Journal-News, Monday, April 6, 1992
War rationing needs determined fashions
By Jim Blount
Government mandates influencing grooming and clothing were imposed here 50 years ago as civilians continued to experience restrictions related to World War II.
Effective March 25, 1942, the War Production Board placed limits on the manufacture of razor blades, allowing only one blade a week per man.
The safety razor with a disposable blade had gained popularity during World War I when the government handed out 3,5 million razors and 36 million blades to men in service. The electric razor — first marketed in the early 1930s at $25 each — was still considered a luxury by most men in 1942.
Starting March 30, 1942, plain was the fashion for men as the government initiated regulations on men's clothes. Patriotic men would soon be wearing the Victory Suit, notable for what it didn't include.
The first restrictions, aimed at conserving wool, were only on ready-to-wear items. War time regulations would be extended to tailored clothing May 30, 1942.
Patch pockets and belts were eliminated from topcoats, effective March 30. Pleats, cuffs, patch pockets and other adornments weren't permitted on trousers; and vests and second trousers no longer were a part of a suit purchase.
Regulations imposed on women's clothes April 6, 1942, required dresses to be tighter and shorter with all non-function features reduced or eliminated in 1942 fall fashions.
Entirely eliminated were such frills as French cuffs on sleeves, Walloon sleeves and patch pockets on wool garments.
"Nonetheless, America's fashion designers — now freed from continental influences — managed to come up with a variety of new styles, and their ingenuity was stimulated rather than crippled by the restrictions," said Richard R. Lingeman in Don't You Know There's A War On?, his book on the American home front.
He said "the wide padded shoulders of the late 30s and 40s went out and were replaced by natural shoulders or the bare-armed look, which became popular (and was also softer and more feminine)."
Ten months after the limits on women's clothing, shoes were added to the rationing list because of a shortage of hides and increases in the demand for military footwear.
The program was designed to permit the purchase of three pairs of shoes a year per person — just under the pre-war average of 3.43 pairs annually for the average American.
It was effective Feb. 9, 1943, and between that date and June 15, 1943, Stamp No. 17 in War Ration Book One was required for the purchase of a pair of shoes in nine stores in Hamilton.
Rationing was relaxed between Jan. 17-29, 1944, when Hamilton merchants were permitted to sell ration-free any women's shoes which had been in their inventory Jan. 16 if the shoes were sold at $3 or less a pair.
When rationing was resumed in full in February 1944, buyers could purchase only one pair within the next five months.
The government suspended shoe rationing in January 1945, announcing that no new shoe rationing coupons would be honored until the middle of the summer. Of course, some consumers resorted to the black market for shoes. J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI, said the list of items most in demand on the black market was headed by liquor, rayon hose and shoes.
In August 1945, two days before the first atomic bomb was dropped in Japan, the Office of Price Administration said it intended to ease shoe rationing because of reduced military needs. A few days later, when Japan agreed to surrender, OPA ended most rationing programs and wartime restriction programs.
# # #
Journal-News, Monday, April 13, 1992
William Dean Howells prepared first Lincoln biography in 1860
By Jim Blount
In recent decades, television has become the dominant media in presidential elections, relegating the once-powerful campaign biography to obscurity.
A campaign biography was considered important in winning votes in 1860 when Abraham Lincoln, a dark-horse candidate, won the White House in a four-man contest.
William Dean Howells, a young writer with Hamilton connections, produced what purported to be the "authorized version" of Lincoln's life. His book was one of more than a dozen Lincoln biographies published before the 1860 election.
Born March 1, 1837, in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, Howells was a son of William Cooper Howells, owner and editor of a Hamilton weekly newspaper in 1840.
Young Howells resided in Hamilton for more than eight years, moving to Greene County, near Dayton, with his family when he was 11 years old. He never forgot his youth in Hamilton.
