GMIH-022 George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver


I love peanut butter sandwiches and all kinds of peanuts. Did you know that every time you eat a spoonful of peanut butter there is one man to thank? I bet you can guess that this man has a great mustache because this is Great Mustaches in History.

This man with the great mustache that we are talking about is George Washington Carver.

Early Life

George Washington Carver was born in 1864 on a small farm in Diamond Grove, Missouri. George’s mother was named Mary. She was a slave owned by Moses and Susan Carver. One night something terrible happened. There were people who would steal slaves back then and these bad guys stole George and his mother Mary from the Carvers. Moses Carver looked for George and his mother but he only found George. Poor George was just left by the side of the road.

Back in Episode 11 of this podcast we talked about Frederick Douglass. You may remember from that episode that it was the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery. Well, slavery was abolished and the Carvers did not have any children so they took care of George and his brother James just like the boys were their own sons. The Carvers did something great. They taught the boys to read and write.

George Washington Carver was very smart and he loved to learn about new things. He loved to read the Bible. He also was extra interested in animals and plants.

Going to School

Peanut specimen collected by George Washington Carver

Peanut specimen collected by George Washington Carver

The Carvers wanted him to be able to learn as much as he could. They wanted him to be able to go to school and learn all he could. This was not fair, but back then black children could not go to school with white children. It was stupid but that’s how things were.

Unfortunately, there were no schools for black children that George could go to, at least none close to the Carver’s home. George had to go all over the Midwest just to go to school. It was hard for him but did graduate from high school in Minneapolis, Kansas.

His favorite subjects were art and science. At first George thought he might be an artist. He even took some art classes in Iowa at Simpson College. One of the things he like to draw was plants. He was lucky because he had a teacher who told him he could combine his love for science, art, and plants if he became a a scientist that studied plants. This kind of scientist is called a botanist.

George went to Iowa State so he could study botany. George Washington Carver was the first African-American student to attend Iowa State. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in science. But he wanted to learn even more so stayed in school and earned his Master’s degree as well.

George did so much learning and did so much research that he soon was recognized as an expert in botany.

Professor Carver

George Washington Carver (front row, center) poses with fellow faculty of Tuskegee Institute in this c. 1902 photograph taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston.

George Washington Carver (front row, center) poses with fellow faculty of Tuskegee Institute in this c. 1902 photograph taken by Frances Benjamin Johnston.

Soon George became a professor at Iowa State. He was the first African-American professor at the college. But, in 1896 George  had a great opportunity. A famous man named Booker T. Washington had opened an all-black college in Tuskegee, Alabama. Booker T. Washington wanted George to come teach at the new college. George became the head of the Agricultural Department. This worked out so well that George stayed and taught there for the rest of his life.

Carver Changes Agriculture

George Washington Carver not only taught people about agriculture, he also kept researching and made many new discoveries and had great ideas. We are going to talk about two of the most important ones.

Crop Rotation

George Washington Carver at work in his laboratory

George Washington Carver at work in his laboratory

Cotton was one of the most important crops in the South. But if farmers grew just one crop year after year the soil looses important nutrients. After the nutrients are depleted from the soil by growing cotton year after year the cotton crop does not do very well.

George Washington Carver figured out that if you grow a different crop each year it helps the crops. This is called crop rotation. He taught his students about crop rotation and soon farmers learned to rotate their crops. Farmers would grow cotton some years but they would grow other crops like sweet potatoes and soybeans.

Farmers in the South rotated their crops so they were able to have better crops. Crop rotation also helped the economy of the South as it recovered from the Civil War. By rotating the crops the South could sell more than cotton. Selling a bunch of crops instead of just cotton helped the economy in the South.

The Peanut

One of the worst things for cotton crops is the boll weevil. George Washington Carver did research and found out that boll weevils will not eat peanuts. Peanuts would be a great crop for the South.

However, even if farmers could grow peanut easily it would not do any good unless the farmers could sell the peanuts. There needed to be a good use for peanuts that would make money.

George Washington Carver started looking for ways to use peanuts. He came up with great new ways to use peanuts such as cooking oil, dyes for clothing, plastics, fuel for cars, and peanut butter.

Other Crops

Carver knew that other crops would be valuable if he could think of other uses for them as well. He found ways to use soybeans and sweet potatoes. Because other crops were valuable like cotton, farmers could afford to rotate their crops. Carver helped make it profitable to rotate crops because they could sell the products and the soil would be enriched.

Carver’s Fame Grows

George Washington Carver got more and more famous. Remember back in Episode 9 of this podcast we talked about President Theodore Roosevelt, well Carver consulted with President Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress on matters of agriculture.


George Washington Carver had a nickname in the South, it was “farmer’s best friend”. Because of things like crop rotation and making more crops profitable Carver helped farmers make more money and stay in business. Carver helped a lot of people because he was interested in science. He did not worry about getting rich, he just wanted to help people. He thought his ideas were a gift from God and so he decided his good ideas should be free to others. He did not even patent most of his inventions and ideas.

