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George Washington Carver: A Man of Many Talents

CWanamaker enjoys reading, writing, and learning about the world around us.

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was an American inventor and farmer that was born in 1864 in Diamond Grove, Missouri. He was known for his research and work with peanuts and other crops.

He grew up in the Midwest and was very poor, often finding himself living off of the land and working odd jobs just to survive. Although he had a hard life, he was able to finish college and invent many things. He eventually had a more than 40-year tenure at Tuskegee University in Alabama researching plants and teaching people how to grow better foods.

Start where you are with what you have. Make something of it and never be satisfied.

— George Washington Carver

Early Life and Upbringing

George's mother and father passed away when he was very young. He also had grown up as a slave and had a brother who worked the farm with him.

George was smaller than his brothers and more sickly. At the age of 12, he became a free man when the family he worked for let him leave.

When George was young, he liked to tend the garden at the home where he stayed. When he was a teenager, he was not allowed to attend the nearby school because the segregation laws meant that the school was only for white people. He desired to go to school and learn, so he would sit outside of classrooms to listen to lessons.

Eventually, George moved to the nearby town of Neosho, Missouri so he could go to school there. After graduating high school in 1884, he applied to go to college at Highland University in Kansas. He was accepted, but when he arrived at the school they did not let him in because he was black.

Faced with the disappointment of being turned away from college, George went and purchased land to farm and live on in Ness County, Kansas. He built his house out of sod and grew lots of crops. During his time here, he made some friends while bartering goods and services. He also became known for his resourcefulness, as he was very good at making anything that he needed with materials available nearby, including clothing and even paint.

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.

— George Washington Carver

College Career

After a couple of years of living off of the land, he moved to Indianola, Iowa, where he worked odd jobs before starting college again. George applied to Simpson College, desiring to major in art. He wanted to learn to paint and become an artist. He was a good artist but this did not earn him enough money to live off of. Work as an artist was hard to come by.

George decided to change colleges (and career paths) and applied to go to Iowa State to learn agriculture and botany. In 1894, he became the first black person to graduate from Iowa State. Around this time, George received a letter from Booker T. Washington asking him to come teach at Tuskegee University in Alabama. Without knowing much about the job or about Alabama, George accepted the job offer to go teach. He soon finished his graduate degree and then moved to Alabama.

When George started teaching at Tuskegee, he did not have a laboratory like most other professors and scientists. Instead, he took his students to the local dump and got supplies like bottles, old frying pans, and string to build his own laboratory.

George wanted his students to think more for themselves and to become more resourceful. He wanted to show his students how things can be reused or repurposed. The class used whatever they could find to learn about growing and caring for a variety of plants.

In dirt is life.

— George Washington Carver

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While a professor, he developed the Jesup Agricultural Wagon, which was a movable school that helped teach farmers who couldn't attend school in person. In this way, George took the classroom on the road and around the community. He used this invention to help teach people the importance of rotating crops to help keep the soil healthy.

In 1910, Tuskegee University finally built a modern laboratory for George Washington Carver.

George Washington Carver's Jesup Agricultural Wagon

George Washington Carver's Jesup Agricultural Wagon

As George's methods and expertise grew, so too did his influence. He presented his research and ideas at various conferences, fairs, and schools all across the country.

In 1921, he was asked to speak to Congress on behalf of the peanut industry, helping to showcase the importance of this crop to the American South. He also began to receive letters from people all over the world seeking his advice on how to grow crops.

George Washington Carver spent over 40 years at Tuskegee University doing plant research and teaching students about how to take care of plants properly.

When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.

— George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver's Inventions

George Washington Carver had more than 400 inventions using peanuts. This earned him the moniker "The Peanut Man." Some people say that he invented peanut butter, but he actually did not. Peanut butter had already been around for years, even though peanuts were not known to be nutritious or healthy at the time.

Instead, George actually invented several things such as new types of paper, creams, peanut milk, dyes, and glue—all using peanuts. He also made several types of plastic-like materials using peanuts.

George also came up with a lot of recipes using peanuts too. He was a great cook, and he became very famous for his work with peanuts. In fact, one of the many booklets and pamphlets he wrote was: "How to grow the peanut and 105 ways of preparing it for human consumption."


George also made things with sweet potatoes including soaps, rubber products, and even glue. Of course, he also developed dozens of recipes using sweet potatoes, including muffins, donuts, and breads.

When it comes to his work with soybeans, he invented dozens of uses for them, including fuel oil, cheeses, flours, and even coffee.

Ninety-nine percent of the failures come from people who have the habit of making excuses.

— George Washington Carver

Helping American Farmers Grow Better Food

During George Washington Carver's career, he helped American farmers grow better food and learn to take care of themselves and their crops. He helped the peanut industry and did a lot for the economy in the American South.

George won many awards and wrote a lot of booklets.

In January 1943, he died at the age of 79. He left his life's savings to start the George Washington Carver Foundation. George will always be remembered for his inventions, his contributions to the study of agriculture, and his strong desire to help others.

George Washington Carver's Recognition and Awards

  • The George Washington Carver National Monument was erected in Diamond Grove Missouri after his death.
  • His inventions and paintings are shown in the George Washington Carver Museum, which opened in 1941.
  • Received the Roosevelt Medal for outstanding contributions to Southern agriculture in 1938.
  • Received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Simpson College in 1928.
  • Received Spingarn Medal for Distinguished Service to Science in 1923 from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
  • The US Postal Service created a postage stamp in his honor in 1948. At the time, he was only the second black man in history to be featured on a postage stamp.
  • Hundreds of schools across the United States bear his name today.
George Washington Carver's Monument

George Washington Carver's Monument


  • Bolden, Tonya. "George Washington Carver." Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York. 2008.
  • Gigliotti, Jim. "Who Was George Washington Carver?" Grosset & Dunlap Publishers. 2015.
  • Krensky, Stephen. "A Man for All Seasons: The Life of George Washington Carver." Amistad and Collins Publishers. 2008.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Christopher Wanamaker


Angel Guzman from Joliet, Illinois on July 27, 2019:

Wow what a brilliant mind. Great read. I wouldn't mind visiting his museum.

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