George Washington Carver was a
great scientist, educator and humanitarian. He serves as a role model for
persistence, determination, and the value of imagination and inspiration in all
aspects of our lives.
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.
At Tuskegee Institute, 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.
George Washington Carver was born into slavery during the Civil War, in the
midst of bloody guerrilla warfare in Missouri . A tiny, sickly baby, he was soon
orphaned, and his very survival beyond infancy was against the laws of nature.
That he, an African American, became the first and greatest chemurgist, almost
single-handedly revolutionized Southern agriculture, and received world acclaim
for his contributions to agricultural chemistry was against all accepted
patterns. But, seen from today's distance, possibly the most amazing facet of
the life of this gentle genius is the manner in which he overcame enormous
prejudices and poverty in his struggle from nameless black boy to George
Washington Carver, B.S., M.S., D.Sc., Ph.D., Fellow of the Royal Society of
Arts, London, and Director of Research and Experiment at Tuskegee Institute,
Alabama -- all without a trace of bitterness, with total indifference to
personal fortune, and thought only to make the world, and America in particular,
a better place for all mankind.
George Washington Carver Video Clip From The Phoenix Group
George Washington Carver did not know the exact date of his birth, but he
thought it was in January, 1864 (some evidence indicates July, 1861, but not
conclusively). He knew it was sometime before slavery was abolished in Missouri
, which occurred in January, 1865. (The Emancipation Proclamation freed only
those slaves whose masters were "in rebellion against the United States ," which
was not the case in Missouri , where slaves were finally freed by state action.)
George grew up on the farmlands of Missouri , reared by his mother until her
seizure by a band of raiders; and then by Moses and Susan Carver , his mother's
former owners, who had a homestead near Diamond Grove. Because the frail little
boy was not required to help with the heavy farm chores, he had many free
daylight hours in which to do exactly as he chose, and he chose to explore the
wonders of nature. He talked to the wildflowers, asking why some of them
required sunlight and some didn't, and how roots that looked exactly alike
produced different-colored blossoms, and, he said many years later, the flowers
answered him as best they could. He investigated insects, tree bark, leaves,
ferns, seeds, and the like and made all of them his precious playthings. He
tended the roses, sweet peas, and geraniums around the Carver house, and they
flourished so strikingly a visitor asked him what she might do to make her
flowers prettier. "Love them" the boy answered.
Word spread around Diamond Grove that "Carver's George " had a magic way with
growing things, and people began calling him the Plant Doctor. He made house
calls, either prescribing remedies for ailing plants or taking them to his
secret garden in the woods where he tenderly nursed them. His "magic" with
growing things was largely the result of his patient testing of different
combinations of sand, loam and clay as potting soil for various plants, his
experimentation with different amounts of sunlight and water, and his tracking
down of damaging insects and the like. When the Carver's finest apple tree began
withering, George crawled along its limbs until he found some on which colonies
of codling moths had taken up residence. "Saw off those branches," he told Moses
Carver , "and the tree will get well." And it did.
Occasionally, George and his older brother Jim were allowed to go with Moses to
Neosho , the county seat, about eight miles from Diamond Grove. Once, to George
's surprise, he saw a line of colored children straggling into a log
schoolhouse. When the door closed behind them, he crept up to it and listened.
They were reciting lessons, just like the white children at Locust Grove. He
peeped through a knothole. The Negro teacher was reading to the pupils just like
the white teacher at Locust Grove. It was, truly, a school for Negro children.
George , who was 11 at the time, knew he had to attend that school.
Back at the Carver house, the boy told Moses , Susan and Jim that he was going
to move to Neosho so he could go to school. They asked him where he would sleep
and how he would eat. He replied that he would find a place where he could sweep
and wash clothes and do the other things Susan had taught him in exchange for
his board. They did not try to stop him, and early one morning they watched him
start, alone, down the dusty road toward Neosho . He carried the best of his
rock collection and a clean shirt in a bundle slung over his shoulder, and a
package of food -- loaves of baked corn bread and strips of home-cured fat meat
sandwiched in the middle -- under his arm. He turned once and waved a skinny
arm, and then he was gone, driven by a deep yearning for the education that
would help him find answers to all the questions buzzing in his mind.
