"Anything that can be made from hydrocarbons
(oil, coal, natural gas), can be made from carbohydrates (plant material)." - source unknown.
The above quote is again important because it dispels the
notion that we are dependent upon fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas) for
fuels, plastics and chemical feed-stocks in industry.
"Synthetic plastics were practically as old as
agriculture itself. They were made in the shadow of the pyramids from cooked starch,
and celluloid collars antedated the twentieth century, but it took a world war to disclose
their infinite potentialities to American industrialists. From 1918 on, the chemical
industry made greater technological advances than even the automobile or aviation, and the
great chemical companies which fed it, by getting in early, rapidly built up fabulous
fortunes." (p.323, GEORGE WASHINGTON
CARVER). Postcard Copyright 1989 Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI
The History Channel on cable television had a special show titled:
"PLASTIC." From this show came this general recipe for celluloid plastic:
+ Camphor (solvent) + Nitric Acid (NO3)
How does the hemp plant fit into
the plastic scheme? The white hemp hurds (shown left) or
sticks left when the fiber has been removed are 77% cellulose
and are 6 times the weight of the fiber. Hemp is the most
efficient crop for biomass and cellulose worldwide.
THE STORY OF CELLULOSICS: From the series
"Speaking of Plastics." 1963. Fry Plastics
International. Los Angeles, CA. 56 pages. Book
size 8 1/2 X 5 1/2 inches. This booklet I picked up
at a plastics store.
"Cellulosics is the pioneer
story in the history and growth of the great plastics industry
as we see it today .Because of the fact that during the middle
of the nineteenth century there was a shortage of ivory from
which to make billiard balls, one of the most important
and versatile industries was born."
In 1869, the Hyatt brothers, in
America, developed Cellulose Nitrate into a workable plastic
mass they patented. Called Celluloid it was first used for billiard balls,
dental plates, and collars and cuffs for shirts.
One interesting thing in looking at the
chemical composition of cellulose is remembering that the carbon
(C) of plant material such as cellulose is from carbon dioxide
(CO2) pulled from the atmosphere, where excess CO2 from fossil
fuel burning has created the greenhouse effect and is causing
global warming. When carbon is tied up in cellulose
plastic this process actually helps reverse global warming.
TYPICAL APPLICATIONS (1963) mentioned in the
Cellulosics book are from 100 different formulations and are
among the 50,000 viable industrial uses of the hemp
Toys, lampshades, vacuum cleaner parts,
combs, shoe heels .portable radio cases, pipe, tubing, tool
handles, appliance housing .telephone hand sets, pens, pencils,
edge moldings on cabinets .flashlights, frames, heel covers,
fabric coating, outdoor movie speakers, knobs .electrical
parts, packaging material, electrical insulation, photographic
film, outdoor and indoor signs .telephone wires, steering
wheels automobile arm rests, football helmets, pistol
grips .business machine keys, toothbrush handles, fish net
floats, fishing lures, hearing aid parts . optical frames,
floor sweeper parts, furniture trim, luggage, military
The greatest agricultural
researcher of all time, George Washington Carver got his name
from his slave owner's family. He discovered hundreds of
useful food stuffs and products using agriculture as his basic
resource. We could use the likes of Carver to research the
tens of thousands of uses of hemp.
HENRY FORD: A MAN
WHO USED HIS BEAN
Soybeans originally traveled to the United States
by ship when Samuel Bowen smuggled them from China in 1765. But it was
Henry Ford who put them in cars. When the Great Depression hit, it hit
farmers especially hard. Huge farm surpluses meant low crop prices and
dwindling income. All of a sudden, Henry Ford's best customers
-American farmers -could no longer afford his cars, trucks and tractors.
Ford knew that "if we want the farmer to be our customer, we must find a way
to be his." Figure out a way to use agricultural products in
industrial manufacturing, and everyone would benefit. He put his
chemists to work determining what products could be developed from plants.
