Apr 29, 2012

Wed, Apr 29, 1942: Victory Concert

“The band is having a Victory Concert a week from Friday.  We (the band members) get out Friday afternoon to sell tickets.  To get a ticket one has to buy a War Savings Stamp (any kind, 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, etc.) or a bond.  The money is turned over to the United States.  The band gets nothing but experience.”
-- Letter from my aunt, age 14,  Bloomington, Kans., to my father, 17, Southwestern College, Winfield, Kans., Wednesday, April 29, 1942. 
            My aunt's activities that Friday were part of the second of eight war bond drives during World War II. This one lasted from April 12 to May 1, 1942, and raised $18 billion.  Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., wanted to sell bond not just to the wealthy and large institutions, but to average Americans, including schoolchildren like my aunt, in part to raise money, but more importantly to sell the war and to make Americans "war-minded."   Judging from the tone of her letter, my aunt may not have been entirely sold on the idea. 
The federal government spent only $8.9 billion in 1939 (this itself was a large increase over pre-New Deal spending); but the government laid out an average of $75 billion annually during World War II.  Higher taxes, bonds, and the printing of money paid these increased expenses.  The Treasury Department started the Series E bonds for average citizens, in the spring of 1941.  It targeted two other series, F and G, at insurance companies, and corporations.  The government termed all three bonds defense bonds until Pearl Harbor, at which point they became known as war bonds.  In all, Series E (the ones bought by the general public) accounted for $33.7 billion (about 17%) of the $186 billion of bonds sold during the war.
Bond drives drew heavily on popular culture to sell bonds and the war itself to the broad public.  Advertisers organized under the War Advertising Council (the forerunner of today’s Ad Council), professional athletes, the movie industry, songwriters and musicians, commercial illustrators, and individual celebrities, such as Lucille Ball, James Cagney, Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope, were all involved in the effort to get Americans to buy bonds.
Schoolchildren, like my aunt, were encouraged to participate by buying defense savings stamps, which came in 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1 and $5 denominations.  Once a child had $18.75 in stamps pasted into their book, they could trade that in for a bond worth $25 at maturity.  The Treasury Department's "Schools at War" program encouraged these purchases by providing schools with materials containing "stories, plays, songs, and recitations that linked the buying of savings bonds and stamps to the value of democracy, citizenship, and patriotism."
Sources: William L. O’Neill, A Democracy at War: America’s Fight at Home and Abroad in World War II (New York: The Free Press, 1993), 138; John W. Jeffries, Wartime America: The World War II Home Front (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996), 31-36; "War Bonds," in William H. Young and Nancy K. Young, eds., World War II and the Postwar Years in America: A Historical and Cultural Encyclopedia, (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2010), 2:751-759.

Apr 14, 2012

Tue, Apr 14, 1942: got to read

"Sunday I got to read about 113 pages of 'Pride and Predjudice.' Don't know when I'll get to read the rest of it.  It is real interesting and quite a bit different from present day novels."
-- Letter from my grandmother, Bloomington, Kans., to my father, Southwestern College, Winfield, Kans., Tuesday, April 14, 1942.  My grandmother was a schoolteacher, homemaker and farmer (although I imagine she referred to herself as a farmer's wife).  She obviously had very little time for recreational reading.  Pride and Prejudice had been made into a movie in 1940 starring Greer Garson, Laurence Olivier, and Edward Ashley, with a screenplay by Aldous Huxley and Jane Murfin. (source: imdb.com)

Apr 10, 2012

Fri, Apr 10, 1942: little kittens

“Stanley has been sick and I had to bring our two new little kittens up to the house for him to see.  Stanley's kitten is yellow, black and white and he named it Fuzzy.  Mine is all white.  I can't think of a good name for it (and don't suggest McArthur).”
-- Postcard from my aunt, Barbara Brown, age 14, on the farm at Bloomington, Kans., to my father, 17, a freshman at Southwestern College, Winfield, Kans.  Their little brother Stanley was 8.
         General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), was Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area in World War II.  He and his forces had just fled the Philippines for Australia in March, and given his famous “I shall return” speech.
         Cats had important work to do on the farm, catching mice.  But, as this letter makes clear, they were also loved as pets.  As they do on many farms today, cats lived outside in the barn and got much of their food on their own.  My grandparents did, however, give them some of the milk from the cows.  I remember stories of (and perhaps saw) cats waiting around while my grandfather milked the cows, knowing he would occasionally squirt some milk in their direction so they could catch the stream in midair.
          Source: “Douglas MacArthur” on Wikipedia.org.