George 's courage wavered after he got to the county seat, and he wandered up
and down the streets until dark without speaking to anyone. Then, exhausted, he
crawled into the loft of a barn near the schoolhouse, nestled down into the hay
and fell asleep. At dawn the next morning, he ventured from the loft and crawled
atop the woodpile in the yard behind a neat frame house next door to the school.
The yard was grassy and had flowers in it, and that, to George , made it a good
place to wait for the schoolhouse to be opened.
Suddenly, the back door of the house opened and a Black woman came into the
yard. She asked the big-eyed, frightened boy who he was and where he had come
from. He stammered that he was Carver's George and he had come from the Moses
Carver farm to Neosho to go to school so that he could find out what made snow
and hail, and whether the color of a flower could be changed by changing the
seed. The woman, Mariah Watkins , told him she doubted if he could find out
those things in Neosho , or even in Joplin or Kansas City , but that she had a
feeling he would learn them somewhere. She had him scrub at the pump, and then
took him inside and served him breakfast along with her husband, Andrew .
Mariah was a midwife and washerwoman, and Andrew was a hard-working odd-jobs
man. They were a religious couple, well thought of in the county seat. They told
George they had no children and that he could stay with them and go to school if
he'd work. Overjoyed, the boy began listing all the household chores the Carvers
had taught him to do. "That's fine," Mariah interrupted. "You call us Aunt
Mariah and Uncle Andrew , and listen now, don't ever again say your name is
Carver's George . It's George Carver . Now run to school, and come back at noon
for a bit of lunch."
With his keen, retentive mind and restless curiosity, little George was soon
making faster progress than any of the other seventy-five pupils packed in
Neosho's Lincoln School for Colored Children. And he was the happiest. He didn't
join in the rough-and-tumble play in the schoolyard, but he was blissfully
satisfied sitting alone in a corner, drawing pictures on his slate, while the
other youngsters played. At home, he had a reader or speller propped in front of
him even while he scrubbed cloths or washed dishes. He became expert at ironing
-- even though he read while doing that, too.
By the end of 1876, George Carver had learned everything the teacher at the
Lincoln School knew and everything in the books available to the school, and the
teacher gave him a certificate of merit saying just about that. The 13-year-old
boy faced the sad fact that, to continue his education, he would have to leave
his happy life with Aunt Mariah and Uncle Andrew and his warm association with
brother Jim , who had also moved to Neosho . He heard some neighborhood Blacks
say they were going to move to Fort Scott , Kansas , a comparatively large town
about seventy-five miles from Neosho . He offered to tend the mules along the
way if they would let him ride in their wagon, and they agreed.
George Carver nearly starved before he found a job in Fort Scott . When he did
find one, as a cook in a private residence, it did not leave him time to attend
school. He lived in a tiny room under the back steps of the house, and saved
every penny of his meager wages. As soon as he thought he had enough to carry
him through a term of school, he quit the job as a cook. He rented a lean-to
behind the stagecoach depot for a dollar a week, and enrolled at a big brick
school which taught subjects he had never even heard of before. He allowed
himself a dollar a week for food and bought almost nothing else. He studied by
candlelight far into each night, and he read every book, pamphlet, and newspaper
he could acquire.
By the end of the term he was penniless. He worked all summer washing and
ironing bed linen for the hotel and doing laundry for businessmen and ranchers
who came and went by stagecoach. By fall, he had enough money saved to go back
It was a lonely life, and George was sometimes the object of cruelty and
prejudice. After his schoolbooks were taken from him and destroyed by two white
boys, he had to finish a school term without textbooks. He wrote long afterward,
"Sunshine was profusely intermingled with shadows, such as are naturally cast on
a defenseless orphan . . ." and they went on to tell that many people were kind
to him and that he began to make friends over his laundry tub and bar of soap.
