The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor dramatically ended the debate over America's entrance into the war that raged around the world. As eager volunteers flooded local draft board offices ordinary citizens soon felt the impact of the war. Almost overnight the economy shifted to war production. Consumer goods now took a back seat to military production as nationwide rationing began almost immediately. In May 1942, the U.S. Office of Price Administration (OPA) froze prices on practically all everyday goods, starting with sugar and coffee.
War ration books and tokens were issued to each American family, dictating how much gasoline, tires, sugar, meat, silk, shoes, nylon and other items any one person could buy. View a listing of all rationed items. Across the country 8000 rationing boards were created to administer these restrictions. The 1943 Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog contains a list of all rationed farm equipment and tells the reasons and benefits of rationing as well as who is eligible. Even chicken wire fencing was rationed. A wartime edition of the American Woman's Cook Book contained revised recipes and gave advice on dealing with food shortages.
Types of rationing included: Uniform coupon rationing (sugar is an example) provided equal shares of a single commodity to all consumers; Point rationing provided equivalent shares of commodities by coupons issued for points which could be spent for any combination of items in the group (processed foods, meats, fats, cheese); Differential coupon rationing provided shares of a single product according to varying needs (gasoline, fuel oil); and Certificate rationing allowed individuals products only after an application demonstrated need (tires, cars, stoves, typewriters).
The first nonfood item rationed was rubber. The Japanese had seized plantations in the Dutch East Indies that produced 90% of America's raw rubber. President Roosevelt called on citizens to help by contributing scrap rubber to be recycled, old tires, old rubber raincoats, garden hose, rubber shoes, bathing caps.