On this date in History: When America entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson decided to manage the war effort by creating a bureaucracy of four administrators. There was the Secretary of War, the War Industries Board, the Committee of Public Information and the Food Administration. While we can understand the Secretary of War working with the actual war making aspects, the War Industries Board coordinating production of war making material and the Committee of Public Information working the PR end, it’s hard to understand the food angle. Well, in the early part of the 20th century, United States agricultural production was not what it became by the end of the century and there were other considerations. The job involved not only the management, raising and distribution of food crops to feed the US Army and the US population, but also to feed all allied armies. Beyond that, the administrator of food was expected to help feed civilians in the war zones around the globe and make the credo “Food Will Win the War” come true. Who would want that job?
Well, it seems that America had the man for the job and he had already proved himself in Europe. A young mining engineer had been noted for his ability to organize and, prior to America’s entry into the war, he had managed the difficult job of providing clothing and food to war-scarred Belgium. So, when Wilson needed a man to head up the herculean effort at home, he called the young engineer home. As the head of the new agency, the engineer got to come up with his own title. He had working knowledge from his time in Europe that the position was necessarily not a permanent one. He also had a strong sense of individualism, liberty and cooperation. He felt that using the term Czar, Dictator, Controller or Director was not appropriate because each suggested actions based on compulsion. So, he took the title of Administrator. He had found that it was far more effective and also fit better with his ideal of freedom to persuade people to take action rather than use force. It was also more pragmatic given the numbers of people and corporations that he had to get to work in harmony with his needs as President Wilson had said that the Allies and America, their soldiers and civilians were “eating at a common table.”
This engineer was given the power of law to force cooperation. Just because one has power doesn’t mean that one has to use it and this engineer chose not to do so. He could have taken the license away from any business with over $100,000 a year in sales that did not follow regulations or profiteered from the war effort. Only in extreme cases did he resort to such tactics. Instead, he simply put them on notice and if they continued to misbehave, then he fined them in a way that they had to make contributions to the Red Cross, not the government. Instead of ruling with an iron fist, he held several conferences and outlined the needs of the country, the armed forces and the Allies and he persuaded them to the point of uniformity and cooperation with goodwill. In other words, he got companies to participate because he convinced them that they needed to and they decided to do so on their own.
As for the public, he did not turn to punitive actions but did ask the nation to make sacrifices. He used advertisements and speeches to urge 105 million Americans to food conservation. Mothers were asked to not serve more food than was necessary and children to clean their plates. Girls planted gardens and boys worked in the fields. The appeals from the administrator were read from in schools, shown on the big screen in movie theatres and printed in newspapers. I suppose that the idea of separation of church and state had not gotten so militant because even clergy got involved and read the calls for cooperation from pulpits across the land on Sundays. Some of those measures included porkless Thursday and Saturday, wheatless Monday and Wednesday and no meat was asked to be consumed on Tuesdays. Bakers were asked to promote “Victory Bread” which had more wheat grain than ordinary bread.
When he was able, he backed off his requests even though it may have been confusing. On this date in 1918, he declared a suspension of “Meatless Tuesday” for the month of April. He didn’t ask people not to eat out as that would hurt the economy. Instead, he asked Americans to follow simple rules of no bread after the first course, a half ounce of butter per person and use only one kind of meat. He asked people to limit the serving of sugar to cubes in an effort to avoid waste, which was not necessarily the original intent of the Moravian inventor of sugar cubes in the 1840’s. However, he did ask that only 2 pounds of sugar be used for every 90 meals served.
These were not unreasonble requests and really, if you think about it, would be a good idea for any overindulging society. Life magazine joined in the chorus by suggesting to not let your child “take a bite or two from an apple and throw the rest away, nowadays even children must be taught to be patriotic to the core.” The rise of the man who convinced America to alter its lifestyle without resorting to governmental coercion, threat of fines, threat of jail or any legislative power was described by journalist Mark Sullivan was a “combination of quality in the man with adventitious circumstance is always a fascinating aspect of history.” So who was this man? Why have we not heard of him? The fact is that you have but a stock market crash and the depression that followed overshadowed his greatness. Herbert Hoover was called “the biggest man who has emerged on the Allied side during the war” by a London paper. Herbert Hoover is called the great humanitarian by those who know of his efforts. Hoover is credited with not only organizing America’s war effort but also saving 10 million lives during and after the war and he did it largely without resorting to force or use of law. He used his power of persuasion to motivate a people known to answer a call to action (in this case it was called “Hooverizing”) when they are asked and convinced it is the right and just.
Weather Bottom Line: Take the week off. Monday’s clouds will give way to lots of sun and an area of high pressure will set up along the Gulf Coast and set up a southerly and southwesterly flow as the longwave pattern becomes oriented with a trof in the west and ridge in the east. That should result in some strong t’storm activity in the plains this week. Possilbe that we catch some of that action on Sunday or Monday but until then, just enjoy the rising temperatures as I suspect that by Good Friday, we’ll be talking about 80 degrees.