After 10 years of teaching, George retired. He stayed at Tuskegee and worked at the lab the school gave him. The "plant doctor" saw that many sweet potatoes and peanuts were going to waste because farmers grew too many of them. George did not like this. He locked his laboratory door and worked until he discovered 118 new ways to use sweet potatoes, including making flour, starch, sugar, molasses, vinegar, ink, dye and glue. He also discovered 300 new ways to use peanuts including washing powder, bleach, shoe polish, metal polish, ink, rubbing oil, cooking oil, axle grease, cattle feeds, thirty different dyes, a kind of plastic, shampoo, soap, shaving cream and the sacred peanut butter. He made linoleum and a sort of rubber from peanut shells.
When news of George's experiments came out, he became famous throughout America. Farmers loved the fact that all their sweet potatoes and peanuts had more uses so they wouldn't waste their crops and could sell it all and make more money. His fame spread across the ocean too. In 1916, the Royal Society of Arts in England voted George in to be a member, one of the few from America. George received many letters from people all over the United States asking him to give a speech. From time to time, people in the audience asked him what gave him the idea to find new uses for the peanut. He told the same story every time. He said that one morning be was talking to God.
"Mr. Creator, what was the universe made for?"
"You want to know too much," He answered. "Your mind is too small to know that much."
Then I asked him, "Mr. Creator, what was man made for?"
"Little man," He said, 'You still want to know too much."
Then I asked Him to tell me about the peanut. "Mr. Creator, what is the peanut for?"
"That's more like it," He said.
Then I went into my laboratory and tried to find out what the peanut was and why God had made it.
George also invented many synthetics. One was synthetic marble
made out of wood shavings. Thomas Alva Edison was so impressed he asked George to work with him. George said he wanted to stay at Tuskegee. "If I worked with you,"' George told Edison, "my work would not be my work." In 1941, the George Washington Carver museum opened to display all his inventions, his many synthetics, his lab work and all 418 products made from sweet potatoes and peanuts. President Franklin D. Roosevelt thanked George for his work in person. People still enjoy the results of his work with
peanuts and sweet potatoes. If George were alive today, he would probably still be helping farmers make the best use of their soil and would have invented even more uses for fruits and vegetables.
George died in 1943. He was a man who never gave up. This man provided an important lesson for all. He always wanted to go to school and finally was able to even though he was Black. Later he became a scientist and teacher, which was very important to him. Five years later, his face was pictured on a United States postage stamp. George Washington Carver had risen from slavery--- and near death as a baby---to the height of an inventor hero.
"George Washington Carver," World of Inventions 2nd Edition"
Moore, Eva. The story of George Washington Carver. New York, Toronto, London, Auckland, Sydney, Scholastic Inc. 1971
Research and Web Page by Amanda