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'Cotton Bagging and Bale Rope': The Technology of Hemp Culture in Kentucky, 1792-1860

Updated: Jan 17, 2019

Andrew Patrick is currently a PhD candidate in American History at the University of Kentucky. He works at the Kentucky Historical Society as the Book Review Editor for The Register.

His areas of specialization are southern and environmental history, while his on-going dissertation research and writing focuses on the evolution of the Inner Bluegrass landscape of Central Kentucky.

Through Patrick's research, he has studied the American hemp industry extensively - particularly in Kentucky. His essay "'Cotton Bagging and Bale Rope': Technology of Hemp Culture in Kentucky, 1792-1860 was published by the Filson Historical Society in 2015.

He also presented a variation of this research at New Paths in the Environmental History of North America and the Ohio Valley, hosted by the Filson Historical Society and the University of Louisville that October.

We've used Patrick's essay in our own research and have it included in our bibliography on our Kentucky Hemp History page. We've included the first paragraph of his essay below and encourage you to click on the link to continue reading.

‘Cotton Bagging and Bale Rope’: The Technology of Hemp Culture in Kentucky, 1792-1860

By Andrew Patrick

“CASH given for HEMP” read an 1809 advertisement in Lexington’s Kentucky Gazette. The short notice went on to announce the firm of Fisher and Sutton’s “wish to hire 16 Negro Boys, from 12 to 16 years old, for a term of years.”1 This simple ad hinted at key aspects of the emergent hemp culture of the Bluegrass. Grown as a cash crop, hemp often found a ready market in regional urban centers where enslaved Kentuckians processed the fiber to transform the raw material into a finished product, such as rope or bagging. At many steps in the long chain of events by which a hemp seed became a strand in a rope, the heavy labor required by the crop came mediated through the application of mechanical devices that eased the transition from natural to cultural product.

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