During George's second year in Fort Scott, he worked a few hours a day for a
colored blacksmith, sweeping the stable and grooming and delivering newly shod
horses. Late one afternoon, returning to his room from the blacksmith shop, he
watched in horror as a Negro man was dragged from the jail and lynched. During
the night, the troubled boy bundled up his few belongings and fled from Fort
Scott , never to return.
During the next several years, George moved through the Western country, always
managing to attend school. In the spring of 1885, by which time he was nearly
six feet tall and had given himself the middle name of Washington, the proud
young man graduated from Minneapolis, Kansas High School. He immediately applied
for admission to Highland College , a small Presbyterian school in northeast
Kansas , and was accepted for the semester beginning September 20,1885 . He
spent the summer in Kansas City learning shorthand and typing, and working to
accumulate a few dollars to tide him over at college until he could find
On September 20, George arrived at Highland and presented himself to the
principal, the Reverend Duncan Brown , D.D. , who had signed his admission
acceptance. Dr. Brown shook his head, "There has been a mistake. You didn't tell
me you were Negro. Highland College does not take Negroes."
George wandered about the country in a state of shock for a time. Then, in 1886,
he filed a claim on a 160-acre homestead in Ness County , Kansas , built himself
a sod house, and financed the planting of crops by doing housework at a nearby
livestock ranch. He did not make a financial success of the farm, nor did he
live there long enough to fulfill the five-year residence requirement for
ownership, but he carried out agricultural experiments that were to be valuable
to him later, and he saved enough money from the work he did at the livestock
ranch to pay a semester's tuition at Simpson College, in Indianola, Iowa, which
accepted him knowing, George made sure, that he was a Negro.
In September 1890, when George matriculated at Simpson , he was the only Negro
among the 300 students, but he was accepted kindly. Simpson had been endowed by
Matthew Simpson , a Methodist bishop, a friend of Lincoln's and a staunch
advocate of the equality of all men.
After George paid his $12 tuition, he had ten cents left, and with that he
bought some corn meal and beef suet. A Simpson teacher wrote, " George Carver
has come to us with a satchel full of poverty and a burning zeal to know
everything." The president of the college, Reverend Edmond Holmes, allowed
George to set up a laundry in an unused shack at the edge of the campus, and
arranged for him to buy equipment --tubs, washboard, flatiron, soap and starch
-- on credit. In a few weeks, the young Negro was one of the most admired
figures -- and certainly the busiest -- on campus. He was doing quite well in
art and music studies as well as required college work. He was told by his
teachers that he could have a successful career as either pianist or painter,
but he was primarily interested in a life work that would best help those who
needed help, and he decided that work would be in the field of experimental
He reluctantly transferred from Simpson to the Iowa State Agricultural and
Mechanical College at Ames , and there, under the direction of two able teachers
who were to become his close friends-- James G. Wilson , director of the
Agricultural Experiment Station, and Henry Cantwell Wallace , professor of
Agriculture -- his future was shaped. Each of these men later served as
Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture. It was George Carver
who interested Henry C. Wallace's youngest son, Henry Agard, in the mysteries of
plant life, an experience Henry A. Wallace recalled with delight and gratitude
after he became Vice President of the United States.
At Iowa State, Carver continued to do menial work to pay his expenses, but he
took part in the social activities of undergraduate life and enjoyed the
fellowship of the student body. He became a captain in the school's National
Guard unit and strutted in plumed helmet and white gloves along with the others.
George Carver received his B.S. in Agriculture from Iowa State in 1894, when he
was 30. He was appointed to the faculty and put in charge of systematic botany
and all work in the college greenhouses. Dr. Louis H. Pammell, the distinguished
botanist with whom George worked, called him "a brilliant student, the best
collector and the best scientific observer I have ever known."
