Monday, February 20, 2012

The Forty-Four Presidents and Farming: Part 1

Maybe this post is a bit premature... while at work today, I had the bright idea of sharing farming facts about all 44 of our presidents. Big dream for one afternoon, no? My original plan had been to not only FIND these facts, but make INDIVIDUAL graphics for each one. Even bigger dream. I think I'll revise that idea a bit. So far I've got 10 presidents researched, so I'll share 10 tonight- then 10 every day for the rest of the week!

To start off our list,

#1, George Washington: 

Our nation's first president also had the nation's largest Whiskey Distillery of the time. 

Washington at Mt. Vernon (painting by Stearns)
George was a pioneer in agriculture at his Virginia farm, Mount Vernon. He utilized new fertilizers, methods of crop rotation and revolutionary (no pun intended) equipment.

Are these guys related to Washington's stud Royal Gift? 
One other super sweet fact about ol' G.W... He is credited with introducing the first mules to America! Read all about his steeds here!

#2, John Adams: 

A humble man and the father of of a president! 
 Not much is said about our second president and agriculture, however it is known that he bought a farm adjacent to Thomas Jefferson's plantation, Monticello. That and he had this to say about the farming life:

"Let me have my farm, family and goose quill, and all the honors and offices this world has to bestow may go to those who deserve them better and desire them more. I count them not."

#3, Thomas Jefferson: 

Our third president was possibly our most agriculturally involved president. Jefferson was zealous about soil conservation, wrote books on farming, maintained a large plantation at Monticello and even won a Gold Medal from the French Society of Agriculture in 1809.
Jefferson was what might be considered, a true Renaissance Man. 
Monticello Gardens

"Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness."

#4, James Madison 
James Madison was a prominent farmer who maintained a farm near both Adams and Jefferson. An avid environmentalist, he remained adamant about the fact that "nature is fragile" and even chastised Virginian farmers who did not think to conserve the soil. We may have Mr. Madison to thank for our interest in conservation today! 

#5, James Monroe: 

A few very important things happened during the presidency of James Monroe that affected agriculture. 

First and foremost, the Land Act of 1820 allowed farmers to purchase up to 85 acres of land at only $1.25 an acre. 3.5 MILLION acres in new Western territories were purchased in 1820 alone. 

Ohio under the Land Grant of 1820

Also during this time, farming became more a commercial trade. With the beginning of industrialization and the advent of more efficient farming practices, people could move to town and those remaining in rural areas could grow more crops and raise more livestock to sell for profit to those in town. People no longer had to grow their own food to sustain themselves. 

#6, John Quincy Adams: 

J.Q. Adams was actually the son of President #2, John Adams! 

The Erie Canal, c. 1825
With the completion of the Erie Canal (and subsequently, the Ohio-Erie Canal) in 1825, transportation of agricultural goods across inlands became much more practical. 

Ohio' s canal routes

#7, Andrew Jackson: 

"Agriculture, the first and most important occupation of man, has compensated the labors of the husband man with plentiful crops of all the varied products of our extensive country."

Andrew Jackson's plantation, the Hermitage, actually remains as part of working farm today, in addition to being a historical site. 

Check out how agriculture works at the Hermitage today! 

#8, Martin Van Buren: 

While he may not have been one of our most memorable presidents (really, who thinks about Martin Van Buren?), but during his presidency, agriculture accounted for 73% of America's total exports and brought $74 million to the economy. So go Martin! 

A forgettable president, but a memorable industry.
And perhaps the greatest invention of Van Buren's presidency was a little thing called the Steel Plow. A dude named John Deere may or may not have come up with it, and it may or may not be responsible for much of modern agriculture today. 

Ze steel plow of John Deere!

#9, William Henry Harrison: 

It's quite difficult to find information about a guy who was only in office 40 days. That's what happens when you give a 90 minute inaugural speech in the cold March rain. But hey, he was the first president from Ohio, the first president to die in office and of special importance to this list, the first president OF THE HAMILTON COUNTY AGRICULTURAL SOCIETY! Harrison helped found the Ohio county's ag society and yearly fair in 1819. 

Paving the way for Ohio presidents since 1840... 
 And #10, John Tyler: 

Today's inaugural post on the president's and agriculture (see what I did there?) concludes with our 10th chief of state, John Tyler. 

John promoted agriculture and commerce, calling them "twins" and mandated that they should not be "restricted by the folly of high duties and tariff restrictions." Tyler definitely championed America as a leading exporter of agricultural products. He once said that "America is the granary of the world."and indeed it still is to this day. 

Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment of The Forty-Four Presidents and Farming, featuring heads of state #11-20! 

P.S. Sorry this is practically tomorrow anyways. Tomorrow's will be up before 11 pm, I promise! 

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