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

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November 9, 1943

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The Monday after Pearl Harbor housewives across the nation rushed to grocery stores to stock up on large quantities of sugar in anticipation of wartime shortages. Experience in the First World War had been instructive in this regard. Freighter shipping was diverted quickly from Caribbean sugar countries to European and Pacific war theaters. And the sugar produced from domestic cane and beet crops was given a military priority. Sugar could be processed into molasses which in turn could be made into ethyl alcohol, an essential ingredient in explosive materials. Servicemen too required large quantities of this natural sweetener and preservative.

Sugar rationing in Illinois was first instituted on April 20, 1942. Households were required to declare their stockpiles when they applied for coupons and personal consciences dictated honest allotments. Every man, woman, and child was rationed twelve ounces of sugar a week. This was one half of the prewar consumption of one and a half pounds. Although these figures seem high today, it should be noted that most of the processed foods that are available now did not exist in the 1940s.

With sugar supplies restricted consumers were forced to change their eating habits. Housewives baked less frequently and used saccharin, corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, and other sugar substitutes. Restaurants removed sugar bowls from their tables and offered naturally sweet fruit pies and other desserts.

Sugar was an essential preservative in canning fresh fruit and vegetables and special government sanctioned supplements were made for that purpose. John Chapman, the governor's secretary, responded to this letter on November 12. He stated that sugar rationing was under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. He did advise Mrs. Buckley that if she were unable to obtain satisfaction from her local board that she could appeal to Carter Jenkins, the OPA's state rationing director.

Points to Consider

Explain the circumstances which caused Mrs. George Buckley to miss out on her sugar ration.

Why was it important for households to can fruit for winter consumption?

How many quarts of canned fruit would two bushels of pears and two bushels of apples have yielded?

Should the rationing board have shown leniency in Mrs. Buckley's case?

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