1917: the Politics of Lard

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The women’s magazines, customarily a mixture of romance stories and homemaking advice, had been almost entirely devoted to the war effort since spring, and the September issue of The Ladies’ Home Journal was a grim case in point. In a section called “Questions That Women Ask Mr. Hoover” (then head of Food Administration), readers were advised to eat more potatoes and to put a temporary end to their four-o’clock teas for the sake of the boys they were sending abroad. H. G. Wells’s thoughts on “The God of This New Age” replaced the past discussion of French hats, and cooking tips now took on a greater urgency in morality tales such as “How Mrs. Black Sent Lard Up.” She did it (sent the price up, that is) by throwing away the fat from her roast rather than using it for her biscuits later. Readers also learned that by eating young pig they cheated the market out of the tens of pounds of bacon, ham, lard, and skin (good for leather substitute and saddles) that a fat, grown pig would have yielded, “which your country needs.” And the Journal ’s editors converted the nation’s awesome war loan of seven billion dollars into something graspable—$6.94 per minute over the 1,007,575,200 minutes since the birth of Christ.

War or no war, for those in the market for an elegant automobile, WillysOverland’s new thirty-five-horsepower Overland model “Eighty-five four” ran for $895. And the price of Caruso in your living room, a state-of-the-art Victrola XVH, was $250; cheaper Victrola models started at $10.