Did George Washington Carver Really Invent 300 Uses for the Peanut?
George Washington Carver is usually credited with inventing 300 uses for the peanut. Is this true?
George Washington Carver, one of the nation’s unsung heroes, invented many new uses for the peanut, revitalizing the peanut business. He claimed to have over three hundred uses for the peanut. If it were not for this man, we would never have Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, one of the staples of the elementary school lunch time.
The black George Washington Carver was born sometime around 1864. His father died shortly after, and he and his mother were soon kidnapped by Confederate slave raiders in Arkansas. He was eventually returned to his home, never to hear from his mother again. His sickness as a child led him to a life of education. He became interested in plants, painting, and piano. He was the first black man to attend Iowa State University, majoring in scientific agriculture. He soon would be recognized for his work with Peanuts and Sweet Potatoes. In 1943, he died at the age of seventy-eight after complications from a fall.
Perhaps Carver’s most famous action was his uses for the peanut. He claimed to have over three hundred uses for the ordinary peanut. On his list, he included “Peanut Butter”, “Pancake flour” and “Milks”. Also included were more unique items, like “Peanut Oil Shampoo” and “Pomade.” His list earned himself, and the south (where peanuts are native) much acclaim for the miracle plant he made it out to be.
Critics have pointed out flaws in Carver’s list. For example, he included thirty cloth dyes, seventeen stains, eleven wall boards, and eleven flours. These items alone make up over 100 items on the list, more than one-third. For example, on his list are the entries “Salted Peanuts” and “Shredded Peanuts”, two only slightly different forms of peanuts. On the list were also things that Carver didn’t invent. If you were to remove every redundancy and item not invented by Carver, you would only have about one hundred items, rather than the three hundred advertised.
George Washington Carver was definitely a man of firsts. He was the first black man to go to college at Iowa State, and definitely the first to popularize the use of the peanut. His three hundred uses for the peanut ingrained him forever in American history. His list benefited not only himself, but also the southern economy. Peanut sales spiked, and his work with Sweet Potatoes also helped the south greatly (since both plants are from there). Carver’s work effected not only times back then, but has also impacted the economy today more than we know.