Detail from Poster, "Wake Up America," 1917 (LOC)

Sheet Music, 1918 (LOC)

Wake Up America!

Life at Home During the War, 1917-1918

 State Historic Site

A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site

April 2017 through December 2018

Trail End

Rationing For a Cause

​PRIOR TO HIS departure, Senator Kendrick had been appointed to the Special Livestock Committee formed to advise the government on ways to obtain, transport and distribute meat and other livestock products to Europe.

When it joined the war, America not only had to feed its soldiers and sailors, it became a major supplier of food to Europe’s civilian population as well. Those items that could be shipped overseas relatively easily – beef, pork, wheat and sugar – were rationed stateside. Civilians were encouraged to consume more perishable foods, ones that couldn’t be shipped without danger of spoilage. Fish, chicken, corn and dairy products, therefore, became much more prevalent in the American diet.

Meatless Mondays and Wheatless Wednesdays became the norm. To help the homemaker adapt, women’s magazines published tips such as “How to Save Sugar” and “Making Meat Go Twice as Far.” Manufacturers were eager to help as well. Through patriotic-themed advertising, they showed consumers how the use of their products could help win the war. Royal Baking Powder, for example, had this to say:

Doing Your Share At Home! Women’s greatest patriotic service today is to heed the imperative advice of the National Food Administration. The wheat must be saved, and every housewife can do this by the use of baking powder breads made of corn and other coarse flours.

In 1918, relatively strict guidelines were enacted for restaurants and cafes: no bread could be served before the first course, and wheat rolls were limited to a one-ounce serving (those made with alternative grains such as corn or rye could be as large as two ounces). Sugar bowls were not allowed on tables; if customers wanted sugar for their coffee, they were limited to one teaspoon per person.

Sugar was tightly rationed – it was expensive and had to be imported on ships needed for troop transport. In addition, ice was needed for the export of food to Europe. To help, consumers were urged to cut soft drinks and cold desserts out of their diets. Unfortunately, this economy resulted in the closure of ice cream parlors and soda fountains across the land – including several in Sheridan.


Because America’s voluntary food conservation program was led by Federal Food Administration Secretary Herbert Hoover, the practice became known as “Hooverizing.” The goal of the program – which operated under the twin slogans Waste Nothing and Food Will Win the War – was to reduce America’s domestic food consumption by fifteen percent or more. It proved highly successful.

With a few exceptions, most restrictions were voluntary, but they were followed by the vast majority of Americans. Hoarders – people who kept “unreasonable amounts” of rationed goods for private use – were subject to fines of not more than $5,000 and/or imprisonment for not more than two years. As Wyoming Federal Food Administrator Theodore Diers of Sheridan noted in June 1918, “To hoard food is to give aid and comfort to the enemy!”