee, a shoe polish, paste, oils--about 100 products. From
the peanut he developed over 145 products. Carver suggested peanuts, pecans,
and sweet potatoes replace cotton as money crops. He published all of his
findings in a series of nearly 50 bulletins.
The testimony of Carver before the
congressional House Ways and Means Committee in 1921 led to the passage of the
Fordney-McCumber Tariff Bill of 1922. Scheduled to speak a scant 10 minutes, he
was granted several time extensions because of the intense interest in his
presentation. (He appeared in a greenish-blue suit many seasons old, having
refused to invest in a new suit: "They want to hear what I have to say;
they will not be interested in how I look.")
In 1935 Carver was chosen to
collaborate with the Bureau of Plant Industry of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture. He received the Theodore Roosevelt Medal in 1939 for distinguished
achievement in science. During his lifetime Carver had made many friends. Henry
Ford was his frequent host. Carver was a treasured friend of Thomas A. Edison.
It was Edison who offered to make him independent with his own laboratories and
an annual stipend of $50,000. Other intimates of his were Luther Burbank,
Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs. He was also a friend of three presidents:
Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Dr. Carver had earned the salary of
$125 a month from the beginning until the end of his service at Tuskegee. He
might have had much more. In 1940 he gave his life-savings, $33,000, to
establish the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee Institute to
perpetuate research in agriculture and chemistry. He later bequeathed his
entire estate to the foundation, making a total of about $60,000. He died on
Jan. 5, 1943.
At the dedication of a building in
his honor at Simpson College, Dr. Ralph Bunche, Nobel Prize winner, pronounced
Dr. Carver to be "the least imposing celebrity the world has ever
known." Dr. Carver's birthplace was made a national monument on July 14,
Of the many studies of Carver the
best is Rackham Holt, George Washington Carver: An American Biography
(1943). Also useful is Shirley Graham and George D. Lipscomb, Dr. George
Washington Carver, Scientist (1944).
When Peanut Corp. of America CEO
Stewart Parnell took
the Fifth this week instead of telling the House Committee on Energy and
Commerce why he let salmonella-tainted peanut butter kill eight people (so
far) and sicken thousands, the setting was ironic.
It was before another House
committee (Ways and Means) in 1921 that the peanut’s greatest promoter,
George Washington Carver, sprung onto the national scene
with willing, winning, inventive testimony that helped propelled the lowly
product of the South to prominence and many uses in the food industry.
It was a different story on
Wednesday: Parnell cemented his status as a pariah to the food industry
and beyond with his repeated refusal to answer the committee’s questions
about what he knew of his plants’ poisoned peanuts and the suffering his
company has caused:
Mr. Chairman and members of the
committee, on the advice of my counsel, I respectfully decline to answer your
question based on the protection afforded me under the United States
Parnell’s appearance took place in a
committee hearing room in Washington, D.C. So did Carver’s, 88 years earlier.
But in every other way the scene this week couldn’t have been farther
triumphant Jan. 21, 1921, debut on
the national stage on behalf of the peanut.
I do not know of a single case —
that is, I mean [a] normal [person] — that complains because peanuts hurt them.
A transcript of his testimony
appears in a 1991 book called “George Washington Carver:
In His Own Words,” and all but two of 12 pages can be read online.
Here are a few excerpts from his charming remarks (even in the face of racist
Mr. CARVER: Mr. Chairman, I have
been asked by the United Peanut Growers’ Association to tell you something
about the possibility of the peanut … [T]he peanut comes in, I think, for one
of the most remarkable crops … [I]t has possibilities that we are just
beginning to find out.
This is the crushed cake … which may
be used in all sorts of combinations — for flours and meals and breakfast foods
and a great many things that I have not time to touch upon just now…. This is
another confection. It is peanuts covered with chocolate. As I passed through
Greensboro, S.C, I noticed in one of the stores that this was displayed on the
market, and, as it is understood better, more of it is going to be made up into
this form. Here is a breakfast food. I am very sorry that you can not taste
this, so I will taste it for you. [Laughter] Now this is a combination and, by
the way, one of the finest breakfast foods that you or anyone else has ever
seen. It is a combination of the sweet potato and the peanut, and if you will
pardon a little digression here I will state that the peanut and the sweet
potato are twin brothers and cannot and should not be separated. They are two
of the greatest products that God has ever given us.
