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Popeye’s Spinach

When Popeye was created in 1929 by cartoonist Elzie Segar, spinach was slang for cannabis.

Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. Please contact us for licensing options.

Everyone knows the cartoon hero Popeye, who always lands in difficulties and just as he threatens to lose from the bearded sea-dog Bluto, eats a tin of spinach. He then becomes super strong and defeats every opponent. But do Popeye and Olive really obtain the green stuff at the greengrocers?

Slang for cannabis

When Popeye was created in 1929 by the American cartoonist Elzie Segar (1894-1938), spinach was slang for cannabis. It can be heard, for example, in that sentence in the number “The Spinach Song (I Didn’t Like It The First Time)” by the jazz band Julia Lee and Her Boyfriends, who also had a hit with “Lotus Blossom (Sweet Marijuana)”. They performed in jazz clubs in Kansas City where a cloud of weed smoke hung every evening and used spinach as a metaphor for marihuana. It makes you think about the spinach eating sailor Popeye, especially as he used to eat his greens through his pipe. Which is rather strange for spinach that comes out of a tin.

Anti-cannabis lobbyists in the 1930s stated that cannabis made you immune to bullets and gave you other supernatural powers just like Popeye used to sing “I’m strong to the finish ‘cause I eat me spinach”. As a sailor, Popeye was of course, familiar with exotic herbs and plants. American sailors were the first to smoke cannabis in the United States. There is another cannabis reference with regard to Popeye: in the 1960s, Popeye’s dog was called Birdseed and in those days hemp seed was used as birdseed.

The Spinach Song:

“Spinach has vitamin A, B and D, but spinach never appealed to me
But one day while having dinner with a guy, I decided to give it a try
I didn’t like it the first time, it was so new to me
I didn’t like it the first time, I was so young, you see
I used to run away from the stuff, but now somehow I can’t get enough
I didn’t like it the first time, oh, how it grew on me!”

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Popeye’s Spinach When Popeye was created in 1929 by cartoonist Elzie Segar, spinach was slang for cannabis. Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. Please contact us for licensing options. Everyone

The Secret Life of Popeye

Today, two more states in the United States have voted to legalize recreational marijuana, which brings the total to four, or eight percent of the country. As tolerance for the venerable herb grows, I thought today would be a good day to remember that pot has always had a place in American culture, and it wasn’t always viewed negatively by the general population.

As this war poster shows, hemp and other industrial products made from the cannabis plant were once an important part of the economy.

Popeye, the Sailor Pothead

A persistent rumor has it that the cartoon character Popeye the Sailor man used cannabis regularly, and this was the true source of his strength.

Literature from the Marihuana, Hashish, and Hemp Museum in Amsterdam explains it like this:

Thanks to his tins of spinach, the muscles of the famous cartoon figure Popeye achieved enormous proportions. But did Popeye really get his green stuff from the greengrocers? When he was created by the cartoonist Erzie Segar in 1929, ‘spinach’ was slang for cannabis. Popeye has been known to consume spinach through his pipe. Anti-marijuana lobbyists claimed that cannabis made you supernaturally strong, and, as Popeye sang: “I’m strong to the finish ’cause I eats me spinach.” As a sailor, Popeye was also familiar with exotic herbs, and sailors were the first people in the US to adopt the practice of smoking cannabis. In the 1960s Popeye’s dog was called Birdseed; at that time, hemp seeds were a well-known source of nutrition for birds, as they are today.

Today, two more states in the United States have voted to legalize recreational marijuana, which brings the total to four, or eight percent of the country. As tolerance for the venerable herb grows, I thought today would be a good day to remember that pot has always had a place in American culture, and it…