6 Surprising Items That Were Rationed During World War II

On November 26, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered nationwide gasoline rationing to help the American war effort. Here are six surprising items that were rationed during World War II.


Rubber Was Scarce Rubber was the first commodity to be rationed, after the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies cut off the U.S. supply; the shortage of rubber affected the availability of products such as tires. Only people in services considered essential could purchase tires, and vehicle owners could only have five tires in their possession with any others being confiscated.

Footwear Was On Hold Starting on February 9, 1943, Americans needed a coupon to buy a pair of shoes, and they received only three coupons a year unless their shoes were stolen or lost due to a catastrophe, leading to the issuance of a special certificate. Shoes were rationed because both leather and rubber were scarce due to the war effort, and even the height of boots or the sole of the shoe had to comply with regulations. Colors were restricted to four basic ones: black, white, town brown, and Army russet.


Running on Fumes Rationing gasoline, it was reasoned, would conserve rubber by reducing the number of miles Americans drove. Ration stamps for gasoline were pasted to the windshield of a the automobile. The type of stamp determined the gasoline allotment for that automobile. Black stamps, for example, signified non-essential travel and mandated no more than three gallons per week, while red stamps were for workers who needed more gas, including policemen and mail carriers. In a separate attempt to reduce gas consumption, the government passed a mandatory wartime speed limit of 35 mph, known as the “Victory Speed.”

Sugar Was in Short Supply The Japanese conquered the Philippines in the early part of 1942, causing the United States to lose a major source of sugar, and it became the first food to be rationed. On May 5, 1942, families received a ration book for sugar covering the next 56 weeks. The ration stamps were good for one pound of sugar and could be used over a two-week period.

Not Enough Coffee in Your Cup Americans on the homefront saw coffee rationing begin on November 29, 1942. Each household was limited to one pound of coffee every five weeks. Coffee rationing ceased in 1943, which was probably as welcome as the end of Prohibition.

Life Changed As The Nation Rationed Dealerships had to stop selling cars and bicycles to civilians because car factories needed to produce more military vehicles and equipment. Radios, phonographs, refrigerators, vacuums, washing machines, sewing machines, and typewriters were also unavailable for civilian purchase during this time.