Primary Sources: The WWII Ration Book


Our current issue on energy includes a timeline of energy milestones from 1748 to the present. In researching the tale of our energy use, I came across this website, an archival treasure trove of rationing during World War II. Most basic goods were rationed during the war, and the government and media launched a propaganda campaign to rally Americans to this patriotic cause. Rationed items included tires, cars, bicycles, gasoline, fuel oil and kerosene, solid fuels, stoves, rubber footwear, shoes, sugar, coffee, processed foods, meats, canned fish, cheese, canned milk, fats, and typewriters.


Most of us have made no such sacrifices for the war in Iraq, but we may have to for other reasons: Our energy future will be defined by limited supply of once-unlimited commodities, and already some cities here in the Bay Area are preparing to ration water due to low reserves. As alien as the idea seems, we might do well to revisit those patriotic sacrifices after all.

—Casey Miner