Easter Shortages

For all the excitement and anticipation, things were far from back to normal this Easter. For one, sugar was still rationed and, for another, price controls were in effect on almost everything else. The government and many prominent economists said the controls were necessary for the time being to prevent the ruinous inflation that traditionally followed major wars. Conservative business interests depicted the controls as a socialistic plot to redistribute income and interfere with free enterprise. The public, whose incomes had risen during the war when there was little available to purchase, had more cash on hand then they had in a long time and were eager to buy stuff, driving demand sky high. Price controls combined with record retail sales meant shortages on just about everything, even as production levels rose. At this point in time, most people, at least according to the polls, thought that inflation would be even worse than shortages, making the things they wanted unaffordable rather than just hard to get. Most would rather wait in line than be priced out of the market. But patience was wearing thin and business interests and Republican politicians were fanning the flames of discontent, brewing a 1946 version of the Tea Party.

Among the items listed as in short supply in the June 1946 issue of Fortune magazine were maple syrup, lemons, bread, butter, cheese, milk, barley, ice cream, candy, pie, cake, fruit syrups, onions, bacon, sugar, fats, doughnuts, molasses, coconut oil, olive oil, cottonseed oil, salesmen, train seats, plane seats, pharmacists, hotel rooms, veterinarians, carpenters, piano makers, gardeners, telephone linemen, painters, cooks and parlor maids, paper, artist's paint brushes, men's suits, children's clothes, film, cameras, lenses, towels, sheets, pillowcases, autos, trucks, tractors, tires, bourbon, Scotch, rye, beer, chewing gum, soft drinks, white shirts, pianos, radios, washing machines, refrigerators, work clothing, maple for high heels, shoe tacks and telephones.