World War II Ration Books

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Think times are tough now? Imagine what it was like during World War II, when rationing meant you couldn’t always buy the goods you wanted.

Many of the commodities we take for granted today were in short supply during World War II, because of the needs of US soldiers fighting overseas. So, citizens back home were given a series of ration books. Each book was numbered, and the stamps inside controlled people’s consumption of things like food, gasoline and even clothing.

The first war ration stamps given out were for sugar. A series of four books were given out in the United States, and on the back of each was the slogan, “If you don’t need it, DON’T BUY IT.”

Ration books had descriptions of the owner of the book, including height, weight, eye color and age. The address of the person to which the book was issued was also marked, with strict rules not to transfer ration stamps. Dealers had to post prices conspicuously so that buyers would not pay more.

The ration book above was owned by Julian Sohon, the head librarian of the Bridgeport Public Library in 1942.

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About Author

Mary K. Witkowski is the former Bridgeport City Historian and the Department Head of the Bridgeport History Center, Emeritus. She is the author of Bridgeport at Work, and the co-author with Bruce Williams of Bridgeport on the Sound. Mary has had a newspaper column in the Bridgeport News, a blog for the Connecticut Post, and a weekly spot on WICC. She continues to be involved in many community based activities and initiatives on local history and historic preservation.

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