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Texas City During World War II
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Collection of scrap materials

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Everywhere people went, they were exhorted to recycle. The message blared from radio programs the pages of magazines. The list of items needed for recycling was long, encompassing everything from scrap metal to toothpaste tubes.
Poster for the Philadelphia Salvage Committee

Poster for the Philadelphia Salvage Committee encouraging scrap drives to aid the war effort. (Photo from the Library of Congress)

poster to promote the collection of scrap metal, paper, rags and rubber

Conversion poster released by the Office for Emergency Management to promote the collection of scrap metal, paper, rags and rubber.
(Photo from the Library of Congress)

In January 1942, Roosevelt appealed to the public for any available source of rubber: tires, raincoats, garden horses, shoes, bathing caps, gloves, and more. The public responded by turning in over 450,000 tons of scrap rubber.1

Scrap metal was turned into planes, tanks, ships, and weapons. Tin cans were melted down for military re-use.2 Home appliances disappeared from store windows as the production of refrigerators, ranges and washing machines fell by 50%, sometimes more.3 Housewives turned in their waste fats from cooking for use in explosives. Department stores, schools, offices and factories collected nylon and silk stockings for equipment such as parachutes and tow-ropes.4

In an official letter to the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in 1942, President Roosevelt urged the Scouts to participate in scrap drives.5 Children collected everything from paper to tin cans and string for the drives.6 They grew used to toys made of wood and processed paper rather than any sort of metal. "A generation of youngsters growing up during World War II had cardboard or paper toy trains instead of the elaborate metal ones their fathers and older brothers had had," writes Paul D. Casdorph in Let the Good Times Roll.7
 
  • Mary Ann Reed: We would gather any scrap metal we could find; in fact, we'd walk along the railroad track picking it up. We would save any aluminum foil or any type of metallic paper that we could find. And everyone saved rubber bands; everyone had a big ball of rubber bands because rubber was in short supply and rubber was very much in demand, of course, for tires and other things in the war.
    Audio clip:
    Mary Ann Reed's entire oral history interview:
  • Lyman Reed: Yeah, we were always having various drives and all. With Boy Scouts and all, we were very active in paper drives. The Boy Scout location was in the garage of a former funeral home. It was about a three- or four-hearse size garage. We would have it filled up, shoulder-high, with newspaper and magazines and things like that before the collection people would come to take it away. We'd have our meetings sitting on piles of magazines. Also, there was metal drives, where we were looking for all kinds of scrap metals.
    Audio clip:
    Lyman Reed's entire oral history interview:
Citations
1Bailey, Ronald H. (1977). The home front: U.S.A. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 84.

2Heide, Robert, & Gilman, John. (1995). Home front America: Popular culture of the World War II era. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 61.

3Casdorph, Paul D. (1989). Let the good times roll: Life at home in American during WWII. New York, NY: Paragon House, 13-14.

4Heide, Robert, & Gilman, John. (1995). Home front America: Popular culture of the World War II era. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 58-61.

5Ibid.

6Lee, James Ward, Barnes, Carolyn N., Bowman, Ken A., & Crow, Laura. (Eds.). (1991). 1941: Texas goes to war. Denton, TX: University of North Texas Press, 189.

7Casdorph, Paul D. (1989). Let the good times roll: Life at home in American during WWII. New York, NY: Paragon House, 13-14).
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