"I doubt if any boy ever lived a gladder time when I lived in Hamilton," he recalled at age 79. Seventeen years earlier he had written A Boy's Town, a book recalling his pleasant boyhood in Hamilton.
In 1856, at 19, Howells became a political correspondent for the Ohio State Journal, a Columbus newspaper which supported the recently-formed Republican Party.
That year, John C. Fremont, the first Republican presidential candidate, lost the election to Democrat James Buchanan, who didn't seek re-election in 1860.
Instead, the Democratic Party — split by the slavery issue — had two candidates: Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, a northern Democrat, and Kentuckian John C. Breckinridge, the nominee of the party's southern branch.
The Constitutional Union Party chose John Bell of Tennessee, while the Republicans nominated Lincoln on the third ballot at their May 16-18, 1860 convention in Chicago.
William Dean Howells was a 23-year-old editorial writer for his Columbus newspaper when he produced the controversial Lincoln biography.
Howells didn't interview Lincoln in preparing to write the book. Instead, James Q. Howard, a 20-year-old law student, went to Springfield, 111., and gathered the information. "I missed the greatest chance of my life," Howells said later.
Using Howard's notes, Howells wrote a 94-page account of Lincoln's life. The 170-page volume also included several pages of Lincoln speeches and a biography of Hannibal Hamblin, the GOP vice presidential candidate.
It was published by Follett, Foster & Co. of Columbus in June 1860 -- giving potential voters ample time to become familiar with the 51-year-old Lincoln before the fall election.
In promoting the book, the publisher claimed that the biography had been "authorized by Mr. Lincoln," an assertion which was challenged by John G. Nicolay, Lincoln's private secretary.
In rebuttal, Howells said he been promised the right produce the "authorized biography" by a member of the Republican National Committee. But the dispute didn't seem to harm Lincoln's opinion of the young writer.
After Lincoln's election, Ohio Republicans recommend Howells for a position in the administration. In 1861 he was appointed United States consul Venice, Italy, a post which afforded him time to travel, observe European culture and gather material which would become part of his varied writings.
In 1866, a year after Lincoln's death, Howells joined the staff of the Atlantic Monthly, an important step in his literary career which continued until his death in 1920.
# # #
Journal-News, Monday, April 20, 1992
Shuler & Benninghofen flourished for century
By Jim Blount
Enough blankets were being produced annually in a Hamilton factory in 1958 to stretch from Hamilton to Toledo when the "oldest industrial partnership in the community's history" observed its 100th anniversary.
A September 1958 newspaper report said the firm "has brought acclaim to the community through its sale of Mariposa blankets and paper maker?' felts throughout the United States."
The Shuler & Benninghofen Co. had been founded in 1858 by Asa Shuler and John W. Benninghofen, but its origin is traced to 1846. In that year, Dr Jacob Hittel built a mill on North Fourth street between High and Market streets.
Hittel's mill operated until 1852 when Breitenbach and Company bought the property and started a woolen miii on the site. Hamilton men owning the firm included Albert Breitenbach, August Breitenbach, J. Andrum, Asa Shuler and Titus Shuler.
The mill — built on Fourth Street to take advantage of cheap water power from the Hamilton Hydraulic system — had six looms powered by one waterwheel in the hydraulic canal. Despite its cheap power source, the operation lost money. After a $900 loss in one year, Asa Shuler took over operating control, expanded markets and moved toward profitability.
In 1858, John W. Benninghofen bought the interests of August and Albert Breitenbach and the Shuler & Benninghofen partnership was formed
By 1862, because of increased business, a new mill (later to become part of the Beckett Paper Co.) was constructed on the corner of Heaton and Lowell streets. It was built following an October 1865 fire destroyed the structure and most of its machinery. The plant was back in operation in February 1866.
The company made its first seamed felt for use on a paper machine in 1864 for Shuey and McGuire, a local firm. Two years later it produced its final endless felt, a product which would become the company's major line. During the late 1800s and early 1900s Shuler & Benninghofen supplied 80 percent of the felts used in western paper mills. That product line was known as "Hamilton Felts."
