February 1, 2011

Vintage 365: Classic 1940s Homemaker's War Guide

Day 32 of Vintage 365


It was the charming illustrations, bold colour palette and multi-columned layout of this vintage Homemaker's War Guide that first captured my eye (when I spied it in x-ray delta one's Flickr stream), however it takes but a moment more to see that there is much to appreciate about the earnest, straightforward advice it offered American civilians during WW2.

Though targeted at homemakers, the practical "make do and mend" tips this handy guide (for a larger, easier to read version click here) offered no doubt applied to men, women and children from all walks of life during the challenging war years.

With everything from suggestions on how best to make rubber items last (don't store them in hot, dry places) to what kinds of rags and fabric cast-offs could be donated to the war effort, this information packed page would likely have been one that could be found in many homes of the day.

Today the Homemaker's War Guide stands as a poignant reminder of some of the many ways in which a nation once rallied together to help ensure a victorious outcome to a horrific war, and is the sort of highly meaningful piece of history that I never tire of encountering in my online vintage travels.


  1. How neat!! This would look so cute (and would be very handy) framed in my kitchen!

  2. Wow! I didn't even know they had things like this. This is really cool!

  3. Hi Jessica! I just found your blog and I think this is an amazing concept! I'm glad I found your blog as early as day 32 ;) Keep it up!

    Miss M

  4. This is marvelous! A very handy guide to how to do most everything during such an incredibly trying time in our nation's - and the world's - history!
    But, I think many dedicated housewives would have had a great deal of trouble complying with the directive on how to clean - or more to the point, NOT clean - her pots and pans. Leaving that crusty black surface in place on the bottom of the pots just flew in the face of every conscientious housekeeper. No matter what scientific principles may have been involved! I can't imagine any woman willingly leaving the bottoms of her pans blackened and crusted just because somebody else says it takes longer for the shiny surface to absorb heat than a blackened one! Perhaps a few of them did, but I bet those were always left stored in cabinets or in bottom stove drawers than out on display!

    And, if you want to get a really good comparison between our level of "inconvenience" regarding rationing and the availability of common foodstuffs and commercially produced consumer goods, check out what our brothers and sisters in the UK were forced to endure, not only during their War years, which went on for two years longer than our own, but their rationing wasn't completely ended until NINE years after the War ended!

    We didn't have to shop at just the individual markets, butchers, green grocers, etc., where we were required to register for the duration. We could shop in any available retailer we chose. Although our clothing was restricted as to design, construction techniques and content - no vests on men's suits or cuffs on their pants, no deep hems, frilly ruffles, large pockets or metal zippers on ladies clothing, etc., except for leather shoes, we were not restricted by rationing as to how many pieces of clothing or amounts of sewing materials we could purchase, except by availability and our incomes, which generally went up at an amazing rate due to our War economy.

    In Great Britain, ALL clothing, hosiery and socks, sewing fabric, knitting wool, elastic and shoes, with some few exceptions, such as that for children from birth to about four years of age, were strictly rationed to the amount of 66 coupon points a year, with each garment type given a different rating, and of course according to limited availability and construction techniques, called the Utility Scheme or CC41. Even furniture and household goods were limited in styles and types for the duration, and only certain circumstances warranted their purchase!

    The only things that limited our access, again, were retail availability, and our own ability to pay for them. Of course, production of consumer goods was limited all the way around due to manufacturer's participation in producing War materiels, but at the very least, we had free choice of what was out there!

  5. To add to my previous comment -

    Our cars were limited to use, based on the ability to purchase gasoline and maintain the vehicle and the tires on which they rode, and in lots of cases, the number of people that were transported to war work in them. But Great Britain had no gasoline to offer the common man, and the family car, if there was one, was put away in the garage, and up on blocks for the duration! "Shanks mare" became the more common mode of transport, in addition to the bus, and the bicycle if you could find one. Of course emergency vehicles had to be fueled and maintained, which took all the available fuel; as well as limited agricultural use.
    Even something as simple and basic as a gold wedding band became not only restricted to content, weight and style - plain, no design, 9kt yellow gold (their legally allowed lowest gold content alloy, similar to our 10kt) band, weighing no more than 2 - 2½ grams, depending on size, of approximately 2mm in width were allowed. And they became very difficult to come by! I have read accounts of a jeweler who had a waiting list of 300 rings, and he got 30 at one point! Also, antique stores and pawn shops were rapidly and thoroughly scoured for any rings that would serve the purpose. Family heirloom rings were quickly pulled out of storage, should an occasion arise requiring their use. One man, who married his bride with a Platinum band (!) he found in such an alternative source, never felt right that he couldn't give his bride a "proper gold band" and so presented her with one on their 25th wedding anniversary. She immediately removed the platinum band, replaced it with the long-coveted yellow gold band, and never took it off again! Can you imagine? Gold bands produced during this time that met the requirements were marked not only with the usual British hallmarks, but also with what was termed the "Utility mark" which looks like an "O" but not closed at top or bottom. Something like this (). If you happen to come across such a band marking, that's what that mark is for!
    Well, I have rambled on enough here, but I think my point is clear. While we had it pretty rough for a time from a convenience standpoint, our British brothers and sisters (yes, the sisters who were ALSO →drafted← yes, drafted! into War work, no matter what, exceptions to advanced age or ill health alone, and even they did what they could) had the situation much worse, and for years longer than our own.