Mr. [John Q.] TILSON [R-Conn.]: Do
you want a watermelon to go along with that? …
Mr. CARVER: Here is the original
salted peanut, for which there is an increasing demand, and here is a very fine
peanut bar. The peanut bar is coming into prominence in a way that very few of
us recognize, and the manufacturers of this peanut bar have learned that it is
a very difficult matter to get a binder for it, something to stick it together.
That is found in the sweet potato syrup. …
Now there is an entirely new thing
in the way of combinations. It is a new thing for making ice cream … a very new
product that is going to have considerable value. …
I wish to say here in all sincerity
that America produces better peanuts than any other part of the world, as far
as I have been able to test them out. …
Here is a bottle of milk that is
extracted from peanuts. Now, it is absolutely impossible to tell that milk from
cow’s milk in looks and general appearance. This is normal milk. …
Now here is a very attractive
product — an instant coffee. … Here is a bottle of Worcestershire sauce. … Now
here is a very highly flavored sauce that imitates the Chinese sauce that
enters into chop suey and the various Chinese confections that they are so very
fond of. …
[T]he curds can be taken out and
made into the various fancy cheeses the Neufchatel and Edam …
Mr. CAREW: Did you make all of these
Mr. CARVER: Yes, sir. They are made
there in the research laboratory. That is what the research laboratory is for.
The sweet potato products now number
107 up to date. … The peanut products are going to beat the sweet-potato
products by far. I have just begun with the peanut. So what is going to come of
it why we do not know.
This is the very last thing. Now
this is a pomade. That is, it is a face cream and will be attractive to the
Mr. GARNER: I understood you to say
that the properties of the peanut combined with the properties of the sweet
potato was a balanced ration, and that you could destroy all other vegetable
life and continue to sustain the human race?
Mr. CARVER: Yes, sir. Because you
can make up the necessary food elements there. … Then again if we think of how
the peanut is used, it is the only thing that is universally used among
civilized and uncivilized people, and all sorts of animals like it, and I do
not know of a single case — that is, I mean normal — that complains because
peanuts hurt them.
Born to slavery in Missouri near the
end of the Civil War, George Washington
Carver graduated from high school in Minneapolis — Minneapolis, Kan., that
He spent the better part of the
1890s studying at Iowa State University before accepting Booker T. Washington’s
offer to head the agriculture department at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute.
Wish To Make Things Better Can Make All The Difference
As a botany and agriculture teacher
to the children of ex-slaves, Dr. George Washington Carver wanted to improve
the lot of "the man farthest down", the poor, one-horse farmer at the
mercy of the market and chained to land exhausted by cotton.
Unlike other agricultural
researchers of his time, Dr. Carver saw the need to devise practical farming
methods for this kind of farmer. He wanted to coax them away from cotton to
such soil-enhancing, protein-rich crops as soybeans and peanuts and to teach
them self-sufficiency and conservation.
Dr. Carver achieved this through an
innovative series of free, simply-written brochures that included information
on crops, cultivation techniques, and recipes for nutritious meals. He also
urged the farmers to submit samples of their soil and water for analysis and
taught them livestock care and food preservation techniques.
George Washington Carver (July
12, 1864 - January 5, 1943) was an American botanical researcher and agronomy
educator who worked in agricultural extension at the Tuskegee Institute in
Tuskegee, AL, teaching former slaves farming techniques for self-sufficiency.
To bring education to farmers, Carver designed a mobile school. It was called a
Jesup Wagon after the New York financier, Morris Ketchum Jesup, who provided
funding. In 1921, Carver spoke in favor of a peanut tariff before the House
Ways and Means Committee. Given racial discrimination of the time, it was
unusual for an African-American 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.
