Selling the fiber was the final step in the management of the hemp crop. Methods of marketing and the markets themselves changed from time to time, from transportation by flatboat to New Orleans, to sales made to local manufacturers, and to shipment by rail to the eastern seaboard. When Kentuckians first began exporting their hemp and other agricultural products, they tried to establish a minimum standard of quality which all shipments had to meet.
Management of the hemp crop in USA
One of the acts passed by the first legislature, after Kentucky had attained statehood in 1792, concerned the exportation of hemp, flour, and tobacco. This law provided for the appointment of three suitable persons to serve as inspectors at warehouses in Clark County and at Cleveland’s and Stafford’s landings according to the Virginia laws in force at the time of the separation of Kentucky from that state.
In 1794 the legislature wrote its own law regarding inspections, stating that It is necessary, and good policy requires, that our flour and hemp trade should be put upon a respectable footing, which can only be done by establishing such regulations as will prevent the manufacturer from bringing to market such flour and hemp as will not pass inspection, and entitle the merchant to preference in a foreign market.
County courts were directed to appoint two inspectors and to establish inspections at suitable points in Washington, Jefferson, Harrison, Fayette, Woodford, Hardin, and Nelson. Section 4 provided “That no hemp shall be deemed merchantable, that is not winter or water rotted, dry, bright and clean, and well bound in bundles of at least one hundred weight each; and the inspectors shall receive for their services three pence per hundredweight.”
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The legislature at its next session created new inspections, empowered the governor to make the necessary appointments, and required that the fiber be bound in bundles of at least 112 pounds, each of which should be labled with its weight, the name of its owner, and a warehouse number. More important was a provision that “no person shall export or lade on board of any vessel for exportation, any hemp but what shall have been so inspected and passed, under the penalty of six dollars for every one hundred and twelve pounds weight.”
As exportation increased, new inspections were established by the legislature until 1809, when county courts were empowered to attend to this matter, subject to the regulations prescribed by the laws then in force.
It is doubtful that these laws were strictly observed. In 1796 the general assembly noted that inspections had not been established at some of the designated places, and it stated rather plaintively that “it is but reasonable that all flour put on board of any boat or vessel for exportation . . . ought to be inspected.”
One Kentuckian, “Aristides,” demanded publicly in 1804 that the laws be revised immediately. In his opinion the lack of attention to that subject had resulted in injury to the reputation of Kentucky products. Especially, he said, “in the articles of flour, beef, pork, bacon and hemp, that reputation has been almost ruined by the exportation of many cargoes to market, without being inspected at all.”
No revision was forthcoming, and soon the exportation of raw fiber declined as Kentucky manufacturers consumed larger quantities of it in the manufacture of bale rope and bagging.
Because of the way in which it was prepared, hemp went to market in a great variety of conditions. “Some is not rotted enough, some too much. Sometimes the breaking is not thoroughly done, and again it is imperfectly done, and again it is imperfectly cleaned and carelessly handled.”
Probably because of this situation no official grades were ever established in the United States for American-grown hemp, although that which was imported from Europe and the Philippines was well graded.138 According to a bulletin published in 1915,
The trade has roughly divided Kentucky hemp into several not well defined grades and this condition allows of individual judgment in the matter.