By Janet Klug
A recent purchase at a stamp show reminded me of a troubling article the Economist magazine ran a few years ago.
The article stated that 40 percent of America's food supply is wasted. The production of that wasted food accounts for a quarter of the fresh water used and about 300 billion barrels of oil each year.
So what has that to do with stamp collecting?
I was rummaging through a box of dollar covers at a stamp show and found one from South Africa with a machine slogan cancellation that is shown photographically cropped in Figure 1.
The cancellation has a story to tell. The cover is postmarked Durban, Jan. 7, 1947. Although parts of the cancellation are lightly struck, the slogan reads in English "Save Meal and Bread." The same sentiment is repeated in Afrikaans to the right of the circular datestamp postmark, "Spaar Meel en Brood."
That cover was not in the best condition, so I passed it by. As I continued flipping through more covers another bread-related slogan cancellation popped into my hands. Shown photographically cropped in Figure 2, the British postmark reads Bromley & Beckenham and is dated June 18, 1946. The slogan cancel reads "Don't Waste Bread Others Need It." It caused me to backpedal and retrieve the South African cover.
Food was scarce in these early post-World War II days. Grain fields had become battlefields, farmers became soldiers, and international commerce was severely disrupted.
After the war ended in 1945, it took years for the battlefields to return to more pastoral duties, for citizen soldiers to return to their prior occupations, and for the re-establishment of international commerce. In the meantime, the availability of food was limited.
The mainland United States was a different story. Much of the food was rationed during the war. Ration books were issued to U.S. citizens. The front cover of a ration book is shown in Figure 3. This ration book was first issued in October 1943.
Inside the book are ration stamps that converted to points. A block of four ration stamps is shown in Figure 4.
In essence, ration stamps gave permission to purchase staples such as butter, flour, meat, vegetables and sugar. Common canned vegetables required 14 to 16 points. Beef roasts could be between 4 and 10 points depending on the cut of the meat. Butter was 16 points and considered a luxury.
My mother, who was a new bride when the United States entered the war, used to tell about how she saved up her ration stamps to buy that precious butter, so that she could make a cake for my father.
It was wintertime and cold, so she kept the butter on the window sill of their apartment, because there was no ice box in the apartment. A neighbor's dog came along and feasted on the butter. My mother got teary-eyed even decades later every time she told that story.
Non-edible products such as gasoline and tires for the cars were also diverted to the war effort. They were in short supply on the home front and were rationed.
Nylon stockings were rarely available because the nylon was used to make parachute canopies.
The bottom line was, if you didn't have the right stamps (or later, tokens), you couldn't buy the goods. These comestibles and other products were needed by the military for the war effort. That's the way things were, and it was the patriotic duty of every American to abide by the regulations. The penalty for violating the rationing laws was a hefty $10,000 fine and possible imprisonment.
It was easier for the United States to ramp up food production after the war ended in August 1945. Our farms had not become battlefields.
Although many farmers volunteered for military service, farmers were not subjected to the draft (military conscription) because farming was a reserve or protected occupation, considered necessary to support the war effort.
Other countries were not so fortunate. Food was still in short supply for years after the war ended, as is evidenced by the slogan cancellations in Figures 1 and 2.
Ordinary U.S. citizens had been supporting allies in Great Britain beginning as early as 1939. Clothing and food were distributed through a program called "Bundles for Britain."
That program and a charitable organization called British War Relief Society worked to provide life's necessities to those in Britain who needed them. "Bundles for Britain" was folded into the Marshal Plan at the end of the war, and that effort continued to send food parcels to Britain. This operation was taken over by the Committee for American Relief Everywhere, the familiar CARE package.
Did it make a difference? Evidently those bundles of CARE packages to Britain did. The slogan cancellation from a cover to South Solon, Ohio, shown photographically cropped in Figure 5, is postmarked Bradford, Aug. 22, 1949. The slogan reads "Britain Says Thank You for Food Gifts."
The suffering caused by famine in Africa, the cracked earth in drought-ravaged Texas, and reminders of hunger and food shortages from days gone by might serve to remind all of us that food and water are precious and should not be wasted.
August 01, 2015 07:37 PMIt didn’t take long for the doom-and-gloomers to weigh in with their prognostications following the July 24 announcement from the American Philatelic Society that it hired former political aide Scott English to be the next executive director of the nation’s largest stamp club. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 08:04 PMIn the Editor’s Insights columns in the July 20 Linn’s Stamp News monthly and the Aug. 10 weekly Linn’s, I mentioned Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board without giving too much detail. Linn’s goal is to engage its audience both in print and online and to grow this audience. The role of the newly formed Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board is to assist us achieving these goals by keeping us focused on the needs of our audience and helping us adapt to today’s market. Read More ›
July 30, 2015 09:01 AMAs in previous years, Rarities Week, the series of sales conducted June 22-26 by Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries in New York, included several name sales as well as an assortment of notable items from around the world. The week kicked off with something of a do-over: a sizable assortment of better United States stamps and covers that had appeared in four previous sales, but whose winning bidder then failed to pay for them. Read More ›
July 23, 2015 04:35 PMThe Tieton, Wash., post office is a simple 1935 cement block building with a slat wood facade. Townsfolk in the agricultural community of 1,200 in central Washington believe the post office could become a landmark, if only the United States Postal Service would allow them to cover the front with a stamp-like mosaic. Read More ›
Watch as Linn’s senior editor Denise McCarty discusses the hiring of a new executive director of the American Philatelic Society, the new Linn’s Editorial Advisory Board and the upcoming APS Stampshow.
Watch as Scott catalog senior editor Marty Frankevicz discusses the largest souvenir card produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The card is one of three issued to honor the centenary of San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News associate editor Michael Baadke discusses Canada’s recently recalled $1.20 Dinosaur Provincial Park stamps featuring inaccurately described Hoodoo rock formations.
Watch as Linn’s Stamp News editorial director Donna Houseman discusses the discovery of another pane of the intentionally created upright variety of the $2 Jenny Invert stamp.
It is always a treat to get to see stamp dealers’ own collections.
In the recently concluded Linn’s United States Stamp Popularity Poll, the Circus Posters set of eight stamps was chosen as the overall favorite issue of 2014.
Dispersal of the splendid Daniel B. Curtis collection continued March 25, with Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries gaveling items from United States back-of-the-book and possessions.
The 175th anniversary of the first postage stamp, Great Britain's Penny Black, is May 6, but the stamp was placed on sale May 1, 1840, for mailers to use beginning on May 6, the designated issue date.