Daily Archives: August 7, 2023

How Victory Was Won at Oregon State College.

During spring term Dr. Kara Ritzheimer’s History 310 (Historian’s Craft) students researched and wrote blog posts about OSU during WWII. The sources they consulted are listed at the end of each post. Students wrote on a variety of topics and we hope you appreciate their contributions as much as the staff at SCARC does!

This post was written by Garrett Workinger.

Although battles and military victories may dominate histories of WWII, it was—at its core—a war of resources. As the United States scrambled to react to its involvement in the global crisis of WWII, many economic and cultural changes came about in the name of winning the war effort. The war effort on the domestic front created a national culture of conserving, creating, and rationing valuable resources such as food and raw materials. Communities, counties, cities, and universities across the nation became deeply involved in the domestic war front. Oregon State University (then Oregon State College) took quick action to help relieve the demand for resources that the nation felt. OSC and its extension program aided the war effort by promoting student and state involvement in Victory Gardens, food self-sufficiency, and raw material collection.

While looking through wartime documents preserved in Oregon State University’s Special Collections and Archives Center, I stumbled upon an Oregon State Extension Bulletin article located within a pamphlet subtitled “A Wartime Emergency Handbook for Community and Neighborhood Leaders.” Printed in 1943, the pamphlet was created to teach Oregon residents about how to handle food resources at home.  At the top of the front page it states, in large letters “Victory Begins at Home.”[i] OSU Extension Service created this document to inform the local community about what they should grow in their own gardens so that rations could be reserved for the war effort. The article emphasizes Oregonians’ need to be self-sufficient at home in order to save commercially packaged goods for the troops overseas. This publication informed readers about a variety of topics, including how much to ration and what food to grow or store. For example, the bulletin stated that a family of five needed to store 1200 pounds of vegetables and 25o pounds of fruit for the year 1943.  Other bulletins went into detail about how to grow a Victory Garden, or even how to can and preserve the produce that had been grown.

OSC Extension Bulletin 615 is 6 pages long; this is the first page. Federal Cooperative Extension Service, Oregon State College, 1943, “Victory Garden and Family Food Supply,” Corvallis, Or. Federal Cooperative Extension Service.

This OSC Extension Bulletin is part of a larger collection of bulletins that OSC Extension Services—still an important component of Oregon State University—has issued throughout its long existence. The OSC extension program was created in 1914 by the Smith-Lever Act which provided federal funding to land grant universities in order to further research in agriculture, home economics, and governmental policy.[ii] During WWII the OSC Extension Service printed these informational bulletins regularly. They contained information that the general public could use to expand their knowledge about agricultural topics and updated Oregonians about the country’s food and resource needs.

The Extension Service’s wartime bulletins provide a window into OSC’s involvement in the Victory Garden Program. The Victory Garden Program was a national movement created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Its goal was to increase the production of healthy food for the civilian population, as well as allow the troops to use the majority of commercially packaged food. Community gardens were often encouraged to people in cities who did not ample space to grow a productive garden. People in rural areas, or people who had farms, were urged to start their own Victory Garden on their own property. Victory Gardens could also take the form of a school garden.

The Victory Garden program was popular all over Oregon. “Man working in a Victory Garden, Klamath County Oregon, 1942,” OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center, https://oregondigital.org/concern/images/df70cz48w

OSC used the Extension Program to encourage Oregonians living in cities and rural communities to plant their own Victory Gardens. The Victory Garden Program at Oregon State College was part of the larger victory movement at Oregon State that included a number of different Victory Programs. Oregon State was involved in 267 different wartime Victory Programs that were created to help the war effort. Aside from increased food production through the Victory Gardens, these programs focused on collecting raw materials needed for wartime production such as rubber and metal, increasing agricultural productivity, and researching the nutrition people needed.[iii] For example, the OSU Extension Service provided charts for families that laid out exactly the amount of food they would need in a year so families could preserve, can or freeze, the estimated amount they would use in a year.[iv]

The Victory Gardens and nutritional information were a significant part of Oregon State College’s agricultural Extension Service. The 1941-1942 Biennial Report of Oregon State College outlined five “broad fronts” that the OSC wartime extension programs were working on. The third “front” was the need to teach nutrition and home management to rural and farm homes.[v] The OSC Extension Service acted on this front by publishing curriculum such as a Food for Victory program for Marion County Schools. The curriculum’s objective was to provide children with an understanding of the contributions Oregon farmers were making toward the war through food production. The program provided teachers with songs, class activities, and stories they could use in the classroom.[vi] Curriculum and influence on rural homes apparently worked. By 1943, 90 percent of Oregon farms were cultivating Victory Gardens.[vii]

Victory Gardens were part of a national Victory Program movement. The National War Food Administration, along with the United States Department of Agriculture, initiated the Victory Garden Program. The Victory Gardens were a large part of the government’s WWII propaganda posters.[viii] These posters were distributed nationally with the hopes of bringing attention and support to different war efforts. Even the Science News-Letter, a national publication, provided readers with important Victory Garden information in 1943. The letter outlined the importance of joining a community Victory Garden, or if you had ample space, starting a Victory Garden at home. Also, the letter stated that gardens should allow plenty of space for the “most important soldiers in the Victory Vegetable army”—tomatoes.[ix]

