During World War II, thousands of acres of industrial hemp were grown around the northern Illinois and elsewhere. The federal government directed the cultivation of hemp back then, and it was grown not to ease the suffering of those with debilitating pain or anxiety, but rather to provide thread, rope and cordage to the U.S. Army and Navy.

In 1942, mounting military setbacks in the Pacific left the U.S. cut off from its prewar trading partners in fiber, the most important being the Philippines. Before the development and widespread use of synthetic materials, industrial hemp and similar fiber crops were needed by the Armed Forces for uniforms, buttons and leather goods. More importantly, hemp rope and cordage of various sizes, lengths and tensile strength were vital to the Navy, while finer cordage was used for shroud lines, harnesses and the like for airborne troops.



In 1942-1943, in response to the loss of the Asian fiber trade, the U.S. government established 42 hemp mill districts in Illinois and three other Midwestern states. The program required enough local farmers from each district to agree to plant sufficient acreage of this “patriotic crop” to supply the needs of each particular mill.

“Hemp to hang Hitler” was one suggested propaganda slogan for this home front program. The U.S. government even released the 1942 documentary film “Hemp for Victory,”

Source: McLean County Museum of History.