In the post-Civil-War South, an agricultural monoculture of cotton had depleted
the soil, and in the early 1900s, 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 existing 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
George was born of slave parents on
July 12, 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri a sickly child at birth he would
remain frail for most of his childhood. One night a band of raiders attacked
his family and stole George and his mother. Days later, George was found
unharmed by neighbors and was traded back to his owners in exchange for a race
horse. Because of his frailty, George was not suited for work in the fields but
he did possess a great interest in plants and was very eager to learn more
about them. Here on the farm is where George first fell in love with plants and
Mother Nature. He had his own little garden in the nearby woods where he would
talk to the plants. He soon earned the nickname, The Plant Doctor, and was
producing his own medicines right on the farm.
George's formal education started when he was twelve. He had, however, tried to
get into schools in the past but was denied on the basis of race. No black
school was available locally so he was forced to move. He said Good-bye to his
adopted parents, Susan and Moses Carter, and headed to Newton County in
southwest Missouri. Here is where the path of his education began. He studied
in a one-room schoolhouse and worked on a farm to pay for it. He ended up,
shortly after, moving with another family to Fort Scott in Kansas.
George Washington Carver devoted his
life to research projects connected primarily with southern agriculture. The
products he derived from the peanut and the soybean revolutionized the economy
of the South by liberating it from an excessive dependence on cotton. Carver
developed crop-rotation methods for conserving nutrients in soil and discovered
hundreds of new uses for crops such as the peanut, which created new markets
for farmers. He didn't just keep the best for himself; he gave it away freely
for the benefit of mankind. Not only did he achieve his goal as the world's
greatest agriculturist, but also he achieved the equality and respect of all.
Though denied admission to Highland University because of his race, Carver
gained acceptance to Simpson College in Indianola, IA, in 1890. He became well
respected for his artistic talent (in later days his art would be included in
the spectacular World's Columbian Exposition Art Exhibit.) Carver's interests,
however, lay more in science and he transferred from Simpson to Iowa
Agricultural College (which is now known as Iowa State University). He
distinguished himself so much that upon graduation in 1894 he was offered a
position on the school's faculty, the first Black accorded the honor. Carver
was allowed great freedom in working inagriculture and botany in the
In 1895, Carver co-authored a series of papers on the prevention and cures for
fungus diseases affecting cherry plants. In 1896 he received his master's
degree inagriculture and in 1897 discovered two funguses that would be named
after him. Later that year Booker T. Washington, founder of the Tuskegee
Institute, convinced Carver to come south and serve as the school's director
At Tuskegee, Carver developed his crop rotation method, which alternated nitrate
producing legumes-such as peanuts and peas-with cotton, which depletes soil of
its nutrients. Following Carver's lead, southern farmers soon began planting
peanuts one year and cotton the next. While many of the peanuts were used to
feed livestock, large surpluses quickly developed. Carver then developed 325
different uses for the extra peanuts-from cooking oil to printers ink. When he
discovered that the sweet potato and the pecan also enriched depleted soils,
Carver found almost 20 uses for these crops, including synthetic rubber and
material for paving highways.
He continued constantly working with
peanuts, sweet potatoes, and pecans trying to produce new products. He
developed more than 300 products from the peanut (including Peanut Butter), 175
from the sweet potato, and 60 from the pecan. He extracted blue, purple, and
red pigments from the clay soil of Alabama. He researched the manufacture of
synthetic marble from green wood shavings, rope from cornstalk fibers, and veneers
from the palmetto root. During WWI, he worked to replace the textile dyes that
were being imported from Europe. He ended up producing and replacing over 500
different shades. In 1927, he invented a process for producing paints and
stains from soybeans.
Although he did hold three patents, Carver never patented most of the many
discoveries he made while at Tuskegee, saying "God gave them to me, how
can I sell them to someone else?" Three different patents were issued: US
1,522,176 Cosmetics and Producing the Same. January . 6,1925 George Washington
Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama. US 1,541,478 Paint and Stain and Producing the Same.
