25 April 2010

Dig for Victory

In honor of ANZAC Day here's a special post about Victory Gardens.  A lot has been written about them already so I'll let you find abundantly available World War Two information on other sites like Wikipedia. Instead, I have collected some of the beautiful and bizarre propaganda posters for your perusal.  All of the images and film are in the public domain.

Food is so plentiful that we take it for granted how tenous the global food-distribution network can be and how much it has been shaped by previous wars.  For example, shipping containers were developed as a logistically quick and easy transport system during the Vietnam War. The Australian War Memorial site has an excellent page about the 'Dig for Victory' campaign launched in 1942 by Prime Minister John Curtin. Great Britain had started a Victory Garden scheme of the same name one month after they entered World War Two.

The United States began the Victory Garden campaign in World War One and continued it before, during and after World War Two.  I have written a brief outline with links to original documents in the World War One section of posters.  During both wars, mass-produced food had to be conserved to send to European (and Asia-Pacific including Australia in WW2) troops and civilians long before the US officially entered both wars. It is amazing how integral the home-garden movement was during both wars and how readily civilians jumped in to do their parts.  The government propaganda machines and legislators were hugely influential in making the public feel like they were doing their part to win the war by becoming self-sustaining.  Food was needed for the troops and the people of Europe.  Every can of tomatoes that the home-gardener was able to put up for the winter (the US National War Garden Commision recommended 20 cans of tomatoes per person) was one more they didn't have to purchase from stores that could be sent to the front.

Please forgive me if this seems to be very US and British in focus as I have only used the internet as a research tool for this post. There simply isn't much original historic documentation available about Australian Victory Gardens.  I'm grateful to a friend in New Hampshire who sent me a link the historic gardens at Strawberry Banke Museum.  Lo and behold, they linked to a 1940's educational short film about Victory Gardens that I have been trying to find for years!  It has been out of print and on my Amazon 'wish list' for ages and was recently digitised and placed online.  Wahoo!

Enjoy the images. Enjoy your garden and your own food.  And no matter how you feel about war, current or past (I don't know anyone who likes the idea of war), take a minute today to think about the people putting themselves in harm's way today.  Perhaps we should place a basket of vegetables and a loaf of bread alongside the rosemary wreaths on ANZAC day. Lest we forget...

Australian Victory Garden Campaign

'Grow Your Own Vegetables'
Commonwealth Food Control 1944
'Do Your Bit on the Food Front'
Department of Commerce and Agriculture 1943

British Victory Garden Campaign
Dig for Victory!  The British campaign even had its own anthems and theme songs for 'Potato Pete' and 'Doctor Carrot'.

United States Victory Garden Campaign
World War One

The Food Control Act was passed by Congress on 10 August, 1917, several years after the Great War had started but before the US had officially entered combat. There were severe wheat shortages in the United States and Europe to do poor crops.  Even though the United States had only produced enough wheat for its own uses that year, they committed to supply Europe with vast amounts of surplus wheat reserves so its citizens would not starve.  Shipping shipping priorities moved from soldiers and ammunition to grain.

Regulations were set in an attempt to prevent price-gouging and black-market sales. The '80-20 Act' regulated that a standard loaf of bread in the United States and Allied Europe had to contain at least 80% wheat and no more than 20% wheat-substitutes such as barley, rye, corn, rice, oat meal and buckwheat.  They would be horrified with the ultra-expensive wheat-free designer breads sold in our supermarkets now!  The '50-50 rule' also required that retailers "...must not sell wheat flour except when accompanied by the sale to the same customer of an equal quantity of substitutes".

The National War Garden Commision (NWGC) was set up by President Wilson, advised by Herbert Hoover and Theodore Whitmarsh, President of the National Wholesale Grocers' Association.  An account of war-time governance of food distribution titled 'War time control of distribution of foods, a short history of the Distribution division of the United States Food administration, its personnel and achievements', extols that they were '...in the game to beat the Hun and for no other purpose'.  The  book The War Garden Victorious by Charles Lathrop Pack was published as a step-by-step guide and was also used as a reference during World War Two.

'Sow the Seeds of Victory - 
Every Garden a Munition Plant'
'Are YOU a Victory Canner?'
'The Kaiser is Canned - 
Can Vegetables, Fruit and the Kaiser Too'

This poster by Maginel Wright Enright was designed to promote the United States School Garden Army. 

'The Seeds of Victory Insure the Fruits of Peace''Every War Garden A Peace Plant'

World War Two
No mention here of  the War...only Victory.

'Your Victory Garden 
Counts More Than Ever!'
'Plant a Garden for Victory'

'Plant a Victory Garden - Our Food is Fighting'
'Shoot to Kill! Protect Your Victory Garden''Grow it Yourself'

'They Need Food '
Plant More Beans'


  1. Thank you for this post, I enjoyed reading it! love to learn about the history of the Victory Gardens. I pinned you to my Pinterest if that is ok.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment! The images in this post are all in the public domain so pin away! Check out my board, I'm melsewvintage on Pinterest. I would love to see your pins! Mel