On the 212th birthday of our 16th president, we ask the inevitable question: Did Abraham Lincoln get high?
Let's start with where he came from. Born in Kentucky, Lincoln was raised in Indiana and then his family moved to Illinois in 1830.
Hemp grew willdy in the Midwest in those days and still does - it's called ditchweed or ragweed. Then it was used for fiber and made into clothes. Lincoln wore hemp pants, according to a story written by George Rohrbacher for NORML in 2008.
In the lengthy article, Rohrbacher explained:
"In 19th Century America, social classes were set apart in many ways, and their clothing was one of the most obvious. Slaves, indentured servants, the pioneers living out on the frontier, the poorest of the poor, all wore a fabric called 'tow-cloth' and like a 'tow-rope' it was woven out of hemp fibers. Tow-cloth was cheap and virtually indestructible. You could grow it and weave it yourself. Hemp had much longer, tougher and courser fibers than flax. Flax was woven into the fabric called 'linen' and sometimes flax was blended with hemp to make tow-linen - though at times the term tow-linen was also used to give a fancy name to cheap goods (plain old tow-cloth).
"Easy to grow in most climates, hemp resists pests, produces nutritious seeds and has universally useful fibers. Josiah Henson (1798-1883), an escaped slave who won international fame and inspired "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," stated in his autobiography that for fellow slaves: 'Our dress was tow-cloth; for the children nothing but a shirt; for the older ones a pair of pantaloons or gown in addition.' Tow-cloth, tow-linen, hemp cloth - different names for pretty much the same thing - and not only for slaves, but millions of America’s poor whites wore it as well.
"All the years Abe was growing up, the dirt poor Lincoln family wore tow-linen, home-grown hemp cloth they wove themselves."
OK. so Lincoln wore hemp, but did he smoke it?
Four years ago, the website Potent did some research on the subject and dug up this alleged Lincoln quote:
"Two of my favorite things are sitting on my front porch smoking a pipe of sweet hemp, and playing my Hohner harmonica."
The article explains:
"The quote supposedly came from a letter Lincoln wrote to the Hohner Company, a letter written by most estimates in 1855. Supposedly, this served as an endorsement of Hohner harmonicas.
"If a letter like this existed, surely it would be preserved, or at the very least be utilized by the Hohner Company. Lincoln promoting hemp smoking would, no doubt, make headlines... But therein lies one issue: Hohner didn't make harmonicas until two years after 1855.
"OK, so maybe the letter is incorrectly dated. We can reconfirm when it was written when we have our hands on it. OK, but where is it?
"The truth is that this letter simply does not exist."
So, put that in your corncob pipe and smoke it on the birthday of arguably America's greatest president.