George Washington Carver died on January 5, 1943. That is why the U.S. Congress made January 5th, George Washington Carver Day in his honor.

Interesting Facts about George Washington Carver

  • Since he was a slave when he was born George was called Carver’s George because he belonged to the Carves. Later, when he went to school they changed it to George Carver. Even later he decided he needed a middle name and decided that he would be George Washington Carver.
  • People in the south at the time called peanuts “goobers”.
  • Even when he was a teacher, Carver would go out to farms with his whole class so he could let his students learn about real farms and they all could work with the farmers to improve his crops.
  • Later in life was people called Carver the “Wizard of Tuskegee”.
  • It takes over 500 peanuts to make one 12-ounce jar of peanut butter.
  • When George Washington Carver died he left his life savings to the Tuskegee Institute. 

Great Mustaches in History

George Washington Carver had very kind looking eyes and a great looking mustache, but what really sets him apart as a great mustache in history is how much he helped people without thinking of himself.


GMIH-021 Charlemagne



Pick a card, any card. Did you know that some people think the kings in a deck of cards represent real kings from history? A lot of people might disagree but there are a whole lot of people who think the King of Hearts is a special card because it represents Charlemagne.

Charlemagne, also known as Charles I, was one of the greatest kings of the Middle Ages. Charlemagne at first was King of the Franks and later became the Holy Roman Emperor.

All of this was a long time ago because Charlemagne lived from 742 until 814. Sometimes you will hear Charlemagne called Charles the Great because that is what his name means.

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GMIH-020 Ferdinand Magellan



We have friends listening to this podcast all over the world. It is cool that I’m in Texas, we have listeners in England, New Zealand, Indonesia, China, and in Italy. In fact, we know of people in 77 countries but there may be more.

The world really is connected these days. But it was not always this way. In fact, there was a time when no one had ever sailed all the way around the world.

It took someone with a great mustache to lead the first trip to go all the way around the world. This man with a great mustache also discovered a way to go from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Today we call that passage the Straits of Magellan. That’s because the explorer that we are talking about is Ferdinand Magellan.

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GMIH-019 Johannes Gutenberg



Did you know that every time you read a book there is one person to thank.  If it were not for this man with a great mustache you would never be able to read a book because there would not be any books printed. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and he had a great beard and mustache.

The printing press might be one of the most important inventions ever. Without book we wouldn’t be able to learn. People would not be able to learn about history or share information with others. Most of what we know of science is learned in books.

You would not believe how hard it was to make books before Gutenberg invented the printing press. Every letter in every book had to be written by hand so you can imagine how hard it would be to make a whole library. And just think even if you could get one library full of books there would not be any other libraries. Very few people could own books because they cost so much and were so rare.

The printing press made the Renaissance possible and led the world out of the dark ages. This makes him the perfect subject for this episode of Great Mustaches in History.

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GMIH-018 Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu


People have been fighting wars since the beginning of time. But, there is one person who wrote the most famous book about the art of war. Military leaders, business leaders, and many other people have studied the book called The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Now, not only is this ancient book one of the most important books on warfare but of course you know that this is a podcast called Great Mustaches in History; so you will not be surprised that Sun Tzu has a great mustache.

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GMIH-016 Kaiser Wilhelm II



You may have known a little about some of the people we have covered before in this podcast. However, I bet you don’t know much about the man in this episode. He has a great mustache that turns up at the ends. He did more than just about anyone else to shape the whole of the twentieth century. Yet, how many people know about Kaiser Wilhelm II?

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GMIH-015 Alexander Graham Bell



You’ll never believe this but a long time ago telephones used to be attached to a wire plugged into the wall and you actually had to answer the phone before you knew who was calling you. Okay, that was just a joke. But it won’t be long until kids don’t know about life before cell phones.

But the whole idea of calling someone on the phone is due to a man with a great mustaches. Alexander Graham Bell is the subject of this episode of Great Mustaches in History.

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GMIH-014 John D. Rockefeller



If you are thinking of rich people the name Warren Buffet may come to mind. You might think of Bill Gates. But one name comes to everyone’s mind when people think of the super rich. His name has been synonymous with wealth for generations.

Not only is he the most famous of the world’s super rich, he also sported a mustache. So, John D. Rockefeller is perfect for this episode of Great Mustaches in History.

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GMIH-013 Walt Disney



Think of the best movies from your childhood. Now think of the happiest place on earth. Add in an interesting man who created a character that is the most recognized cartoon in the world, not to mention this man has a great mustache. Now you have the makings for another fun episode of Great Mustaches in History. Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901, in Hermosa, Illinois. Walt and his brother Roy started Walt Disney Productions. Disney has become one of the biggest and best-known names in all of entertainment. Walt Disney changed the way animation was done and raised the bar for family entertainment. He created the most recognized cartoon character ever; Mickey Mouse. In addition to that Walt Disney earned 22 Academy Awards and changed the way families took vacations when he opened Disneyland and Walt Disney World.  In 2013 the Walt Disney Company had an annual revenue of approximately $45 billion. Walt Disney’s influence will be felt for generations to come.

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