In April 1896, just after George finished the requirements for his M.S., he
received a letter from Booker T. Washington , the young educator who had been
struggling to get Tuskegee Institute on its feet. This school in Alabama had
been founded in 1881. Washington and the Board of Trustees had come to realize
that, since 85 percent of the Negroes in the Gulf states were farmers, Tuskegee
's greatest need was an Agricultural Department. They had no one with knowledge
of agricultural science to head the department, and almost no funds for its
operation, but Washington had heard about the work of Mr. George Washington
Carver up in Iowa and decided to appeal to him for help. He wrote Carver, "I
cannot offer you money, position or fame. The first two you have. The last, from
the place 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."
For George Carver, there was no decision to make. "Why," he exclaimed excitedly,
"this has been God's plan for me all along." His friends at Iowa State could not
bring themselves to try to hold him, much as they wanted to.
It was a time when the South desperately needed scientific help. The one-crop
"Cotton is King" economy that had once given wealth and power to the area was
ruining it. The heavy-feeding cotton plant, on the same acreage year after year,
drained the soil of its mineral and vegetable resources and left wasted land.
The big planters cut or burned fine pine forests for new and fertile cotton-crop
acres, and the little farmers left their barren, eroded fields to search for
something better or to work for the big planters. With the arrival of the boll
weevil in the 1890s, the farming South faced bankruptcy.
George Carver began his first class at Tuskegee with thirteen students; he saw
it grow to seventy-five by the second semester. From the time he arrived at the
Institute, he taught soil conservation through diversification of crops. He did
not confine his teaching to his classroom. He went around the countryside,
attending rural meetings and talking to one farmer or a hundred about crop
trouble. He told farmers to rotate their crops and give the soil a chance to
breathe, and he advocated the use of legumes to replace minerals depleted from
the soil by cotton-growing. Pod-bearing plants, he explained, drew nitrogen from
the air and enriched the soil. "Plant peanuts," he said. "That’ll keep the soil
productive. And the boll weevils don't attack peanuts."
Soon the farmers were listening and producing peanuts in great abundance. But
the solution of one problem brought another; how could all those peanuts, which,
after all, were "just good for sometimes eating," be marketed profitably? To
solve the agricultural-economic problem, George Carver set about work for which
he was to become particularly famous. Experimenting in his Tuskegee laboratory,
which he called "God's little workshop," he discovered nearly 300 valuable uses
to which the peanut could be put; during Carver's lifetime, that once negligible
crop covered five million acres and had an annual value of $200 million.
One of his most surprising peanut-related contributions to mankind was his
extraction of a peanut oil which aided in restoring wasted tissues. To prove the
value of the oil, he took photographs of the deformed limbs of children before
treating them and then after a year of treatment. The remarkable improvement
evidenced by the pictures started a stream of ailing children to his
laboratory, and, with the help of his students, all were treated.
Carver went on from peanuts to produce such things as paving blocks from cotton
and rubber from sludge. In collaboration with Henry Ford, he perfected a process
for extracting rubber from the milk of the goldenrod. On the experimental farm
at Tuskegee, he developed several new strains of cotton, the most important of
which was "Carver's Hybrid," a cross between short-stalk cotton -- it had fatter
boils but many were near enough to the ground to be ruined by rain splashed sand
-- and tall-stalk cotton. The hybrid had the better characteristics of both, and
he evolved strains of vegetables that were finer in quality and larger in size
than had been grown before.
The versatile scientist made spectacular advances in soil fertilization, and he
instituted a visiting day at Tuskegee for small farmers to come and learn about
the use of various types of fertilizer. For those who couldn't come to the
campus, he started a "school on wheels" to go into the communities and give
demonstrations. His movable farm school was so successful the idea was soon
adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture, and later put to use in
several foreign countries.
