During World War I and World War II, gardening took on a distinctly martial air. Citizens were encouraged to grow their own backyard produce (dubbed “war gardens” in WWI and “victory gardens” in WWII, which shows how far the art of positive spin had progressed in just a few decades). At the same time, food rationing was in effect domestically to support overseas troops – “An army marches on its stomach,” goes the quote by Napoleon Bonaparte – and citizens were encouraged to think carefully about food waste and watching what they ate.
“It gave everyone a sense of contributing to the war effort, sometimes in the most minuscule ways,” says Dr. Paul Ruffin, Distinguished Professor of English at Texas State University, who has written about victory gardens. “If they could grow a few vegetables, even just to feed their family, that meant they weren’t taking away from national resources. And in many cases, they would grow a sufficient quantity of vegetables they could contribute directly to the war effort.”
Culled from the Library of Congress, some of our favorite food posters from that era. Start a garden and salute.
Herbert Bayer, 1943, NYC WPA War Services
John E. Sheridan, 1918, U.S. Food Adminstration
J.N. Dingo, 1918, R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co.
J. Paul Verrees, 1918, National War Garden Commission
James Montgomery Flagg, 1918, National War Garden Commission
Leonebel Jacobs, 1918, National War Garden Commission
L. Mallory, 1917, New York State Department of Health
Frederic G. Cooper, 1917, U.S. Food Administration
A. Hoen & Co., 1917, U.S. Department of Agriculture
Stecher-Traung Lithograph Corporation, 1939-45
Edward Penfield, 1918, Bureau of Education
William Tasker, 1941-1943, WPA War Services Project