E.F. Spears & Sons hemp records


The E.F. Spears & Sons Hemp Records (dated 1886-1925, undated; 1.8 cubic feet, 4 boxes) comprises correspondence, and product and customer account information documenting the production, distribution and development of hemp and hemp seed in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky (centered in Paris, Ky.).

Descriptive Summary

E.F. Spears & Sons hemp records
1886-1925, undated
1.8 Cubic feet
Business records--Kentucky.
Hemp industry--Kentucky--Bourbon County.
Hemp industry--Kentucky--History--20th century.
Hemp industry.
Collection is arranged by format.
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Dominique Luster
Preferred Citation
1997ms338 : [identification of item], E. F. Spears & Sons Hemp records, 1886-1925, undated, University of Kentucky Special Collections.
University of Kentucky

Collection Overview

Biography / History
The Spears family were early Bourbon County, Ky., settlers. Jacob Spears (1754-1825) was a soldier who served with George Washington at Yorktown. He erected the first whisky distillery in Bourbon County in 1790. His grandson, Edward Ford Spears (1840-1907), was a Confederate veteran who served in the Orphan Brigade. Edward married Sallie Woodford (1840-1919) in 1866. They had six children: Woodford, Mary, John W., Lizzie, Catesby, and Keith Young. In 1867, Edward became partner in a mill and distilling business named Woodford, Spears, and Clay. When that company dissolved in 1876, Edward went exclusively into milling flour. In 1886, he founded E.F. Spears & Sons, a company which advertised "Kentucky Bluegrass seed, rough and dressed American hemp, flour, meal, feed, grain, etc. Paris, Kentucky."
E.F. Spears & Sons was a major participant first in the hemp industry and then in the bluegrass seed industry. Hemp, a fiber used for binder's twine, was mainly produced in the U.S. during the pre-Civil War era in Central Kentucky counties. The difficulties in producing hemp, a lack of demand, and the tobacco industry reduced hemp's importance as a viable agricultural crop. In 1923, the company changed its name to Woodford Spears & Sons, and added a bluegrass seed cleaning business in Paris, Ky., which reflected a diversification of offerings. The firm was led by Edward's grandsons, Charles F. Spears (1897-1982) and Edward F. Spears (1895-1970). Cleaning bluegrass seeds is a process that pulls the very rough seed through a machine with a wire mesh component, and the remaining material is sifted and run through a bran polisher to loosen the wool and leave a better quality of seed weight. The diversification of products preceded the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, which levied steep fines on growers of hemp, cannabis, and marijuana, and many growers ceased producing those materials. In 1938, the production of hemp was completely outlawed. Through the rest of the 20th century, Woodford Spears & Sons continued expanding their offerings with general farm and agricultural materials, including animal feed and fencing products.
Biddle, Patty. Kentucky Straight Bourbon: Roots of Bourbon Co.- Paris, Kentucky and surrounding counties ... 1808-1865. Compiled by Patty Biddle, Paris, Ky., 1979.
Brown, Edgar and Pieters, A.J., U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kentucky Bluegrass Seed: Harvesting, Curing and Cleaning. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1902.
Collins, Lewis. History of Kentucky, Vol. 2. Covington, Ky.: Collins & Co., 1877.
Everman, H.E. A History of Bourbon County, 1785-1865. Paris, Ky.: Bourbon Press, 1977.
Hopkins, James F. A History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1951.
Perrin, William H. History of Bourbon, Harrison, and Nicholas Counties. Chicago: O.L. Baskin, 1882.
Sons of the American Revolution Membership Applications, 1889-1970. Louisville, Ky.: National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Microfilm, 508 rolls. Ancestry.com. Accessed Oct. 14, 2014.
Scope and Content
The E.F. Spears & Sons Hemp Records (dated 1886-1925, undated; 1.8 cubic feet, 4 boxes) comprises correspondence, and product and customer account information documenting the production, distribution and development of hemp and hemp seed in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky (centered in Paris, Ky.). Included in the collection is business correspondence between Spears & Sons and potential and current clients across the United States. The letters detail customer solicitations--including to the United States Navy--product inquiries, orders, and transportation plans. There are also mercantile agency records with information about other companies; hemp, hemp seed, and hemp rate ledgers (1912-1923); a hemp-related equipment blueprint; and Woodford Spears’ balance and deposit slips for the Bourbon Agricultural Bank, Paris, Ky. (1886-1893) and the First State Bank, Eustice, Fla. (1917-1923).

Restrictions on Access and Use

Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open to researchers by appointment.
Use Restrictions
Property rights reside with the University of Kentucky. The University of Kentucky holds the copyright for materials created in the course of business by University of Kentucky employees. Copyright for all other materials has not been assigned to the University of Kentucky. For information about permission to reproduce or publish, please contact Special Collections.

