Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Bellicose Paperwork

Mileage stamps
Mileage stamps
When the United States entered World War II in 1942, the American economy shifted to a rationing system administered by the Office of Price Administration (OPA). It became illegal to sell items without the correct amount of ration stamps, no matter how much money a customer had. As you might imagine, this led to an explosion of paperwork.

Today, these ration books are not only historically significant, but aesthetically appealing, as the government used patterns, watermarks, and color to deter counterfeiters. Most of the symbols were patriotic and bellicose, ranging from eagles and American flags to tanks and airplanes.
Rubber footware rationing card

The most commonly rationed items were gasoline, rubber, and oil, as these were all in high demand for the war. "Rubber footwear" required special permissions and paperwork, including a "Certificate to Acquire Men's Rubber Boots and Rubber Work Shoes." Even "Non-Rationed Shoes" required stamps.

produce rationing couponsThe government privileged the military in the culinary realm, sending preserved food (like canned goods) and specialty food (like chocolate) to soldiers overseas, while Americans faced food rations. In our collection we have sugar allowance coupons -- but this sugar is only "for home food processing," unless you had a Special Application (Form R-315). This sheet of rationing coupons for "Meats, Fats, Fish, and Cheese" is for citizens living along the Mexican border; the back includes instructions in Spanish.

These rationing cards come from MS-1280 (Office of Price Administration Ration Cards Collection), Box 1. Come by and figure out how many stamps you'd need to get that new bike. Or take the OPA's advice: "If you don't need it, DON'T BUY IT." 

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