Carver's first publication from Tuskegee, his 1898 pamphlet "Feeding Acorns to
Livestock," was followed during the next three decades by forty-three others
ranging from "How to Raise Pigs with Little Money" to "How to Meet New Economic
Conditions in the South," all aimed at helping the small farmer help himself.
They were followed in 1942 by a wartime favorite, "Nature's Garden for Victory
and Peace." He was finding great satisfaction at that time in the fact that
nutrition experts were earnestly emphasizing the value of peanut butter in a
good diet, particularly for children. In an effort to reach a broad audience,
George for a long time wrote a syndicated newspaper column, " Professor Carver
's Advice," in which he answered questions relating to scientific agriculture in
To the Wizard of Tuskegee came honors, doctorates, citations, medals, and lavish
praise from every level of society, but he remained indifferent to personal
fortune -- he repeatedly refused to accept an increase in his $125 monthly
Tuskegee salary -- or to stylish apparel. He usually wore an aged cap and a
battered old gray tweed suit with pants quite bagged at the knees, a condition
resulting from the hours Dr. Carver spent kneeling while examining -- and
talking to -- his plants. But there was always one delightful aspect of his
attire: he never failed to have a fresh flower in his lapel.
In 1910, the Board of Trustees at Tuskegee established a Department of
Agricultural Research with Dr. Carver in charge. He turned most of his classes
over to others and thereafter devoted his time to creative science. He was much
sought after for lectures in distant states, and he answered those calls when he
could leave his work at Tuskegee . At the Institute he received delegations from
all over the world and worked with them to solve agricultural problems, always
refusing payments for these efforts to help those in need.
For many years, George Carver kept up his music, and one year even toured as a
pianist to raise money for the Institute, but it was his painting that came
second in his heart to his agricultural research. His pictures are unique in
that he made all the paints he used from Alabama soils. He created many
beautiful colors, including one blue which was believed to be a rediscovery of
an old Egyptian blue for which modern pigment makers had been searching for
The 1936-37 school year at Tuskegee was dedicated to honoring Dr. Carver 's
fortieth year at the school, and plans were made for the erection of the George
Washington Carver Museum to recognize Carver's contributions to science and
provide permanent exhibit rooms for his scientific collections and his
Carver's entire savings-- which, thanks to his bizarre frugality, totaled about
$60,000 -- went, during his last years and at his death, to the Carver Museum
and to the George Washington Carver Foundation, which has as its purpose the
support of young Blacks engaged in scientific research.
George Washington Carver died quietly on January 5,1943 , and was buried -- with
a bright, fresh flower in his lapel -- at Tuskegee beside his friend Booker T.
Washington. Condolences poured in to the Institute from great men of all races,
and lesser folk by the thousands mourned the friend and benefactor they had
from Dr. Carver on. . .
...On God and Nature
love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting system, through which God
speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in."
On the Value
of the Familiar
"Look about you. Take hold of the things that are here. Let them talk to you.
You learn to talk to them."
"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."
"Learn to do common things uncommonly well; we must always keep in mind that
anything that helps fill the dinner pail is valuable."
Preparation for Life
"There is no short cut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation --
veneer isn't worth anything."
"One reason I never patent my products is that if I did it would take so much
time, I would get nothing else done. But mainly I don't want my discoveries to
benefit specific favored persons."
"I never have to grope for methods. The method is revealed at the moment I am
inspired to create something new. . . Without God to draw aside the curtain I
would be helpless."
"May God ever bless, keep, guide, and continue to prosper you in your uplifting
work for humanity, be it great or small, is my daily prayer. And may those whom
he has redeemed learn to walk with Him not only daily or hourly, but momently
through the things he has created."