June 9, 1925 George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama US 1,632,365 Producing
Paints and Stains June 14, 1927 George Washington Carver. Tuskegee, Alabama.
In 1935 he was appointed collaborator in the Division of Plant Mycology and
Disease Survey of the Bureau of Plant Industry of the U.S. Department
ofAgriculture . By 1938, peanuts had become a $200 million industry and a chief
product of Alabama. Carver also demonstrated that 100 different products could
be derived from the sweet potato.
In 1940 he donated over $60,000 of his life's savings to the George Washington
Carver Foundation and willed the rest of his estate to the organization so his
work might be carried on after his death. George Washington Carver died on
January 5, 1943 on the campus of Tuskegee Institute. He was honored by various
levels of State and Federal Government as well as by foreign leaders worldwide.
The United States government designated the farmland upon which he grew up as a
national monument and on January 5, 1946 asGeorge Washington Carver day. He was
truly a pioneer in his field and has become one of the few Black inventors
recognized by mainstream America.
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, advocacy
of sustainable agriculture and appreciation of plants and nature. He served as
a valuable role model for African-Americans and 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 have
also been widely admired.
One of his most important roles was that the fame of his achievements and many
talents undermined 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.
George Washington Carver's List
George Washington Carver 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
Be too brave to lie.
Be too generous to cheat.
Take your share of the world and let others take
Awards and Honors
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal
Society of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce of Britain in 1916, the Spingarn
Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in
1923, and in 1939 was awarded the Theodore Roosevelt Medal for
"distinguished research in agricultural chemistry." Man of the Year
in 1940 by the International Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists and
Technicians. Finally, he received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from
Simpson College as well as the University of Rochester. In 1990 he was inducted
into The National Inventor's Hall of Fame for his accomplishments.
George Washington Carver (1864-1943) started his life as a slave and
ended it as a respected and world-renowned agricultural chemist.
Born in Kansas Territory near Diamond Grove, Mo., during the bloody struggle
between free-soilers and slaveholders, George Washington Carver became the
kidnap victim of night riders. With his mother and brother, James, he was held
for ransom; but before they could be rescued the mother died. Merely a babe in
arms, Carver was ransomed for a $300 racehorse by Moses Carver, a German
farmer. Thus he was orphaned and left in the custody of a white guardian from
Carver had responsibility for his own education. His first school was in
Neosho, lowa, some 9 miles from his home. Neosho had once been a Confederate
capital; by now it had become the site of the Lincoln School for African
American children. With James he walked there every day. His first teacher was
an African American, Stephen S. Frost. He and his brother went faithfully to
school for several years. Finally James tired of formal schooling and quit to
become a house painter, but not George. He continued until he was 17. Then he
went on to complete his high school work in Minneapolis, Kans.
Carver really wished to become an artist. His sketch of the rose Yucca
gloriosa won him a first prize at the World's Columbian Exposition (1893).
Carver applied to study at the lowa State College of Agricultural and
Mechanical Arts but was turned down when it was learned that he was of African
heritage. He then applied to Simpson College at Indianola, lowa, where he was
the second African American to be admitted. Tuition was $12 a year, but even
this small amount was hard to come by. Carver raised the money by working as a
cook at a hotel in Winterset, lowa.
After 3 years' attendance at Simpson College, he once again applied for
admission to lowa State. He was admitted and was placed in charge of the
greenhouse of the horticultural department while doing graduate work. He earned
his master's degree in agriculture in 1896.
In April 1896 Carver received a unique offer from the African American
educator Booker T. Washington to teach at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Said
Dr. Washington: "I cannot offer you money, position or fame. The first two
you have. The last from the position you now occupy you will no doubt achieve.
These things I now ask you to give up. I offer you in their place: work—hard, hard work,
the task of bringing a people from degradation, poverty, and waste to full
manhood. Your department exists only on paper and your laboratory will have to
be in your head."
