Barbara Franklin

WWII Commodities Rationing

Food Ration Books and Stamps During WWII

One of genealogists’ favorite resource is finding past newspapers. We get excited when we find our ancestors written in print and marvel at it as if a window had opened to the past. While you, the reader/researcher, are researching, do you scan for the surnames only and ignore the news printed within the paper? The newspapers reveal many insights to our researchers today of how circumstances changed their communities’ social status, culture, and sub-culture. Did you know that by 1942 commodities could only be bought with food ration stamps during World War Two (WWII)? Even if an individual was not poor and had an abundance of money, that individual could not exceed his or her ration allotment.

According to the online Oxford Dictionary [1], the definition of ration is the following, “A fixed amount of a commodity officially allowed to each person during a time of shortage, as in wartime.” Notice the two words within the context—“each person”, meaning everyone in the USA was on ration allotments. When researching, Wanda and I find many articles that give us clues to the past. Recently, we came across the Beattyville Enterprise, a newspaper for Beattyville, Lee County, Kentucky, dated 18 Jan 1945 (the cost of the newspaper on that date was five cents).

The newspaper was the source that was used to inform the population of Lee County, Kentucky on how many stamps they could use for a commodity or commodities, and out of which ration book the stamps were in. Gasoline was rationed, and according to the news article, “Stamp A-14 good for four gallons [gasoline] through March 21”[2], which according to the date on the newspaper, 18 Jan 1945, four gallons had to last nearly three months. In addition, the article informed the population that stamps were allowed to buy shoes, and limited to one pair until further notice. How far would four gallons of gasoline get us in today’s time period?

Further, the 1944 plates were not going to be replaced with new plates; instead, stickers would be placed on the front windshield, while leaving the 1944 plate still on vehicle. Furthermore, upon receipt of gasoline coupons, the individual’s tag number had to be written on the face of the coupon(s), and to maintain a “Mileage Rationing Record” (Ibid, pg. 4). Sugar was the first commodity to be rationed, and tires was not going to be available for rationing or buying.

According to Genealogy Today [3], The Office of Price Administration, known as OPA, controlled the commodities. The commodities included, but not limited to, sugar, coffee, shoes, household appliances, just to mention a few. Sugar remained rationed until two years after the WWII ended. Our Aunt Madge told us that our grandfather had to sell his car, although for many reasons, one being he could not get tires because there was a rubber shortage about the same time Pearl Harbor was attacked. You may wonder, ‘why did we have a tire shortage?

The answer is that Japan seized the portion of Southeast Asia that was supplying the USA with natural rubber oils to make rubber [4]. Since the USA did not have enough material to make synthesized rubber to replace natural rubber, the cut-off from the supply from Southeast Asia caused the USA to literally run out of rubber to supply USA’s military when WWII broke out. The USA retaliated quickly to Japan by, as noted on History.com, “On July 26, 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt seizes all Japanese assets in the United States in retaliation for the Japanese occupation of French-Indo [Southwest Asia]. “President Roosevelt’s action overwhelmed Japan, as Japan quickly lost about 75% loss of access to trade with other countries”. Nearly five months later, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

Although it is interesting to read about trade wars between countries, the previous paragraph’s stance is focused on the drastic shortage of tires because of Japan’s control of a country that was supplying the USA with natural rubber oil. The USA created two immediate actions: 1), an immediate manufacturing protocol to make synthesized rubber; and 2), stopping the sale of tires until the military had enough supplies that required rubber (or synthesized rubber) for manufacturing.

In conclusion, reading old Newspapers from the past is like [figuratively] looking to the past through an opened window. The Beattyville Enterprise’s article, as the example in this blog regarding rationing during WWII revealed to us that regardless if an individual was rich or poor, each person was allotted rations and regardless how much money a individual had at the time, you could not obtain more until the next published date. In addition, tires could not be bought, and sugar was rationed until two years past the end of WWII. From tires to clothes and shoes, food, and other commodities, were all rationed, with some commodities remaining in short supply until sometime after the war ended. Imagine rationing today … as in 1941, people survived. Could we survive a food and other commodity shortage?

Thank you for reading!

Please feel free to respond with your thoughts by clicking on the comment icon.

Barbara and Wanda

 

Source List

[1] “Definition of the word ration”; Oxford Living Dictionary; n.d.; Retrieved 14 Jun, 2017 from [Database Online] URL Website at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/ration

[2] The Beattyville Enterprise; (Vol. LXI; No. 41; 18 Jan 1945; pg. 4); Entry for “Rationing at a Glance: Shoes, Gasoline”; and “This week in OPA”; Beattyville Enterprise: Beattyville, KY. Original Newspaper, preserved, is currently on borrowed possession of Wanda Haynes Langdon of Ohio; The Original was passed down from Elizabeth Shoemaker Hanes to Madge Hanes Moore, of Cincinnati, OH.

[3] “Genealogy Today; n.d.”; Entry for WWII War Ration Books; {Online Database} genenalogytoday.com (Accessed: 14 Jun 2017; Located at: http://www.genealogytoday.com/guide/war-ration-books.html); USA.

[4] “United States freezes Japanese Assets—26 Jul, 1941”; Unknown Author; n.d.”; Entry for “United States freezes Japanese Assets; World War II, 1941: Retrieved from {Database Online} (history.com (URL): Accessed 12 Jun 2017): URL location: http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/united-states-freezes-japanese-assets

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