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World War II: Rationing and Victory Gardens

Updated: May 28

Ten blue ration stamps numbered 8, 5, 2, and 1, with letters Z, Y, and X.
Blue ration stamps from Ration Book 2 were used to purchase processed foods, such as canned and jarred products and juices.

World War II saw the mobilization of many industries and raw materials for the war effort, and large quantities of food were shipped overseas to feed those on the war front. At the same time, goods from areas of Southeast Asia and Pacific islands under Japanese control were unavailable, while shipping in the Atlantic was subject to attacks by German U-boats. These caused shortages of many foods and materials such as leather, rubber, and certain metals. To ensure that civilians and military personnel had the food and supplies they needed, the government instituted rationing.

Every American received ration books containing stamps for each of the goods subject to rationing at the time. These stamps were used alongside money to purchase goods at stores. Rationed foods started with sugar, then expanded to include meats and fats, canned and jarred foods, and coffee. Shoes were rationed, since leather was needed for war production. Gasoline was also rationed, leading to carpooling and other creative transportation solutions.

A man, Winthrop L. Carter, sits in a horse-drawn buggy outside the Nashua Gummed and Coated Paper Company building.
Winthrop L. Carter, president of the Nashua Gummed and Coated Paper Company, conserves gasoline by driving from his farm in Hollis.

Since large quantities of food were being shipped overseas to feed American troops and

Large field of garden beds surrounded by trees and brush.
Nashua Manufacturing Company Victory Gardens located north of the Bleachery.

their allies, civilians were encouraged to grow Victory Gardens. Americans planted millions of gardens across the country. They sprang up in various places, from lawns, to community land, to window boxes. Victory Gardens appeared in areas throughout Nashua, including on plots set aside by the Nashua Manufacturing Company. In all, Victory Gardens supplied 40% of all vegetables produced in the United States.

Want to learn more about rationing and victory gardens in Nashua?

World War II in Nashua: The Home Front and Beyond

Exhibit opening June 14, 2024, 5:30 pm

Florence H. Speare Memorial Museum, 5 Abbott Street, Nashua, NH

For more information, please visit the Events Page.

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May 26

The interesting thing about gasoline rationing is that there was no need to restrict gasoline use. The supply was more than adequate. But the supply of rubber wasn't realiable because the Japanese held the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), which was our principal supplier of rubber. So gasoline was rationed to cut down automobile travel for the purpsose of extending the lives of rubber tires.

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