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Ceiling Prices Listed in Spiros Margrite's Grocery Store in New York City, photograph by Howard Liberman for the Office of War Information, 1942

Under the provisions of the Emergency Price Control Act, the government combined rationing with price controls in an effort to keep the cost of living reasonable. This Greek grocery store in New York City displayed the allowable prices for a number of goods, including coffee, oils, meats, and cheeses.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Ceiling Prices Listed in Spiros Margrite's Grocery Store

Controlling Wartime Prices

During both world wars, domestic prices rose rapidly as the government diverted goods to the war effort and federal spending soared. Early in World War II Congress passed legislation authorizing the government to regulate and set prices that were “fair and equitable.” By rationing many consumer goods and employing price controls, Congress helped stabilize the economy by keeping rampant inflation at bay and the cost of living reasonable.

It will prevent excessively high prices, gross profiteering . . . and by stopping the upward curve of prices [it] will be a potent factor in preventing after-war collapse.

Senator Prentiss M. Brown of Michigan, The New York Times, January 28, 1942