During the war years, Americans got their first taste of recycling. To aid the war effort, they were encouraged to salvage their tin cans, bottles, odd bits of rubber, waste paper, nylon and silk, (to make parachutes), scrap metal of any type, and even fats and cooking oils left over from cooking, with which to make explosives. Scrap metal drives were held all over the country, and even the farmers were encouraged by the John Deere Company to 'Sink a Sub From Your Farm': Bring in Your Scrap. Clothing was collected to make rags for cleaning machinery, and cleaning the decks of our navy ships. Many other classes of material were collected for various ultimate uses, all to help in the war effort.
For the older generation, all of this was not unexpected, nor was it a great hardship, as they had just a few years before come out of the Great Depression, during which time, although there was no rationing, money was scarce, so therefore supplies, food and most all of the basic necessities were very difficult to obtain. For the younger generation, this tightening of the belt was new, and in most cases created a great deal of suffering and hardship. They did not know how to cope without many things. But, they learned.
Save and Sacrifice
A large part of the war propaganda effort, demanded sacrifice in terms of daily activities - saving left over waste fats for use in explosives, saving tin cans for metal to be recycled into military material, eating leftovers, recycling paper, growing vegetables and canning them for later home use, saving gasoline by driving cars slower and less often. The national speed limit was lowered to 35 mph! Appeals directly to women became a major element in poster propaganda, from asking women to enlist in the armed forces, to encouraging housewives to conserve all home resources. The government fought price fixing and black marketing with rationing. All Americans needed to share in the burdens of shortages equally. Not to share in sacrifices for Victory was an unpatriotic act, and often was reported.
There were signs all over town promoting a Junk Rally, or a Scrap Drive. Kids even helped. Children took their little red wagons door to door collecting scrap metal. Junk Rally signs said: "JUNK RALLY. Don't (you and I) let brave men die because we faltered at home. Pile the scrap metal on your parkway. Civilian Defense workers will pick it up. Junk helps make guns, tanks, ships for our fighting men ... Bring in anything made of metal or rubber. Flat irons, rakes, bird cages, electric irons, stoves, lamp bulbs, bed rails, pianos, washing machines, rubber goods, farm machinery, lawn mowers, etc are needed. V is for VICTORY!"
Acknowledgment for photo and CREATED/PUBLISHED [Pennsylvania] : Penna Art WPA, [between 1941 and 1943]. Approved and released by the Philadelphia Council of Defense.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.