“Life of George Washington–The Farmer.” Washington standing among African-American field workers harvesting grain; Mt. Vernon in background. Painted by Stearns, ca. 1853. PHOTO: Library of Congress
Our first president, George Washington, was born into a family of middle-class tobacco planters in Virginia. He was once described as the “foremost farmer” of America, experimenting with crop rotation, fertilizer, and new equipment. He believed in making America a key agricultural player.
Theodore Roosevelt on horseback, ca. 1909, along with his one-legged pet rooster, ca. 1910. PHOTOS: Library of Congress
Theodore Roosevelt, although not born into a family of farmers, had always had a keen interest in nature. He studied biology at Harvard, and was a talented naturalist and ornithologist. His love of nature prompted him to acquire several pets, including a barn owl, a pony, and a one-legged rooster. When he temporarily left politics after the death of his first wife, he moved to the Dakotas to operate two ranches. During this time, he learned to hunt and rope like a regular cowboy. This cemented the frontiersman image he retains today.
Woodrow Wilson, seated posed on swing on porch, facing front, with his wife and three daughters.” 1912. PHOTO: Library of Congress.
While not all presidents could ride a horse like Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson did his part to lend aid to farmers during the early part of the twentieth century. In 1916, Wilson passed the Federal Farm Loan Act. The law was intended to increase credit to rural families. These loans allowed farmers to compete with big business, decreasing the likelihood of farming monopolies.
President Jimmy Carter at the White House. During his inauguration, Carter’s family business was paid tribute in the form of a peanut float (below), ca. 1977. PHOTOS: Library of Congress.
And of course there’s our 29th president, Jimmy Carter, a peanut farmer from Georgia. The peanut farm had been the business of Carter’s father, who also operated both warehouse and store, but after his death, Carter took it upon himself to run the land. Applying skills acquired from his Bachelors of Science from the U.S. Naval Academy, the farm began to prosper once again. By the time he ran for governor of Georgia in 1970, he was considered a wealthy farmer, all thanks to the simple peanut. Having been such an integral part of his life, the nut was on display at his presidential inauguration in 1977.