World War II Deprivations in the United States

Billy J. Baker
as shared on
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Reposted with permission by Audrey (Shields) Hancock
Other contributors to the website are acknowledged with their entries.
Additional information added by Audrey (Shields) Hancock.

World War II was a time of sacrifice for all. The Office of Price Administration was created and price controls were made effective over nearly everything to eat, use or wear. Ceiling prices for all items were required to be posted prominently. Most of us are aware of the rationing of various food items but what about other little known deprivations? Below are a few items gleaned from old newspaper articles and memory. Can you add others?    Billy J. Baker

  • Women had to give up purchasing their silk stockings (hosiery) and were requested to give up their girdles. However, girdles were supplied to members of the WAAC. The girdle manufacturers produced a 'Victory Girdle' but with no stays, no rubber and no silk there were few takers.

  • Zippers were no longer put into new clothing.

  • No woolen dresses could be found on store racks.

  • Men's trousers were made without cuffs to save on material.

  • Shoes were rationed. Each member of the family was given one coupon to purchase one pair of shoes per year.

  • Vacuum cleaner production was halted.

  • Typewriters were rationed.

  • Empty toothpaste and shaving cream tubes had to be saved and returned in order to purchase "refills."

  • 70% reduction in the production of phonograph records and radio transcriptions to save on shellac.

  • Automobile new and retread tires were carefully controlled and strictly rationed.
    The Japanese cut off access to natural rubber supplies in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies under their control, and it was virgin rubber that was needed for production of tires. Recycled rubber was an inferior product.

  • Government regulations required prompt payment of retail store charge accounts. Default on account payments beyond the grace period resulted in no further credit purchases permitted.

  • Used automobile tires and tubes had their prices fixed with strict fines for violations. No one allowed to have idle tires. Repairable and new tires must be sold to the Government at fixed ceiling prices. Unusable tires are to be turned in to the scrap drive. This was a very serious program with necessary forms completed if you were to be able to purchase rationed gasoline. Tires could not be sold or traded among friends or relatives.

  • Manufacture of carving sets, pocket knives, manicure impliments and all other unessential cutlery was banned..

  • Highway speed limits for autos was set at 35 mph by decree on all highways and streets but did not contain enforcement or penalty provisions. Motorists were asked to voluntarily limit their non-essential driving to 60 miles a week

  • Gasoline, kerosene and fuel oil was rationed.

  • Purchases of adult bicycles were limited to persons engaged in a gainful occupation or in work that contributed to the war effort or to the public welfare.

  • Households were requested to save all used cooking grease and lard to be turned in at collection points.
    Glycerine for the manufacture of dynamite and drugs is derived from the fat and bones of meat and fowl. One pound of fat would make one pound of dynamite. Because of this, my mother, Rita M. (Lehmann) Shields, and others started using bacon grease when cooking and for popping popcorn. (Memory of Audrey Shields Hancock)

  • Households were requested that all tin cans be flattened and saved and turned in as scrap metal.
    These were washed, then top and bottom were cut out, flattened, placed in paper bags and set at the curb on pickup days in Piqua, Ohio. (Memory of Audrey Shields Hancock)

  • "Auto Graveyards" were eliminated. All scrap cars were ordered to the steel mills with owners required to dismantle their entire stock every 60 days.
    These metals were recycled into weapons, airplanes, jeeps and tanks.

  • Scrap drives were organized for scrap iron and steel, rags, manilla rope and burlap bags.
    Rags, old wool rugs, and the like were collected for the making of blankets and bandages for our soldiers. I especially recall the Orr Felt and Blanket Co. in Piqua, Ohio where many of my relatives worked. It's founder, Aaron Morrison Orr, was born in Darke County, Ohio. (Memory & Research of Audrey Shields Hancock)

    Courtesy of: Sandra E. Mumah

    Photo taken at the side of Quigley Drug Store
    Richmond, Indiana
    at the corner of Main & 4th Streets
    The Wayne Co., Indiana Court House is on right side at top of picture.

  • Anything aluminum was requested to be turned in during periodic scrap metal drives.

  • Farmers were requested to turn in all iron and unused implements as scrap metal.

  • The purchase of new farming machinery was rationed.

  • Scrap rubber drives were initiated with Boy Scouts picking up items from households and businesses..

  • The production of whiskey was ordered stopped due to the need for alcohol. There was no shortage of this liquor due to a 3 1/2 year supply on hand.

  • In order to save on rubber, there was no elastic waistbands in underwear. There was an opening on the side with a button attachment. (Memory of Ruth Schieltz)

  • Milkweed Pods were collected by schoolchildren as the fluff inside the pods was used as filling in life preservers. (Memory of Jerilee Hostetler and Billy Baker)
    [Snip-its] "Before WW II, the United States imported kapok (fibers from the seed pods of the silk-cotton trees) for filling life jackets." "Hundreds of school children were involved in picking the pods." During WW II the Japanese captured the East Indies and cut off the supply of kapok, so milkweed floss was the best substitute, as the floss was found to be 5 or 6 times as buoyant as cork. The U. S. Department of Agriculture asked farmers not to mow roadsides where milkweeds grew abundantly, so that they could be harvested.
    (Source: This link no longer works in November 2006 = Milkweed Pod Collection Program. Scrapbook. 1944)

  • A tiny metal gadget could be used to re-weave hosiery that got snagged or holes in in them. My mother used one and then would "set" the repair with a dot of colorless nail polish. (Memory of Diane G.)
    My mother, Rita M. (Lehmann) Shields, also used such a gadget. This consisted of a small circular metal cylinder that fit into the center of the hosiery. It was placed under the beginning of the run in the hosiery where she wanted to start the repair. Then she had a little thin hooking needle/gadget that she used to catch where the run began and gradually reweaved the run to where it began. She would repair hosiery for her many sisters and neighbors. I think she also used clear fingernail polish at times to seal the repair. This was tedious and time consuming work to reweave the hose. She would sit in the evenings and do this with other mending jobs. (Memory of Audrey Shields Hancock)

    Courtesy of: Karen (Shields) Richey

  • When hosiery was available, women stood in long lines to purchase these. Sometimes mothers sent their children to do the purchasing. (Memory of David E. Hancock)

    WORLD WAR II RATION BOOKS of Audrey A. Shields

    Each member of a family was issued ration books. It was the homemaker's responsibility to pool the stamps and plan the family's meals within the set limits. Sugar, butter, coffee, and beef were especially scarce. Planting of the "Victory Garden" was added to the homemaker's plans and home canning was common.

    This first book was folded and appears to have contained a few stamps within along with my "Certificate of Registrar" giving my name, address, height, weight, color of eyes, color of hair, age, and sex. This was issued 7 May 1942.

    The second and third books contained the information on the front page and the stamps (grayish green) appeared within the cover with the instructions on the back.

    Also, visit the Darke Co., Ohio Website
    Dark Times in Darke County - WWII Remembered
    by the members
    of the Darke County E-mail List

    E-mail:  Audrey (Shields) Hancock

    Created: 4 November 2005
    Revised: 5 January 2006 Moved to new site: 18 August 2007

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