Monday, January 5, 2009

The 'peanut farmer' ...

... was what my memory banks had stored up about George Washington Carver. Well yes, he was that, but so much more!

Look at his photograph. Tell me, what do you see?

I see a most distinguished-looking gentleman whose eyes are filled with proud memories of times past and a job well begun, and bright in anticipation of future discoveries.

[I scarcely knew where exactly to begin and then try and continue this post in a manner that would do him justice. My own research - which has barely scratched the surface, I'm sure - has dredged up many inconsistencies. And so, I have decided to just 'fly' with my own best guesses as to where the truth ultimately lies.]

Fact vs. fiction ...

1) He was born of slave parents. True. The slave owners were Moses and Sarah Carver.

2) He was born in January 1864. ? Other accounts state July 1864. Even July 1865.

3) He was orphaned at an early age. True, altho there are conflicting reports as to the circumstances.

4) He didn't enter college until the age of 30. False. He entered at the age of 26. (The facts were that he had to first earn the money to enroll and then find a college that would accept a Negro.)

5) He enrolled as an agriculture major at Iowa State College in 1890. False. He began college in 1890, but it was at Simpson - and not as an agricultural student, either. He enrolled to study piano and art. In fact, some of his paintings were exhibited at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, receiving an honorable mention.

6) Most of his inventions were not patentable. False. While it is true that he received only three patents - one for cosmetics and two for paints and stains - between the years of 1925 and 1927, it is this author's opinion that he really was not most interested in fame and fortune. Rather, I would suggest, he was intrigued more by the process of observation and ultimate discovery.

7) He was a humble man and deeply religious. True. One quote I found and would like to share (this in reference to why he didn't further pursue patents for others of his many inventions) ... "God gave them to me, how can I sell them to someone else?"

8) He never married. ? I could find no reference to the contrary.

9) He invented peanut butter. ? There are even statements to the contrary on that! (Don't you worry, Dr. Carver. Every time I eat or even think of peanut butter, it'll be you that comes to mind!)

10) It was only years after his death that George Washington Carver's importance to agriculture and farming, particularly in regard to the many hundreds of practical uses he discovered for the 'lowly' peanut (not to mention sweet potatoes, pecans, cornstalk fibers, the palmetto root, etc.), was recognized. False, I am pleased to write. His contributions - most specifically in the area of crop rotation - were widely recognized.

11) He died on January 5, 1943, in Tuskegee Alabama. True.

There is a ton of mis/information available on the web, and almost all of it is fascinating! I invite you, as you wish and at your leisure, to check any or all of the sites out and then come to your own conclusions.

I'm not going to try and influence your reading by linking one or more of them, specifically. Instead, I'd just like to leave you today with this quote ... ...

"Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses." ~ George Washington Carver


Craig Peihopa said...

What a wonderful post, a wonderful person and thank you for this. It encourages me to look and read more about him. I LOVE bios on people who make great contributions to life. Thank you again.

Goldenrod said...

Hi, Craig!

Good to hear from you. The idea for this post stemmed directly from my New Year's Eve post on foods, as I mentioned there. This had to be published yesterday, as that date was the anniversary of his death. He'll be mentioned again briefly in my April 5th post on Booker T. Washington.

The world has many heroes, and it's a real challenge to try and do them justice in a short bio. Will have another coming up probably before the one on BTW that you will really like as well, I think, because it will have a reference to Australia. How's that for a teaser?

There's a lot to read about him. I'm glad you'll be looking further into his story.

Craig Peihopa said...

I am breathless with anticipation