Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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March 1, 1943

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Alarm clocks manufactured in the 1940s required brass and copper, two materials which were given military priorities. When part supplies became exhausted alarm clock production ceased. At the same time the number of civilian workers had soared as industries employed multiple shifts to fill defense orders. For this increased work force there were not enough alarm clocks to go around. Eventually the War Production Board authorized a victory model alarm clock in response to vocal civilian demand.

Those who overslept contributed to employee absenteeism, a malaise which was combated as unpatriotic. War production plants held competitions for best attendance records and presented cash and other awards to winners. Those female workers with families in particular were hard pressed to put in full six day weeks. Household duties including shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing, and attending to sick children as well as simple fatigue caused some women to skip some days of industrial labor.

Housing was a significant wartime problem. Critical shortages existed in Chicago, East St. Louis, Rock Island-Moline, Rockford, and Springfield. Hotels filled with permanent residents while others made do with apartments in converted basements, attics, and garages. Some federal housing was constructed but building materials were in short supply and by and large war workers found shelter in increasingly crowded and expensive preexisting structures. The Chicago City Council in May 1942 eased building codes to allow dwellings to be carved up to accommodate multiple families.

John Chapman, the governor's secretary, responded to this letter on March 2. He advised Miss Shelley to pursue her complaint with the Chicago office of the federal War Production Board. State government had no authority in the matter.

Points to Consider

Why did Miss E. Shelley need an alarm clock?

Why were alarm clocks not available for purchase?

How might alarm clocks have been considered important for the war effort?

Why was Miss Shelley living in a hotel?

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