iD magazine



There was a growing market for hemp in the first half of the 20th century. In 1941 Henry Ford introduced his “hemp car.” Instead of steel, its body was made of bioplastic (70% cellulose fiber and 30% resin binder, with about 10% of its fill derived from hemp fibers). Ford claimed his all-plastic car would be 300 pounds lighter than comparable steel models with 10 times the impact resistance. In 1935 the chemical giant Dupont started making the synthetic thermoplas­tic polymer Nylon from crude oil (photo: Nylon fibers on a loom); some historians allege hemp’s potential for market share competitio­n was one reason the natural fiber was suppressed. Another unique aspect of Ford’s innovation: The car ran on hemp-ethanol biofuel, which may have been viewed as competitio­n by the Rockerfell­er family’s Standard Oil company, further fueling an industrial anti-hemp agenda. (It’s also worth noting that Dupont manufactur­ed a gasoline additive called tetraethyl lead [a known poison], and Dupont was a shareholde­r in Ford’s major competitor, General Motors.)

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