|Photo: Courtesy Adam Eidinger
|Lyster Dewey, a botanist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the early 1900s, is seen measuring a 4-meter-tall hemp plant at Arlington Farm.
Never-before seen journals found recently at a garage sale outside Buffalo, N.Y., chronicle the life of Lyster Dewey, who tended a United States government hemp farm in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Dewey, a botanist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, wrote in detail about growing strains of hemp called Keijo, Chinamington and others on a tract of government land known as Arlington Farm, reports Manuel Roig-Franzia of the The Washington Post.
If the “Arlington” part of that name sounds familiar — as in Arlington National Cemetery — that’s because the acreage used to grow the hemp was handed over to the War Department in the 1940s for construction of the world’s largest office building: the Pentagon.
So in addition to the already-known intertwining of the noble hemp plant and U.S. history, now it is revealed that the very location of the Pentagon itself was once covered with verdant fields of cannabis.
The Hemp Industries Association, a small trade group, bought Dewey’s diaries. Leaders of the group are betting that displaying them for the first time on Monday will help increase public knowledge that hemp was used for ropes on Navy ships and World War II parachute webbing.
|Photo: Courtesy Adam Eidinger
|Dewey sits at his office desk at the Department of Agriculture with hemp on his desk, circa 1920.
The ultimate goal is to encourage the U.S. government to lift its decades-old ban on commercial hemp production.
Fascinating photos were discovered along with the Dewey’s diaries. In one photo, the botanist stands proudly next to a field of 13-foot-tall hemp plants, with the caption: “Measuring a hemp plant 4 m. high. Arlington Farm, Aug. 28, 1929.”
The genesis of the diaries’ discovery was last summer at a yard sale in Amherst, N.Y., 15 minutes outside Buffalo, where a history buff named David Sitarski was looking for artifacts.
Sitarski paid $130 for the diaries and one of two photo albums, thinking they pertained to the history of Buffalo. He said he would have bought the second album, but another man got it before he did.
Six months later, according to Sitarski, his wife spotted their yard-sale rival while running errands. Sitarski jumped out of the car and talked the man into selling the photo album to him complete his set. The seller casually mentioned that there were hemp pictures included.
Starting to realize the historical value of his find, but still not realizing the Pentagon connection, Sitarski listed the material on eBay, asking $10,000.
Enter Michael Krawitz, a 47-year-old disabled veteran from Ferrum, Va., who has for a decade been planning a hemp museum .
Krawitz noticed Sitarski’s listing but couldn’t afford it — but the Hemp Industries Association could, with the help of benefactor David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps. The company has grown from a $5 million outfit to a $31 million company in the past decade since adding hemp oil to its products to produce a smoother lather.
Bronner, who was arrested in October after planting hemp seeds on the lawn at DEA headquarters, eventually negotiated a buying price of $4,000 for the historical treasure trove.
“It’s kind of ironic that we dug up DEA’s lawn to plant hemp seeds and highlight the absurdity of the Drug War, but you take it back 50 years and that’s what the government itself was doing,” Bronner said from the Southern California headquarters of Dr. Bronner’s.