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THE HOME FRONT DURING WORLD WAR I

Despite the fact that America was far removed from the physical fighting of World War I, much had to be done to prepare America for the war effort. Americans were encouraged to buy Liberty Bonds to support the war; movie stars of the era such as Charlie Chaplin made speeches and short films extolling the virtues of Liberty Bonds.

Poor harvests in 1916 and 1917 made it necessary to regulate food production and consumption during the war years. In August 1917, Congress passed the l ever Food and Fuel Control Act: almost immediately the government began to regulate food consumption. The Food Administration was headed by future President Herbert Hoover, who attempted to increase production and decrease consumption, Hoover’s approach to problems was centered around voluntary cooperation, as “Wheatless Mondays” and “Meatless Tuesdays” became commonplace. Harvests greatly improved in 1918 and 1919 as well. The introduction of daylight saving time allowed farmers more time in the evenings to work in the fields and also served to save electricity.

Industry was also regulated by the War Industries Board, headed by Wall Street financier Bernard Baruch. This board attempted to stimulate production for the war effort by strictly allocating raw materials and by instituting strict production controls. A Fuel Administration also acted to preserve coal and gasoline; “Fuelless Mondays” and “Gasless Sundays” also existed in 1917 and 1918.

Some historians make the point that World War I was actually the high point of progressivism. The government regulated the economy in positive ways that could have only been dreamed about in the days of Theodore Roosevelt, Business leaders loudly claimed they were supporting the war effort (many of them were). As a result, the Sherman Antitrust Laws were largely forgotten during World War I.

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