Tell Me It Ain’t So

I have always believed that George Washington Carver invented peanut butter. After some research on the internet, I discovered that the patent for peanut butter was granted to Marcellus Gilmore Edson in 1884 when Carver was only 20. Peanut butter was also known to have been eaten by the Aztecs in the 15th century. How could this be? And why, if not for peanut butter, do we still learn about George Washington Carver.

G W Carver pic

Well, it seems he really was a pretty interesting man. Although the date of his birth is not known, it is believed that he was born a slave in Missouri in 1864 or 1865. He was kidnapped with his mother as a baby. Although his mother was never found, George was rescued by a neighbor when the neighbor traded a $300 horse to get George back.

George and his older brother, Jim, were raised by Moses and Susan Carver, the people who previously owned his family. He was a sickly child and never expected to live to adulthood. It became evident early in his childhood that he was extremely bright so was encouraged to seek all the education he could—which was difficult due to his race.

Through perseverance and hard work, he earned both a bachelor and master’s degree from Iowa State University. As the only black on campus, George lived in an old office, ate in the basement, and supported himself with menial jobs. He soon became known for his artistic talent (his paintings of plants and flowers were widely praised) and for his ability to raise, cross-fertilize and graft plants.

Booker T. Washington asked George to establish an agricultural program at Tuskegee Institute where he taught for 47 years. And,where he conducted much of his research.

His focus during his life was to help the poor have a more nutritious diet that they could afford. This led to the development of many products derived from peanuts, sweet potatoes, soy beans, and black-eyed peas—all crops poor share croppers could grow cheaply. His work was recognized by several presidents and he was one of the first African-Americans to be invited to testify before Congress.

Now, if you have read through all this, you probably think this could be submitted by a fifth grader as a biography report—and you would be right. However, another thing I found out about Mr. Carver is that he compiled a list of eight cardinal virtues for his students to strive for. These I really like.

  • Be clean both inside and out.
  • Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
  • Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  • Win without bragging.
  • Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.
  • Be too brave to lie.
  • Be too generous to cheat.
  • Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.

So, maybe George Washington Carver did not invent peanut butter. Maybe he just made it famous and widely known. But, what he really accomplished was a whole lot more important than inventing a product most of us love but many are allergic to. I ask you…have you ever even heard of Marcellus Gilmore Edson, the guy who got the patent for peanut butter? Didn’t think so.

Let us know if you would like to know more about things that interest you. We will try and find out “stuff” for you and let you know.