Illinois at War, 1941-1945
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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March 1942


Americans across the nation were gardening for victory in the spring of 1942. Fresh vegetables were not a high transportation priority. Large numbers of Japanese-Americans who farmed produce along the West Coast were about to be relocated to internment camps. Truck farmers elsewhere were being drafted into the armed services. Tin was in limited supply and consequently the commercial production of canned vegetables for civilian consumption was to be curtailed.

The victory garden was the consensus solution to the anticipated shortage. Produce could be eaten fresh from home gardens during the growing season and in the preserved form from glass containers in the cooler months. City dwellers could till their yards to good advantage. Farmers could set aside enough land for this purpose to feed nearby urban populations as well as their own families. In Illinois the State Council of Defense; the Chicago Office of Civil Defense; the state departments of agriculture, welfare, and health; the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction; the University of Illinois Agricultural Extension Service; civic and garden clubs; war industries and other employers; radio stations and newspapers all joined in urging citizens to plant gardens and in educating them as to the best means available.

Statewide victory gardens numbered 750,000 in 1942; 1,151,000 in 1943; 1,275,000 in 1944; and 1,500,000 in 1945. The estimated market value of the home grown and home processed produce for 1942 alone was $52,000,000.

Points to Consider

What are endive and Swiss chard and how are they eaten?

How much work would be involved in planting and caring for a garden of the size specified?

How would the surplus produce grown in this garden be preserved for out of season consumption?

Why was "victory" associated with these home gardens?

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