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Printed sample of one-pound sugar rationing coupons issued by the Office of Price Administration, Arcus Ticket Company, ca. 1942

Sugar was the first food to be rationed in the United States during World War II. To prevent hoarding and soaring sugar prices, the government distributed rationing coupons. No sugar could be purchased legally without a coupon. Sugar rationing remained in effect in the United States until supply and demand stabilized in 1947.

Records of the U.S. Government Printing Office, National Archives and Records Administration

Printed sample of one-pound sugar rationing coupons

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