"My Prayers seem to be more of an attitude than anything else. I indulge in very
little lip service, but ask the Great Creator silently daily, and often many
times per day 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; their relations to each other, to us, our relations to them and the
Great God who made all of us. I ask him daily and often momently to give me
wisdom, understanding and bodily strength to do His will, hence I am asking and
receiving all the time."r
Carver Did Not Invent Peanut Butter
Although he found many uses and
developed many products from peanuts, George Washington Carver did not invent
peanut butter! There are many claims about the origin of peanut butter.
Africans ground peanuts into stews as early as the 15th century. The Chinese
have crushed peanuts into creamy sauces for centuries. Civil War soldiers dined
on 'peanut porridge.' These uses, however, bore little resemblance to peanut
butter as it is known today.
According to Andrew F. Smith's
book, Peanuts: The Illustrious History of the Goober Pea the earliest candidate
for the invention of peanut butter was Rose Davis who lived in Alligerville, New
York, in the 1840s. According to New York historian Eleanor Rosakranse, writes
Smith, "Rose Davis's son, Ross, traveled to Cuba, where he saw women grind
peanuts and smear the paste on bread. Ross told his mother about the practice,
and she employed the peanut paste for making sandwiches."
In 1890, George A. Bayle Jr.
began to sell ground peanut paste as a vegetarian protein supplement for people
with bad teeth. In 1893, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg originated an early variety of
peanut butter at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. Kellogg,
along with his brother, W.K. Kellogg, patented a process for making peanut
butter in 1895, but it used steamed peanuts rather than roasted peanuts.
Peanut butter was made in
Australia by Edward Halsey for Sanitarium Health Food Company on May 29, 1899
and was sold as early as June 16. Peanut butter was widely introduced in 1904 by
C.H. Sumner at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (Saint Louis World's Fair)
which also popularized the ice cream cone, the hot dog and the hamburger.
Founded by Benton Black, Krema
Products Company in Columbus, Ohio began selling peanut butter in 1908 and is
the second oldest peanut butter company, other than the Australian Sanitarium
Health food Company, still in operation today. Other early peanut butter brands
were sold by Heinz and Beech Nut.
of By-Products From Peanuts By George Washington Carver (as compiled by
the Carver Museum)
Beverage for Ice
Peanut Lemon Punch
Peanut Orange Punch
Peanut Punch #2
All Purpose Cream
Baby Massage Cream
Face Bleach and Tan Remover
Fat Producing Cream
Oil for Hair and Scalp
Peanut Oil Shampoo
Pomade for Scalp
Tetter and Dandruff Cure
Paints and Stains
Dyes for Cloth (30)
Dyes for Leather (19)
Wood Stains (17)
Special Peanut Dye
Hen Food for Laying (peanut
Peanut Hay Meal
Peanut Hull Bran
Peanut Hull Meal
Peanut Stock Food (3)
Breakfast Food (5)
Butter from Peanut Milk
Cheese Nut Sage
Cheese Tutti Frutti
Chocolate Coated Peanuts
Chop Suey Sauce
Cream from Milk
Dehydrated Milk Flakes
Mock Veal Cutlet
Peanut Bar #1
Peanut Bisque Flour
Peanut Butter, regular (3)
Peanut Cake (2)
Peanut Chocolate Fudge
Peanut Flour (11)
Peanut Meal, brown
Peanut and Popcorn bars
Peanut Relish (2)
Peanut Tofu Sauce
White Pepper, from vines
Emulsion for Bronchitis
Medicines similar to Castor
Emulsified Oils for venereal
Charcoal from Shells
Cleaner for Hands
Coke (from Hull)
Insulating Boards (18)
Paper (colored) from skins
Paper (Kraft) from Vines
Paper (white) from vines
Shoe and Leather Blacking
Sizing for Walls
Wall Boards from hulls (11)
Credit: The National Park Service
Data compiled from The
British Antarctic Study, NASA, Environment Canada, UNEP, EPA and
other sources as stated and credited Researched by Charles
Welch-Updated daily This Website is a project of the The Ozooe Hole