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World War II Rationing

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During World War II, numerous goods became scarce. Some were difficult to obtain, and others were needed for the war. In the United States, rationing began in 1942, and continued throughout the war, and in some cases like sugar, until 1947. I knew little of this until I discovered ration booklets and some additional ephemera among my grandfather's files.

Ration Booklets Sugar Automotive Recycling

Ration Booklets

War Ration Book One. Issued to Don Hinks, May 7, 1942. No stamps remain inside the booklet.
War Ration Book Two. Issued to Don Hinks. No stamps remain inside the booklet.
War Ration Book Three. Issued to Don Hinks. Samples shown of remaining stamps.
War Ration Book Four. Issued to Don Hinks. Samples shown of remaining stamps.


As a single guy, I may not have the most realistic idea of how much sugar a family of five would use in a year. I find it difficult to imagine buying more than one standard five pound bag of sugar at a time, and maybe only a few times a year if I did a lot of baking. The records of sugar purchases I found, however, suggest my Great Grandmother Mildred Hinks purchased over fifty pounds of sugar in less than six months, probably using my Grandfather's ration stamps since these certificates were saved with those booklets. And with a family of five, using each person's ration stamps could greatly increase the amount of sugar the family could purchase.

Sugar Purchase Certificate. Mildred Hinks purchased thirty pounds of sugar on June 17, 1942. This purchase probably used up some of the ration stamps for her son, Don Hinks.
Sugar Purchase Certificate. Mildred Hinks purchased twenty-nine pounds of sugar on October 1, 1942. This purchase probably used up some of the ration stamps for her son, Don Hinks.

I asked my Grandfather if he could remember anything about the sugar rationing at the time. He was only nine years old at the time the rationing started, but recalls his parents having a large bag of perhaps a hundred pounds of sugar hidden in a closet. They did not want anyone to learn they had that much sugar when everyone else was less fortunate.

However, having a hundred pounds of sugar for a family of five might not have been as uncommon as it might seem. According to a National Park Service article on the sugar rationing, each person was initially allotted twenty-six pounds of sugar for a year, and if I understand the article correctly, that quantity was soon doubled. For a family of five, that would be 130 pounds of sugar for the year, or 260 pounds if the rationed quantity was doubled. To me, that is a lot of sugar!


Rubber was a scarce resource during World War II. My Great Grandparents were allowed four tires for their 1935 Oldsmobile, and a spare. Additional tires had to be surrendered to the government, something I did not realize until I started searching for more information about these documents I found. The National Park Service has a good article about rationing tires and other non-food items during World War II.

Receipt for shipment of six used tires to the Defense Supplies Corp. in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 18, 1942.
Certificate issued on February 18, 1943, to authorize new treads to be put onto two tires. This meant the tires could be used longer before replacing them was necessary. The rear of this certificate was never filled out, so I do not think it was actually used.

Because gasoline fueled the war effort, it too was rationed. Citizens were issued mileage rations that permitted the purchase of set amounts of gasoline each week. There were also regulations restricting speed and requiring frequent vehicle inspections to maintain one's allotment.

The front, back, and inside of a B Supplemental Mileage Ration booklet issued August 30, 1943, for Amos Hinks and his 1935 Oldsmobile. I believe all rations for this booklet were used.

I once asked my Grandfather about this Supplemental Mileage Ration. While he may not recall much since he was around nine or ten years old at the time, he said his family was fortunate to get the B, probably because his father Amos Hinks had a good job working at the Star Drilling Machine Co.


I do not have any other ration documents, but one thing I have noticed is that my grandparents have always been very strong supporters of recycling, a trait they learned during the shortages of World War II. Paper, glass, and anything metal can be recycled, and often get separated and taken to the appropriate facility. Now they have added plastic to their recycling.

Perhaps slighly off-topic, I recall my Dad's Aunt Dee once telling how she and other children during World War II would go into the fields to collect milkweed pods. I think she said it was for parachutes, but perhaps I misheard or remember incorrectly. Milkweed seed floss, at the time, was used in life jackets for sailors and downed aviators. She also mentioned how grease and fats were saved and donated for use in the creation of bombs--another great example of recycling.

Today, even with the increased hype surrounding recycling, it is difficult to find stronger supporters of recycling than those who lived through the rationing of World War II.

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