Factoid #14: Hemp Farming and the $10 Bill
Hemp was in such demand at the turn of the 20th century, that in January of 1913, the USDA published it’s acclaimed “1913 Yearbook” that showcased hemp throughout the entire book. Written by Lyster H Dewey, Botanist in Charge of Fiber-Plant Investigations, Bureau of Plant Industry, it was the first of its kind to focus on industrial hemp as its premier cash crop.
Dewey wrote in such grave detail the importance and overall diversity of the hemp plant, from its history, to breeding, to global distribution, that its prominence as a major player in agriculture was undeniable. Hemp was so widely grown and accepted in American society at that time, that a year later in 1914, Congress would pass the printing of the $10 dollar bill commemorating the plant by printing a depiction of hemp being farmed on the reverse side opposite Andrew Jackson (who now resides on the $20 bill). In fact, the $10 bill was even made from hemp paper which was found to be incredibly durable and able to withstand decades of wear and tear. The House would also pass a bill that same year ensuring that industrial hemp would remain a non-controlled substance.
However, industrial hemp’s ultimate demise came about when Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, lumped industrial hemp together with recreational marijuana being quite ignorant of the difference between the two. (The leaves are identical.) Later, President Richard Nixon would add insult to injury by sealing the deal with the new DEA in an attempt to target minorities, Jews and entertainers known for their use of the two substances.