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1796 | Kentuckians file for first hemp patents

Updated: Jan 19, 2019

The invention of the cotton gin sparked a new demand for hemp rope during the last decade of the 18th century. As a result, Kentuckians began trying to develop various tools and equipment to improve the primitive methods of hemp processing and manufacturing. During the late 18th century, several federal patents were filed for hemp machinery innovations made in Kentucky.

In 1796, a patent was filed by Nathan Burrows for the "first good machine for cleaning hemp." Burrows, who had settled in Lexington just four years prior, is said to have played a key rope in the introducing of hemp manufacturing to Kentucky. Despite his successful invention, he failed to reap any financial advantage. Nathaniel Foster of Fleming County, Kentucky designed and patented a hemp spinning machine, similar to an oversized “women’s spinning wheel” in 1809, and aimed to produce hemp fabrics on a larger scale. See images of his official United States patent papers below.

Between 1837 and 1860, Kentuckians took more than twenty-three federal utility patents on hemp machinery. This does not include the number of inventions and patents filed out of state and utilized on Kentucky farms or factories. The future of the Kentucky hemp industry would become heavily dictated by the tools, equipment, machines and methods involved in production.



Collins, L. (1990). Collins' historical sketches of Kentucky: History of Kentucky (Vol. II). Indianapolis, IN: The Researchers.

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