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World War I - Sugar Shortage

"I read just a day or two ago that there was not more than fifty sacks of sugar to be had in the city of Lincoln," wrote Henry Allen Brainerd to the Lincoln Star in an undated letter from the World War I era, "and that some merchants would only sell fifty cents worth at a time to any one customer." Brainerd, a journalist and press historian, continued, "I also read about the same date that in New York City alone in one day there was $1,500,000 worth of sugar made up into candy. . . .

"When I was a boy . . . our parents always told us that candy was unhealthy, that it would make all kinds of naughty germs and animals to creep around inside and destroy our health, and rot our teeth. Today the doctors proclaim and declare that candy is as healthy as anything one can eat, and from the early day of my boyhood when a nickle's worth of candy was all we were allowed every two weeks, and that generally for the entire family, the people of today will spend a dollar for a pound of French chocolates and devour them in ten minutes.

"While we are now in the throes of an immense war, and the country's cry is 'conservation,' we are asked to observe a meatless day, a week and a wheatless day a week, and we presume that soon, too soon, we will be called upon to observe a potatoless day, and, if the present conditions continue to increase we expect to be obliged to drink black coffee, and eat butterless bread, and crustless pie, but never a word have we heard about a candyless day, or an ice creamless day, or a theatreless day, and hundreds of other days that might be mentioned whereby we might curtail our candy expenses and give the proceeds to the Liberty Bond investment.

"I saw a picture in the daily paper of a loving cup, the largest in the world, that was given to a company of boys as a prize. The money that this loving cup cost would have bought four Liberty Bonds, and each boy would have had one, where now it is said that the society that sent the boys to the contest will hold the cup. And it will do not one whit good to a single living soul." Brainerd closed by observing that "if each would cut these extreme non-essentials to the quick and buy bonds we could raise all the money necessary to secure all these bonds in less than two days."

(June 2004)



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