Hemp Rope and Twine

“Once upon a time, hemp rope was more famous than hemp flowers.”

CoiledHinbsktThe first hemp rope acquired for the U.S.A. Hemp Museum was the fine quality 10 mm untarred hemp rope from Denmark that forms the background for this room (shown at left coiled in a basket. This rope is imported into the U.S. and comes in a variety of sizes. The kind people at the U.S. Marine Maritime Museum of San Francisco helped me find a vendor in the U.S.


EarlySeaTrvlHow early did our ancestors make ropes? The discovery of wood working tools on the island of Flores in Indonesia shows that early man made rafts of bamboo lashed together probably with vines or rawhide ropes. Could hemp ropes have been far behind?

Hemp rope, twine and fishnets probably predate the weaving of fabric. Hemp rope and saddles set up a human to horse relationship that exists to the present. The oldest saddle ever found was made of hemp by the Scythians of the Siberian steppes, thousands of years ago.

StoryofRope2 StoryofRope3 StoryofRope1

HropesailsCHRT The history of hemp rope in sailing the seas extends back many thousands of years.




SSRopesRigThe rigging of the Hawaiian Chief in Long Beach Harbor gives an idea of the many ropes of a modern day tall sailing ship.



ropesSSlrgIt is amazing the amount of rope needed to operate one of these wind powered tall ships.
ropesSScuOn a modern sailing ship you can find several different kinds of rope. Little hemp is used due to availability and cost. Ending hemp prohibition ends the price problem because hemp is an easily renewable resource material that can produce up to 4 crops a year.


SpyglasropeThe thick rope and macrama© spyglass cover are from a shot taken off the History Channel series of Great Ships.




TrebuchetBack on the plain the trebuchets were being swiftly assembled by groups of engineers.  The trebuchets looked ungainly – oversized slingshots with heavy wooden beams bracing the armature for the firing paddle, which was winched back by stout hemp ropes, then released to snap upward, flinging its payload over the castle walls.” [A.D. 1357]

A.D. 1783. Joseph Michel Montgolfier (1740-1810), famed papermaker of France, invented first practical balloon.
[Want to bet hemp was there?]

BalloLowe1Official U.S. Post Office envelope commemorating the American balloonist Thaddeus Lowe (1832 – 1913). (pictured below on reverse side of envelope.)


BalloLowe2Thaddeus Lowe stands next to the hemp rope covered balloon sack made of silk.
The large flexible hoses for hydrogen are likely hemp.

BallonCivWarHemp Museum picture of the same balloon being filled by portable hydrogen generators during the Civil War.

Lowe stayed aloft in the balloon over the battle, out of range of the guns.


EQHMills71Textile arts magazine, 1942.  For the world war ii war effort, 71 hemp mills will be built in 1943, producing 150,000 tons of fiber for essential military and civilian cordage.




MuseRopesATLgSome of the museum ropes from Holland, Denmark, and Hungry are shown here (left & above). The unbraided end of a large rope (left center) shows the many yarns that make up one large rope.



HfendersThese Hemp Museum “fenders” are hung over the side of boats and ships to serve as bumpers when docked. They show the beautiful golden color of natural hemp. From Holland.



HropetwArrayThese small ropes and twines of the Hemp Museum are all made of hemp. The long fibers of hemp, running the length of the stalk, are ideal for rope and twine. From Holland and China.



FishingLineSometimes items are collected for the hemp museum I suspect are hemp, but don’t know for sure. This braided fishing line is such an item. Fishing line and fish nets are possibly one of the oldest uses for the hemp plant by humans. In hunting and gathering societies, food rules.

MacrameTwineSamples of dyed hemp macrama© twine.





twinebasketHemp twine basket made in Hawaii.





HDogCollarHemp twine dog collars. The one with the red bead is a commercial product. The small one was made by the curator for the hemp museum.



JumpRopermdCurator with one of his hemp jump ropes, with hemp twine handles.





LARope-A-DopeFor the Hemp Rope and Twine Room we have our rope related pot brand label from the 1980’s. Thanks to Anonymous for the contribution of labels to the museum.



LAStonedPonyAnother brand label from the 1980’s showing why horses are so mellow. This one may be from the Siberian steppes where hemp grows wild to this day. More labels are found in other rooms, adding a little humor, color and creativity to the Hemp Museum.



THE CHILD’S BOOK OF NATURE. By Worthington Hooker, M.D. 1888. Harper & Brothers, New York. In Chapter XXX, More About Electricity, Hooker explains Benjamin Franklin’s experiment by which he discovered that lightning and electricity are the same thing. Franklin sent his silk kite up in a thunderstorm with a pointed iron wire attached to the kite and the string. The silk was a non-conductor, while the string conducted the electricity to the ground. “But he managed to prevent the electricity from coming to his hand. He stopped it on the way. He did this by tying a silk ribbon to the hemp string, and holding the kite by this ribbon, as you see in the picture. The electricity could not go through this silk, and so it stayed in the hemp string.”

KiteBF1754FRANKLIN’S EXPERIMENT, JUNE 1752. “Demonstrating the Identity of Lightning and Electricity, From Which He Invented the Lightning Rod. From “Currier & Ives,” Ed. by John L. Pratt, 1968.


“Dr. Franklin now fastened a key to the end of the hemp string. A great deal of the electricity now passed to the key, because the metal of which the key was made was so good a conductor. When Franklin put his knuckle near the key, he received a shock from it.”

These experiments by Franklin suggested the use of lightning rods, which he invented. A lightning rod saved the museum curator’s house, when a homemade lightning rod carried a huge bolt of lightning to a metal rod pounded eight feet into the ground. The blast was tremendous, but only two radios were lost, thanks to Ben.


TwineInStoreHemp twine for sale in a California hemp store.





HTwineJewelHemp twine jewelry display in a California hemp store.




HyarnSpoolHemp yarn from China, sitting on Medium Density Fiberboard of Hemp from Poland.