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WWII Rationing--Virtual Exhibit


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RATIONING

 

 

Rationing became necessary because the war created shortages. Imports were reduced or cut off entirely, as in the case of rubber; factories were converted to wartime production, as in automobiles; transportation difficulties were encountered, as with fuel oil; and large amounts of goods were necessary to supply our Armed Forces, such as food and shoes. At the same time, employment and civilian buying power increased so that uncontrolled demands arose far above peacetime levels. As a result, goods became scarce, buying runs and hoarding took place, goods were not distributed evenly throughout the country, and the supply flowed into the hands of the civilians in a haphazard and inequitable manner.

 

The basic purpose of rationing was to provide the distribution of scarce and necessary goods in a way that would be equitable and effective for a county that was at war. The method depended on the kinds of goods to be rationed. Rationing programs followed four general patterns: points rationing, uniform coupon rationing, differential coupon rationing, and certificates.

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POINT RATIONING

 

With point rationing, each consumer was given a certain number of "points" which he/she could spend for items of his/her choice. Point values were fixed with reference to the supply of each item and the potential demand for each.

 

Examples:

Processed foods (canned and bottled juices, vegetables and fruits)

Meats, fish, fats, and cheese

 

 

* War ration books were issued containing point currency for processed foods (blue stamps) and meats, fish, fats, cheese, etc. (red stamps).

 

* In 1944, ration tokens were issued as a means of reducing the number of food ration stamps handled by the bank and food trade. Stamps had a uniform value of 10 points each. The token had a value of 1 point each and was used to make change from a 10 point stamp. Blue tokens were for purchases of processed foods and red tokens for meats, fish, fats, cheese, etc.

 

 

This is the handbook given to ration board workers for use in distribution of Ration Book One.

 

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Application for Ration Book One.

 

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Set of instructions and "pledge" that came with Book One.

 

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Here is "War Ration Book One." Note that it is not actually a book, but rather a single printed page folded into quarters. It is extremely rare to find one complete. Many were issued with coupons already removed because some goods were no longer available or the applicant was not eligible for certain items. The fact that the family never used even one coupon is remarkable!

 

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War Ration Book Two. Another example of one not used. Actually, the book was not issued and was not valid.

 

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To be valid, Book Two had to have the numbered OPA stamp in the upper right corner.

 

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Book Two contained the red and blue coupons mentioned above. There were four pages of each.

 

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Examples of the red and blue tokens used to make change.

 

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Ration book holders and token "purses" came in many designs.

 

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Application for War Ration Book Three.

 

ApplicationBook3.jpg

 

War Ration Book Three.

 

Book3.jpg

 

Book Three contained two different types of coupons. The first were numbered and had the designs of an artillery piece, a light tank, an aircraft carrier, and a fighter plane. The second were lettered and numbered. Periodic notices in the newspapers and posted in stores told the consumers which coupons were currently valid and for what goods.

 

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Application for War Ration Book Four.

 

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War Ration Book Four.

 

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Book Four also contained different types of coupons.

 

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Book4Coupons2.jpg

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UNIFORM COUPON RATIONING

 

This method was used to ration a single commodity whereby everyone shared alike. A ration book stamp was periodically validated. The length of time between validations depended on the supply available for civilian buying.

 

Examples:

Sugar

Shoes

 

 

* War Ration Book One contained the first stamps to be used for the purchase of sugar. As part of the application process, each person was asked how much sugar they owned at that date. The allowance was five pounds of sugar for each member of the household. If the family allowance was exceeded, then a corresponding number of stamps were removed from their ration books before they were issued.

 

* Ration Book Four contained certain stamps that were periodically validated for sugar. Special coupons were also issued at times for purchasing sugar for home canning.

 

* On February 7, 1943, all shoes made in whole or part of leather were rationed. Ration Book Three contained certain stamps that were periodically validated for purchase of shoes.