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, 1894-1908

Scope and Contents note

Primarily comprises business correspondence related to trying to gain new clients in other cities, orders filled, and letters declining interest in hemp from E.F. Spears & Sons. The personal correspondence comprises one letter from Noah Spears to his second cousin, E.F. Spears, about their genealogical history.

Arranged into two subseries, Personal correspondence and Business correspondence. The Business correspondence is arranged alphabetically by state and thereunder chronologically.

Business correspondence, 1894-1908

Alabama, 1904

  • Box 1, Folder 1
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Arkansas, 1906

  • Box 1, Folder 2
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California, 1904-1907

  • Box 1, Folder 3
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Canada, 1904

  • Box 1, Folder 4
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Connecticut, 1904

  • Box 1, Folder 5
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Delaware, 1904

  • Box 1, Folder 20
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Georgia, 1903-1904

  • Box 1, Folder 6
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Germany, 1904

  • Box 1, Folder 21
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Illinois, 1903-1906

  • Box 1, Folder 7
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Illinois, 1906-1907

  • Box 1, Folder 8
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Indiana, 1904-1906

  • Box 1, Folder 9
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Iowa, 1904-1906

  • Box 1, Folder 10
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Kansas, 1904-1906

  • Box 1, Folder 11
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Kentucky, 1902

  • Box 1, Folder 12
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Kentucky, 1903

  • Box 1, Folder 13
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Kentucky, 1904 January

  • Box 1, Folder 14
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Kentucky, 1904 February

  • Box 1, Folder 15
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Kentucky, 1904 March

  • Box 1, Folder 16
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Kentucky, 1904 April-June

  • Box 1, Folder 17
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Kentucky, 1904 July-1905 January

  • Box 1, Folder 18
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Kentucky, 1906

  • Box 1, Folder 19
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Kentucky, 1907 January-August

  • Box 2, Folder 1
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Kentucky, 1907 September-October

  • Box 2, Folder 2
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Kentucky, 1907 November-December, 1908

  • Box 2, Folder 3
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Louisiana, 1903

  • Box 2, Folder 4
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Maryland, 1903-1904

  • Box 2, Folder 5
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Massachusetts, 1902-1904

  • Box 2, Folder 6
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Michigan, 1904-1906

  • Box 2, Folder 7
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Minnesota, 1904

  • Box 2, Folder 8
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Missouri, 1904-1907

  • Box 2, Folder 9
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Nebraska, 1904

  • Box 2, Folder 10
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New Hampshire, 1904

  • Box 2, Folder 11
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New Jersey, 1903-1904

  • Box 2, Folder 12
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New York, 1902-1903

  • Box 2, Folder 13
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New York, 1904 January-May

  • Box 2, Folder 14
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New York, 1904 June-December

  • Box 2, Folder 15
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New York, 1905-1907

  • Box 2, Folder 16
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North Carolina, 1904

  • Box 2, Folder 17
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North Dakota, 1904

  • Box 2, Folder 18
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Ohio, 1902-1903

  • Box 3, Folder 1
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Ohio, 1904

  • Box 3, Folder 2
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Ohio, 1905

  • Box 3, Folder 3
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Ohio, 1906 January-March

  • Box 3, Folder 4
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Ohio, 1906 April-June

  • Box 3, Folder 5
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Ohio, 1907-1908

  • Box 3, Folder 6
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Oregon, 1904

  • Box 3, Folder 7
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Pennsylvania, 1894, 1902-1906

  • Box 3, Folder 8
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Rhode Island, 1903

  • Box 3, Folder 9
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Scotland, 1904

  • Box 1, Folder 22
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Tennessee, 1904-1907

  • Box 3, Folder 10
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Texas, 1904

  • Box 3, Folder 11
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Virginia, 1904-1906

  • Box 3, Folder 12
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Washington, 1904

  • Box 3, Folder 13
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Washington, D.C., 1904

  • Box 3, Folder 14
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West Virginia, 1904-1906

  • Box 3, Folder 15
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Wisconsin, 1904-1906

  • Box 3, Folder 16
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Personal correspondence, 1894

  • Box 3, Folder 17
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Office records, 1886-1925, undated

Scope and Contents note

The Office records series comprises receipts for hemp, seeds, and hemp manufacturing-related items; bank account balance and deposit slips from the Bourbon Agricultural Bank and Trust Co. and First State Bank in Eustice, Fla.; documents related to soliciting United States Navy contracts; telegrams received from potential and actual clients; blueprints and catalog order forms for hemp production equipment; and mercantile agency records with information about other companies.

Telegrams (received), undated

  • Box 3, Folder 18
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Receipts, 1903-1923, undated

  • Box 3, Folder 19
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United States Navy solictitation records, undated

  • Box 3, Folder 20
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R.G. Dun mercantile agency records, 1902-1903

  • Box 4, Folder 1