Imagine planning a trip from Columbus to Cincinnati. You’ll want to pack your bags, bring a snack (peanut butter and jelly, maybe?), fill up your car and hit the road. Now, imagine that you’re planning this trip in 1943. If you want to buy new shoes for your trip, do you have a ration stamp to authorize that purchase? Did you can that jelly yourself, using a ration stamp for the sugar? Do you have enough ration stamps for the gasoline you’ll need? And how are your car’s tires? New ones will also require a ration stamp.
While many of us today are aware of the need to reduce/recycle/reuse, during the Second World War these practices were, for some items, mandatory. According to the now-defunct Office of Price Administration’s 1947 pamphlet, Rationing in World War II, “the outbreak of war confronted the American people with an experience new to most of them — widespread shortages of goods they had money to buy.” In some cases, imports were reduced or cut off; in others, factories were converted to wartime production. Supply simply could not meet demand.
As a consequence, the Priorities and Allocations Act (1940) and the Second War Powers Act (1942) were put into place, and many commodities were rationed. These included, among other things, transportation commodities, fuels and stoves, some foods, footwear, and typewriters.
The World War II Memorabilia Collection at the State Library of Ohio now includes images of ration stamps from this period. Provided to the State Library, as well as other cultural heritage institutions throughout the country, these ration stamps are popular with school groups as well as researchers interested in the social, cultural, business, and historical aspects of the period.
The next time you fill your gas tank, buy a pair of shoes, or run to the store for some coffee beans and sugar, take a moment and think of a time when these everyday actions weren’t so simple. And we hope you enjoy viewing these and all other items in Ohio Memory!
Thank you to Shannon Kupfer, Digital/Tangible Media Cataloger at the State Library of Ohio, for this week’s post!