 

* Application could also be made for a supplemental shoe ration. If approved, a special shoe stamp was issued.

 

 

Application for home-canning sugar allowance.

 

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Sugar allowance coupon for home food processing.

 

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Coupons for sugar.

 

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Sugar ration book issued instead of identical stamps in Ration Book Four.

 

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Sugar purchase certificate for fifteen pounds.

 

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Coupons for varying amounts of processed foods, meats, etc.

 

FoodCoupons.jpg

 

Special shoe stamp. This one was applied for, issued, but never used.

 

ShoeStamp.jpg

 

Shoe certificate for a member of the Armed Forces. It was authorized by an officer at Fort Devens, Mass.

 

ShoeCert.jpg

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DIFFERENTIAL COUPON RATIONING

 

Differential coupon rationing was used for commodities for which different people required varying amounts. Greater quantities were granted to some based on specifiec needs.

 

Examples:

Gasoline

 

 

* The first to experience the shortage of gasoline were those on the East Coast. German U-boat activity greatly impacted shipping on the Atlantic. Oil tankers, which carried 95% of the oil used daily, were either being sunk or diverted to safer waters. Adding to the problem, in September 1941, it was announced that a large part of the Nation's regular gasoline production would be switched over to making high octane aviation fuel. Also, railroad tank cars, which might otherwise have been used to transport fuel across country, were now utilized by the Government in other ways. Consequently, in May 1942, the entire eastern part of the United States became a "rationing area."

 

The earliest gasoline rationing program used cards worth a certain number of "units." The amount of a unit depended on the ration period and the type of vehicle it was used in. At the time of purchase, a hole was punched in the card. The exception was for card "X" which was for unlimited purchases.

 

GasCard.jpg

 

* In July 1942, the East Coast card rationing program was discontinued and replaced by a system called coupon rationing, which allowed the O.P.A. to keep record of all gasoline sold. The consumer would surrender his ration coupons to the "dealer." The rationed area remained the same but now coupons were issued in booklets marked "Gasoline Ration." As with the earlier system, the type of coupons issued depended on need and intended use. With the new system there was also issued with the new coupons a corresponding windshield sticker marked "Gasoline Ration."

 

GasRation.jpg

 

* On December 1, 1942, gasoline rationing went nationwide. The plan included a nationwide speed limit of 35 miles per hour and a tire inspection program. The coupon booklets and corresponding windshield stickers were changed slightly to read "Mileage Ration." Later, the coupons were issued in sheets and were kept in an identification folder. The design of the coupons varied with type and period of issue.

 

GasMile.jpg

 

GasFolder.jpg

 

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CERTIFICATES

 

This system was used when single items had to be allocated to individual consumers on a basis of need. A certificate was granted to an applicant who met the test of eligibility. The certificate holder was limited to the kind and type of article specified on the certificate.

 

Example:

Tires

 

* Every owner of an automobile was allowed only five tires per auto. Any excess tires, in any condition, had to be sold to the U.S. Government. Application to purchase a new tire was made only after it was determined the old tire could not be repaired or recapped. A certificate was then issued to purchase a new tire.

 

* Periodic tire inspection was required as part of the gasoline rationing program. Each tire, which was serial numbered, was checked for wear and inflation. Any defects were noted on the appropriate form.

 

 

Application for new tires. Each tire on the auto is serial numbered. Upon inspection, the condition of each tire is recorded. In this case, two of the tires, #1 and #2, were recaps and "beyond repair" due to "boots and cracks." Tires #3 and #4 were acceptable. Tire #5 was to be used as a spare only. Note the occupation of the auto owner--milk man!

 

TireCert2.jpg

 

This is a receipt showing that an automobile owner has been issued two new tires and that two old tires, serial numbers given, were turned in. The back of the receipt shows the "transfer" of the two new tires and their serial numbers.

 

TireCert1.jpg

 

TireCert1a.jpg

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