WWII | On the Home Front

One of my early collectable items were war ration books from WWII. During the war, the U.S. government set up roughly 8000 war ration boards to control the consumption of strategic materials like gasoline, rubber, sugar, meat, butter and so on. The ration boards issued every family ration books to ensure equality and control those crucial items. It is those types of civilian war time ephemera that has long been a source of interest and intrigue for me. In college I took a lot of classes centered around the second world war and the home front was frequently discussed. V-Mail was another favorite WWII collectable. I still have deadstock boxes of V-Mail forms that I own to this day. For my most recent birthday my grandmother (knowing of my interest in old WWII stuff) sent me an old leather war ration envelope that she found. The soft leather envelope is still embossed with the initials “J.B.S” in gold lettering and fits two ration books perfectly. Sort of a funny thing to use, a leather ration envelope. It makes you think that during those days the war was not a short term thing and government rationing was a real part of daily life.

Comments on “WWII | On the Home Front

    Nick sullivan on October 27, 2010 8:30 AM:

    Thanks for the interresting posting. Rationing was no short term initiative. My mum who was very young can remember the ration lasted in england from 1940 throughout the war, after which things slowly improved but such was the impact and lasting damage to the food production capabilities by the conflict that rationing was not repealed until 1953!

    Robert@AmericanAntler on October 27, 2010 8:55 AM:

    Thank you for this post. It really puts an important spin on why collecting vintage items or antiques is so special–it reminds us of where we have been, and in some cases sacrifices of the ones who came before us to give us such a great life today……..
    Beautiful stuff.

    TMH on October 27, 2010 9:26 AM:

    Thank you. I can’t imagine this happening again. There would be riots. The
    Iconic red Che T-shirts with the Presidents face inserted. No one knows the America you write about even existed. Powerful reminder. Take this on the road Michael. I will bring my Grandfathers Purple Heart. He left his eye on a beach in France ( he was 27 on his second tour). 2 of my most treasured possessions are his name and the bulova he recieved when he graduated High School. I’m serious about the road trip . I will drive.
    Great looking envelope.

    Justin on October 27, 2010 9:29 AM:

    I have one of these from my grandparents full of stamps, along with my grandfather’s Jones & Laughlin employee card.

    Ray T on October 27, 2010 11:52 AM:

    Very cool to see. I love the WWII posts. That’s definitely something awesome to have in a collection. I can’t tell size from the photos because there’s nothing for reference, though. That would be an interesting piece to re-purpose for some daily modern use.

    Makaga on October 27, 2010 12:35 PM:

    I remember finding ration stamps in my grandfather’s house when we were cleaning it out. They were thrown away, with so many other remnants of an earlier time, by the other family members. Sad to discard such things, but it also feels necessary (in some cases) in order to move into the present.

    BTW, any ACLers know of any courses that cover the history of WWII? That is a topic I only know a cursory amount of.

    JonIndiaâ„¢ on October 27, 2010 12:47 PM:

    cool shit. how did you manage to find this?

    Ramalhoni on October 27, 2010 12:49 PM:

    I’ve heard of them, but had never actually seen one!!! Thanks for sharing ..

    Leah on October 27, 2010 1:08 PM:

    Funny, I was listening to a program on BBC Radio 4 this morning and they were talking about rationing. How the meat was measured in ounces, the portions were so small, and the weekly allowance of butter per person was the same size as a sealed pack of butter you get with your toast in hotels.

    The leather pouch is beautiful, your grandma is rad!

    Kevin on October 27, 2010 4:21 PM:

    i think my grandma still has some of her ration stuff from WWII. as well as VMail from her husband when he was in the s. pacific.

    lord on October 27, 2010 6:32 PM:

    modern day rations for select folk are called food stamps

    TMH on October 27, 2010 7:09 PM:

    Actually no. Not like food stamps. Rationing was about
    Conserving resources. Food stamps are about making sure people have access to food and the basics. The exact opposite.

    christy on October 27, 2010 9:27 PM:

    I have a similar artifact from WW2- a leather briefcase which belonged to my father ( USAF).
    It was nothing to do with rationing… but it was part of his “gear” as his job required him to go to South America after the war- and it has “dead reckoning” numbers on it. My question: where can I take/send this leather case for proper conditioning? Does anyone have a suggestion?
    It sits on my closet shelf waiting for reconstitution.

    TMH on October 27, 2010 11:34 PM:

    Artbag Creations
    handbag and luggage repair shop
    1130 Madison Ave

    JFD on October 28, 2010 1:45 PM:

    Rationing had an interesting effect on lots of parts of daily life; e.g., my parents were married on Christmas Day 1945, my dad being recently home from the war after being injured, because there were extra gas rations for the holiday and the families were able to travel to be there.

    Aaron on October 28, 2010 3:43 PM:

    Christy- I would be very careful about cleaning or reconditioning that briefcase. It would probably diminish any value it has.

    christy on October 28, 2010 6:30 PM:

    Thanks for your replies TMH and Aaron. Aaron- I had not thought that through and see you are correct. I should get a “look-see” from someone who can value the case. Maybe I can donate it somewhere…

    JFD–what a lovely story!

    Urban Da Vinci on November 1, 2010 7:55 PM:

    As a lover of history, and really loving WWII seeing any items from that time period blows my mind. There is something about that era that just screams stylish, vintage, and lasting. With future designs for my company, it is my goal to merge this area with ours today.

    matt on November 4, 2010 1:13 PM:

    You ever get into old USO recordings? I’m sitting on a bunch at the moment and a couple of them would make for unreal mp3’s. Such a time and a place. Mr. Sullivan had a listen and said you’d love to hear them as they were right up your alley.

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