War News from 1917 Revealed Restraints on the Economy
The United States entered the First World War on April 6, 1917 after repeated unrestricted submarine attacks on their vessels. Our country’s declaration of war changed the purchasing habits of Americans.
At the time, the United States had the most liberal distribution of automobiles in the world. Initially, there was no lessening in production except for a few high-priced cars. Those companies supplying small or medium priced autos were unable to keep up with the enormous demand created by an unprecedented wave of prosperity. The only thing that threatened sales was the conversion of factories to make war munitions and rising gasoline prices that soared above the means that a family of modern income could afford.
Shortly, a steadily smaller portion of cars was being used for purely pleasurable purposes. The automobile, like the bicycle, changed from being a luxury product to one of necessity. In turn, the majority of cars in use were driven as an essential part of the economic life of the communities. Non-essential driving became a steadily decreasing event with most automobile owners feeling a sense of guilty indulgence for burning gasoline merely for recreation.
Similar effects were noted in the railroad business. According to the Johnson City Staff, dining cars were doing their part in the great food war. A careful perusal of their menus provided hints for travelers to apply in their own households. Meat orders were smaller than before the war and wheat bread was not served for breakfast or lunch. Although beef, pork or mutton was served only once a day, seafood, vegetables and fruits were provided without restraint. Perhaps the most vital items totally missing on war menus were veal, lamb, squab (young) chicken and squab turkeys.
The purpose, of course, was to allow young fowls and animals to mature so they would provide a larger addition to the food supply. This principle that was strongly advocated by the Department of Agriculture was being widely followed throughout the country.
Flyers were posted in newspapers and magazines for people to make wise and patriotic choices regarding the buying and consumption of the meat of small animals that had not reached adulthood. They were likewise advised to be particularly careful with regard to veal, lamb and small pigs as well as other foodstuffs.
I located three delicious sounding upscale Sunday dinner menu ads from 1917 at the Hotel Windsor that once stood along the railroad tracks at 101 W. Main Street. The proprietor was William F. Green. Each meal was served from noon to 2 p.m. at an unbelievable cost of 50 cents:
June 10, 1917: Italian croutons, dill pickles, queen olives, beef bouillon, broiled fillet of trout maitre d’hotel sauce, braised leg of veal w/brown gravy, raked stuffed chicken, peach a la conde, new potatoes, early June peas, broiled spinach, sliced tomatoes w/mayonnaise, buttermilk, corn muffins, vanilla ice Cream w/cake, California raisin pie and tea or coffee.
June 17, 1917: Swiss canapés, India relish, sliced tomatoes, consommé aux navets, cream Victoria, broiled fillet of trout maitre d’hotel sauce, roast Philadelphia capon Gilbert dressing, braised sirloin of beef au jus, apple compote, new potatoes, early June peas, snap beans, new beets, Italian salad, buttermilk, corn muffins, bisque ice cream w/cake, lemon meringue pie and tea or coffee.
October 6, 1917: anchovy croutons, stuffed peppers, gherkins, mock turtle clear, ox tail a la anglaise, broiled fillet of trout w/lemon butter, Julienne potatoes, roast sirloin of beef, Yorkshire pudding, Neapolitan sake sabayon sauce, au gratin potatoes, fresh lima beans, boiled spinach w/egg, candied yams, daisy salad, corn muffins, country buttermilk, ice cream w/wafers, lemon snow pudding and tea or coffee.