Thursday, July 13, 2017

WWI Patriotic Gardens

 20C AmericanVictory Gardens

Victory gardens (originally called war gardens or liberty gardens) made their 1st appearance in America during World War I (1914-1918). President Woodrow Wilson called on Americans to plant vegetable gardens to ward off possible food shortages. Americans took up the challenge as a patriotic duty.

Slogans like "Food Will Win the War" appeared in numerous ads and posters aimed at encouraging the American public to do their part for the war effort.

During World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1941-1945), millions of Americans helped the war effort by turning front yards, backyards, schoolyards, and vacant lots into vegetable gardens. These "home front" projects allowed every American to dig in to help win the wars raging abroad.

By 1919,  America became the world's leading seed supplier during World War I, as Europe faced mounting seed shortages. Calling attention to the war garden movement, seed companies and nurseries embellished their catalogs with patriotic imagery.

Charles Lathrop Pack, head of the National War Garden Commission, coined the term "victory garden," as World War I was nearing its end. More upbeat than "war garden," the term was so popular that it was used again during World War II, when victory gardeners sprang into action once more.

Governmental Regulation of Food During WWI

From the outbreak of World War I in Europe until the signing of the Versailles Treaty, the Wilson administration proposed and implemented programs affecting citizens' daily activities. The Lever Act of 1917 helped meet the extraordinary food consequences of World War I. 

In August 1917, Congress passed the Food and Fuel Control Act (40 Stat. 276), also known as the Lever Act. On August 10, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson issued Executive Order 2679-A creating the U. S. Food Administration. In doing so, he created a government entity to supplement existing volunteer efforts. 

The U. S. Food Administration, operating in each state, was to
~Assure the supply, distribution, and conservation of food during the war,
~Facilitate transportation of food and prevent monopolies and hoarding, and
~Maintain governmental power over foods by using voluntary agreements and a licensing system.

Herbert Hoover lobbied for and won the job of administrator of the Food Administration. Hoover had convinced President Wilson, that a single, authoritative administrator should head the effort, not a board. This, Hoover believed, would ensure an effective federal organization. He further insisted that he accept no salary. Taking no pay, he argued, would give him the moral authority he needed to ask the American people to sacrifice to support the war effort. As Hoover later wrote in his memoirs, his job was to ask people to "Go back to simple food, simple clothes, simple pleasures. Pray hard, work hard, sleep hard and play hard. Do it all courageously and cheerfully."

As head of the U. S. Food Administration, Hoover, given the authority by Wilson, became a "food dictator." The Lever Act had given the president power to regulate the distribution, export, import, purchase, and storage of food. Wilson passed that power on to Hoover. To succeed, Hoover designed an effort that would appeal to the American sense of volunteerism and avoid coercion. He oversaw federal corporations and national trade associations; he sought cooperation of local buyers and sellers. Through it all he called for patriotism and sacrifices that would increase production and decrease food consumption. Under Hoover's direction, the Food Administration urged all homeowners to sign pledge cards that testified to their efforts to conserve food. The government board issued the appeal on a Friday. By the following week, Americans had embraced wheatless Mondays, meatless Tuesdays, porkless Saturdays.

According to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, in Wisconsin's Green Lake County 100 percent of the housewives signed on and 80 percent of Milwaukee did. Schoolchildren joined housewives in supporting the effort by signing this pledge: "At table I'll not leave a scrap of food upon my plate. And I'll not eat between meals But for supper time I'll wait."  While Hoover preferred the emphasis on the "spirit of self sacrifice," he also had authority to coerce. He set wheat prices, bought and distributed wheat. Coercion plus volunteerism produced results. By 1918 the United States was exporting 3 times as much breadstuffs, meat, and sugar as it had prior to the war.

To achieve the results, the Food Administration combined an emphasis on patriotism with the lure of advertising created by its own Advertising Section. This section produced a wealth of posters for both outdoor and indoor display. One proclaimed: "Food is Ammunition-Don't waste it." Another combined patriotism with a modern healthy diet message. At the top, the poster encouraged readers to: "Eat more corn, oats and rye products-fish and poultry-fruits, vegetables and potatoes, baked, boiled and broiled foods." At the bottom, the poster concluded "Eat less wheat, meat, sugar and fats to save for the army and our allies."  These posters are visual evidence of the government's food effort during World War I. As much as possible, it did so under a banner of volunteerism, rather than coercion. In doing so, the Wilson administration created a program that did affect the everyday lives of Americans during World War I. An executive order signed August 21, 1920, terminated the remaining branches of the U.S. Food Administration.

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