Nationally, just as in Oregon, there was a sense of urgency in educating the youth about home gardening, self-sufficiency, and rationing. Schools from all over the nation participated in the Victory Garden Program by creating community gardens. For example, in early 1942, soon after America’s entry into war, teachers from Highland Park Schools in Michigan, aided by the Michigan Recreation Department, started a Victory Garden program for school students throughout the state. The program started because the teachers believed that home gardens were not enough to meet the needs of the war, and community gardens were needed in Highland Park. Over 100 students had an opportunity to work on their own gardens that were 4ft by 24 ft.[x] The production of food, and education of the youth in self-sufficiency skills, were a priority all over the U.S.

WWII Propaganda Poster. This is one of many nationally printed posters that were meant to influence the public to partake in the war effort. “Your victory garden counts more than ever!” United States War Food Administration, https://digital.library.illinois.edu/items/a9005460-0d92-0135-23f6-0050569601ca-8

While Extension Services played a lead role in championing Victory Gardens at OSC and throughout Oregon, faculty and students throughout the college contributed to these Victory Programs. Victory Programs were any program that was organized to aid in the collection of resources or materials for the war effort. The Oregon State Barometer encouraged female students to donate their rubber and metal beauty items because “any little thing you give will help to win the war.”[xi] The need for metal was so extensive during the war effort that shop owners closed down their businesses to help with a scrap metal drive. OSC class presidents requested all of the men’s living group presidents to bring five men each to the drive that occurred in October of 1942 in Corvallis. The students were challenged by Dave Buam, an organizer of the scrap drive, and chairman of the Oregon Defense Council, to try to load more scrap metal than the working-class men who were also helping with the scrap metal drive.[xii]

Students and staff took great pride in their contributions to these programs. For example, Dorothy Gerling noted in the 1943-1944 Coed Code how all activities on campus were “directed toward the Victory Program.”[xiii] The Coed Code was an annual OSC women’s publication. OSC faculty member Dean Salser likewise told the 1944 Beaver, the college yearbook, that he had no time for other hobbies because “teaching and his victory garden have occupied most of his time.”[xiv]

Scrap metal drives were a common way to get many people from the community involved in the war effort. “Scrap metal collection day in Corvallis, Oregon,” 1942. OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center, https://oregondigital.org/concern/images/df70ct058

Oregon State College’s efforts on the home front during WWII were extensive and successful.  The Victory Gardens and other war effort programs that the OSC Extension Service organized helped create a culture of production, self-sufficiency, and with the local community. OSC was a small part of the national war effort movement, but its programs embodied the goals and culture of the domestic front that aided the Allies in winning the war. 

[i] “Victory Garden and Family Food Supply” in Oregon State College Extension Service Bulletin 551-650 (Corvallis: Oregon State Systems of Higher Education, 1943), Extension Bulletin 615.

[ii] Michele Scheib, “OSU Extension History,” OSU Extension Service, January 25, 2023, https://extension.oregonstate.edu/about/osu-extension-history

[iii] Oregon State College President’s Biennial Report, 1943-1944, pages 42-43, OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/fx71d3919  

[iv] Mabel C. Mack, “Planning Your Families Food Supply” in Oregon State College Extension Service Bulletin 551-650 (Corvallis: Oregon State Systems of Higher Education, 1944), Extension Bulletin 588.

[v] Biennial Report of Oregon State College, 1941-1942, page 98, OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/fx71d395d

[vi] OSC Extension Ag. Economics, April 1943, “Food for Victory: A unit of Work for the Schools of Marion County, Oregon,” OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Extension Service Records 1903-2011, RG 111, SG 2, X, Projects, Extension Specialists.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Terrence H. Witkowski, “World War II Poster Campaigns: Preaching Frugality to American Consumers,” Journal of Advertising 32, no. 1 (2003): 76.

[ix] Frank, Throne, “Victory Gardens,” The Science News-Letter 43, no. 12 (1943): 186.

[x] M. A. Russell “Highland Park’s School Victory Gardens,” The American Biology Teacher 6, no. 8 (1944): 171–74.

[xi]  “Clean Your Drawers, Gals for Uncle Sam Takes All,” Oregon State Barometer, October 7, 1942: 3, OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/8k71nh47k

[xii] “Merchants Set to Aid Campus Scrap Drive,” Oregon State Barometer, October 20, 1942: page 1, OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/8k71nh87j

[xiii] Coed Code, 1943-1944, page 6, Historical Publications of Oregon State University, OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center, https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/fx71cm43k

[xiv] The Beaver Yearbook, 1944, page 92, OSU Special Collections and Archives Research Center,  https://oregondigital.org/concern/documents/zk51vh18n