Carver accepted the challenge. He arrived at the tiny railroad station at
Chehaw, Ala., on Oct. 8, 1896. In a report to Dr. Washington he wrote:
"8:00 to 9:00 A.M., Agricultural Chemistry; 9:20 to 10:00 A.M., the
Foundation of Colors (for painters); 10:00 to 11:00 A.M., a class of farmers.
Additional hours in the afternoon. In addition I must oversee and rather
imperfectly supervise seven industrial classes, scattered here and there over
the grounds. I must test all seeds, examine all fertilizers, based upon an
examination of soils in different plots."
Through the years Carver was gaining national and international stature.
Chinese and Japanese farmers raised many unique problems for him. Questions
were referred to him from Russia, India, Europe, South America. He later had to
turn down a request to journey to the Soviet Union. In 1916 he was elected a
member of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts in England; he went
to Washington to the War Department to demonstrate his findings on the sweet
potato in 1918. He was awarded the Spingarn Medal of the NAACP in 1923.
An early close friend of Carver was Henry A. Wallace; the pair knew each
other for 47 years. Wallace said that Carver often took him on botanical
expeditions, and it was he who first introduced Wallace to the mysteries of
plant fertilizers. Carver was a shy and modest bachelor. An attack of whooping
cough as a child had permanently caused him to have a high-pitched tenor voice.
He considered it a high duty to attend classes and was seldom absent. In 1908
he returned to the West to visit his 96-year-old guardian, Moses Carver, and to
visit the grave of his brother, James, in Missouri.
A careful and modest scientist, Carver was not without a sense of humor.
When one of his students, hoping to play a trick on him, showed him a bug with
wings of a fly and body of a mosquito, Carver was quick to label it "a
Carver utilized the materials at hand. He was interested in crop rotation
and soil conservation. From the clay soil of Alabama he extracted a full range
of dyestuffs, including a brilliant blue. He created 60 products from the
pecan. From the common sweet potato he extracted a cereal coffee, a shoe
polish, paste, oils—about
100 products. From the peanut he developed over 145 products. Carver suggested
peanuts, pecans, and sweet potatoes replace cotton as money crops. He published
all of his findings in a series of nearly 50 bulletins.
The testimony of Carver before the congressional House Ways and Means
Committee in 1921 led to the passage of the Fordney-McCumber Tariff Bill of
1922. Scheduled to speak a scant 10 minutes, he was granted several time
extensions because of the intense interest in his presentation. (He appeared in
a greenish-blue suit many seasons old, having refused to invest in a new suit:
"They want to hear what I have to say; they will not be interested in how
In 1935 Carver was chosen to collaborate with the Bureau of Plant Industry
of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He received the Theodore Roosevelt Medal
in 1939 for distinguished achievement in science. During his lifetime Carver
had made many friends. Henry Ford was his frequent host. Carver was a treasured
friend of Thomas A. Edison. It was Edison who offered to make him independent
with his own laboratories and an annual stipend of $50,000. Other intimates of
his were Luther Burbank, Harvey Firestone, and John Burroughs. He was also a
friend of three presidents: Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Franklin
Dr. Carver had earned the salary of $125 a month from the beginning until
the end of his service at Tuskegee. He might have had much more. In 1940 he
gave his life-savings, $33,000, to establish the George Washington Carver
Foundation at Tuskegee Institute to perpetuate research in agriculture and
chemistry. He later bequeathed his entire estate to the foundation, making a
total of about $60,000. He died on Jan. 5, 1943.
At the dedication of a building in his honor at Simpson College, Dr. Ralph
Bunche, Nobel Prize winner, pronounced Dr. Carver to be "the least
imposing celebrity the world has ever known." Dr. Carver's birthplace was
made a national monument on July 14, 1953.
Of the many studies of Carver the best is Rackham Holt, George Washington
Carver: An American Biography (1943). Also useful is Shirley Graham and
George D. Lipscomb, Dr. George Washington Carver, Scientist (1944). □
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