After testing numerous crop plants, they narrowed their focus to soybeans.
Experimentation was soon rewarded with the discovery of soybean oil which
made a superior auto body enamel. Soybean meal was converted to
plastic used to make over 20 parts including horn buttons and gearshift
knobs. By 1936, Ford was using a bushel of soybeans in every car that
rolled off the line. But Henry Ford didn't stop there. While his
chefs developed a variety of tasty and nutritious American-style foods from
soy (including ice cream) Henry invented soybean "wool", a fiber half the
cost of sheep's wool. Soon a fabric containing 25% soybean wool was
being used to upholster many Ford autos. And on special occasions Mr.
Ford would sport a suit made of soybean fiber. - Our
thanks to Bill Shurtleff, Soyfoods Center.
On a White Wave carton as pictured at left.
There is of course the rest of the Henry Ford
story. He didn't stop with a few car parts, Ford predicted that
he would some day "grow automobiles from the soil."
Which he did after 12 years of research.
Henry Ford's plastic car p.99 - HEMP, Lifeline to the Future.
(Left), Popular Mechanics Magazine, Vol. 76,
No. 6, December,
1941. Title: Auto Body Made of Plastics
Resists Denting Under Hard Blows. (Text below)
(Left, same 1941 article
above). Henry Ford in straw hat. Here is the auto
Henry Ford "grew from the soil." Its plastic
panels, with impact strength 10 times greater than steel, were
made from flax, wheat, hemp, spruce pulp.
(left), Quarter scale model of Ford
plastic car and its welded tubular steel frame.
Popular Mechanics, 1941, text:
"After twelve years of research, the Ford Motor Company has
completed an experimental automobile with a plastic body.
Although its design takes advantage of the properties of
plastics, the streamline car does not differ greatly in
appearance from its steel
counterpart. The only steel in the
hand-made body is found in the tubular welded frame on which are
mounted 14 plastic panels, 3/16 inch thick. Composed of a
mixture of farm crops and synthetic chemicals, the plastic is
reported to withstand a blow 10 times as great as steel without
denting. Even the Windows and windshield are of
plastic. The total weight of the plastic car is about
2,000 pounds, compared with 3,000 pounds for a steel automobile
of the same size. Although no hint has been given as to
when plastic cars may go into production, the experimental model
is pictured as a step toward materialization of Henry Ford's
belief that some day he would "grow automobiles from the
"When Henry Ford
recently unveiled his plastic car, result of 12 years of
research, he have the world a glimpse of the automobile of
tomorrow, its tough panels molded under hydraulic pressure of
1,500 pounds per square inch from a recipe that calls for 70
percent of cellulose fibers from wheat straw, hemp, and sisal
plus 30 percent resin binder. The only steel in the car is
its tubular welded frame. The plastic car weighs a ton,
1,000 pounds lighter than a comparable steel car.
Manufacturers are already talking of a low-priced plastic car to
test the public's taste by 1943."
I was making energy pellets for a hemp museum
demonstration of the ability of hemp to burn. They were round
about 1/2 inch in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. I had an
iron fry pan heating and pressed a pellet onto the hot surface
with a dowel keeping it in motion. The pellet melted to
1/4 its thickness and looked like plastic (shown left).
The branding was done with a hot metal hemp leaf button.
The picture on the left shows the steps in
making the plastic like substance to the right. I bought
some imported hemp seed oil (left), filled the tall jar half
full of the oil. With a cloth cover, I left it in a south
window for two years to thicken in the sun. I then poured
the thick oil in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and placed it in
the sun for two days for a rubbery plastic sheet.
Topics to write on:
Some special words to look up are Parksine, Bakelite, Celluloid. Early
plastic was created to replace Ivory, Tortoise shell, and other natural substances.
George Washington Carver
Hemp: Lifeline . p. 82, 98,
If you would like to join the USA Hemp Museum
or communicate with the curator, send an