    1. Hi Shari, what an incredibly thorough, informative an interesting comment you shared here on this post. I always enjoy it when folks comment on older ones (this entry is from back in 2011) and want to sincerely thank you for the time and thought that you put into what you posted here today. I certainly learned some new facts about the war years and just love that wanted to share all of this fascinating information.

      Really and truly, thank you.

      My deepest wishes to you for a beautiful summer,
      ♥ Jessica

  6. Jessica! Thank YOU so much for your very kind appreciation for what I have shared with you! I'm so glad you didn't take it as though I were attempting to "over write" your blog for you!

    There are a few things I have sincere and thorough interest in, and the social history and culture of the WWII generation in the US and Great Britain is very high on that list!

    The combat and battlefield conquests and defeats and so on have been done, redone and done again, but so much about how the civilians tolerated and not only survived, but in many cases flourished, during this time have been woefully ignored over the years. So many of those who lived through those times of conflict, deprivation and hardship, after just beginning to dig their way out of the worst economic depression of modern times, and turning what appeared to be potential conquest by the Axis powers at times into overwhelming victory for themselves, are leaving us at an alarming rate. While many have never wished to recount their experiences, others however have decided after many years of "moving on" with their lives to contribute their experiences of those frightening (and sometimes even exciting) times to the historical records of their countries, their societies and neighborhoods.

    As for me, I have very little to do with my time these days as my family is grown and long gone from the house and our daughter and her husband have been very very busy providing us with SIX marvelous grandchildren over the last 15 years! The oldest is soon to be 13, and the baby truly IS the baby in that she just had her first birthday! The rest are all stairstepped in between, and are about as loving and close as any children ever could be! Our son is single, but has a wonderful girlfriend with a son of her own, and they all get along beautifully, and he has a very good job, being self supporting since he graduated from high school. He just turned 35! Hard to think about him as my child sometimes but to a mother, her children are always her children, no matter their age!

    But, the biggest reason is that I am no longer working at the career I loved deeply, as a Certified Surgical Technologist. That was a midlife career change I took on when it became apparent that possibly financing college education on our incomes at the time was going to be quite difficult, if not impossible! So, back to school I went at 35, to re-educate myself for a better job, which not only paid about double what I had been making when I finally completed almost two years of Community College, but became the career I found was my passion. After 15 years, however, I was forced to leave it.

    This is due to several physical conditions which seem to have conspired against me not only over time individually, but all at the same time finally to disable me permanently and force me into early retirement. I had no trouble, fortunately, in getting my Social Security Disability benefits, but now it seems the real battle will be to keep it, in light of the efforts of certain politicians whose goal it is to throw us all under the bus and leave us to fend for ourselves as best we can without it. I worked for over 40 years, paying into that system at every payday, to provide those benefits not just to myself but to ALL of us who may need them some day, and I can tell you they are NOT going to be yanked out from under me like a carpet without a heavy battle!! Fortunately I have a wonderful and like-minded husband of almost 40 years, as of the end of next month, who has taken on so many of the chores I can no longer tolerate, and also helps me with whatever other battles I choose to take on, this one included!!

    Well, enough about ME! I have to finish this before I end up writing you another book!! My apologies! And also my best wishes to you as well for a vibrant and enjoyable summer season!

    My Best Regards Always -
    Shari D.

  7. Hi Shari, you're sincerely welcome - and I assure you that I didn't feel that way in the slightest. Quite the opposite. It is always a beautiful and touching thing when a blog reader takes the time to share not just a few words, but multiple paragraphs with me that are relevant to the topic at hand and/or vintage in general.

    Your passion for the war years and the immense sacrifices, innovations and achievements that everyday citizens accomplished during such is powerfully apparent and is right at home on this site, where myself and many of my readers share in such with you.

    I likewise appreciate you taking the time to speak so candidly about various elements of your own life, including your medical struggles (I'm a long time multiple chronic illness and chronic pain fighter myself, having more than 15 different severe chronic illnesses, and can wholeheartedly relate on the front). I'm deeply sorry that you've had to face such challenges, but am thankful to know that we (also) share in common the blessing of having an amazing spouse who understands, loves and helps us to continue to live the fullest life possible, however they can.

    Here's to making the best of life, no matter what cards are dealt our way and to a shared love of WW2 era history - as well as a fantastic summer ahead.

    ♥ Jessica