In 1894 the mill was moved to Lindenwald — then outside Hamilton — to a tract between present Pleasant, Williams, Symmes and Benninghofen avenues. The plant was enlarged three times by 1921, when a three-story, $200,000 building was constructed increasing the company's capacity by 60 percent.
During its centennial year in 1958, Shuler & Benninghofen produced about 125,000 Mariposa blankets annually, enough to stretch 177 miles — or from Hamilton to Corbin, Ky., or Hamilton to Toledo.
Its major product was papermaker felts — at the rate of 750,000 pounds yearly, enough to cover 113 football fields.
Asa Shuler was born Aug. IT,, 1823, in Lehigh County, Pa., and came to Hamilton as 22 year-old carpenter in May 1845 He served four years on the Hamilton Board of Education, was a trustee of Hamilton waterworks for 11 years, and a director and president of the First National Bank.
John W. Benninghofen, was born March 12, 1812, in Wuelfrath, Prussia, and came to the U. S. in 1848, locating in Hamilton. A peddler his first year in Hamilton, he later served two terms on the Hamilton Board of Education.
# # #
Journal-News, Monday, April 27, 1992
Sugar first food rationed during World War II
By Jim Blount
Sugar rationing in the United States started in May 1942. The rationing of World War II reached into Hamilton kitchens and dining rooms for the first time then as the government imposed restrictions on sugar.
"Every time a 16-inch gun is fired, it eats up the distilled product of one-fifth of an acre of sugar cane." consumers were informed, justifying sugar as the first food item rationed during the war.
During 1941, American per capita consumption had averaged one and a half pounds of sugar per week. Rationing was designed to produce a 33 percent reduction — to one pound per week.
During the course of the war more than 63,000 people and nearly 235,000 volunteers who would serve on the more than 5,000 local boards which controlled prices and rents and administered rationing programs.
Consumers had more than 13 weeks to prepare for the cutback because the federal government had announced Jan. 22 its intent to ration sugar, with a probable starting date in February.
In Hamilton, C. W. White, superintendent of the Hamilton schools, headed sugar rationing preparations under the supervision of G. S. Helvey, county rationing coordinator.
Teachers served as registrars for the three processing periods held in local elementary schools, starting April 28-29 for trade dealers and 389 restaurants, institutions and retail dealers.
Applications were filed May 4-7 for 53,096 Hamilton consumers with parents completing forms for dependent children. Later, War Ration Book No. 1 was issued for 50,682 people.
Hamiltonians reported more than 12 tons of sugar in their residences when they registered.
Ration book instructions said, "if you enter a hospital, or other institution, and expect to be there for more than 10 days, you must turn your War Ration Book over to the person in charge."
A warning on the book said "punishments ranging as high as 10 years imprisonment or $10,000 fine, or both, may be imposed under United States statutes" for rationing violations.
May 28-29 the third registration was held for those needing sugar for home canning. The government pleaded with canners not to "apply for more sugar than you actually need," noting that "each soldier actually consumes twice as much sugar a year as the average civilian now receives."
The same government publication said "ships which otherwise might be bringing into the United States are hauling supplies to the battle and "manpower is scarce at sugar refineries and shipping ports."
The prospect of rationing had little impact on prices. In October 1941 a Hamilton supermarket advertised 10 pounds of sugar for 59 cents (5.9 cents pound). In May 1942, rationed sugar was selling at six cents a pound.
The sign-up for sugar allotments also allowed local officials to compare registration with 1940 census figures.
Hamilton in 1942, based on sugar applications, had 55,616 inhabitants, an increase of almost 10 percent over the 50,632 counted two years earlier. In all of Butler County, 131,666 sought sugar stamps, more than 9 percent higher than the 1940 census total of 120,455.
# # #