Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Mobilizing For War:
Poster Art of World War II


When America entered the war, consumer goods disappeared as factories converted their machine tools to the production of war materiel. Late in 1941 chrome bumpers disappeared from automobiles; by mid-February 1942 production of automobiles themselves ended as factories geared up to produce vehicles and armaments for the war.

Gasoline and tire shortages led to rationing, followed by rationing of many other goods such as sugar, butter, cheese, canned goods, and meat. Tires, tin, kitchen fat, grease, silk, and other scarce materials were saved and recycled for the war effort.

Books and pamphlets were printed on lighter-weight paper with smaller type and narrower margins to conserve paper. The list of consumer goods no longer produced by mid-1942 was a long one and included cars, trucks, metal office furniture, radios, phonographs, electric refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, sewing machines, irons, water heaters, lawn mowers, waffle irons, toasters, percolators and food mixers. Posters urged Americans to "do with less" as a patriotic sacrifice for the war effort.

The government originally opposed to the idea of neighborhood gardens as inefficient and a poor use of time and effort. But the small "victory gardens" became so popular with urban citizens that they were eventually supported as another way Americans could contribute to the war effort.