May 15, 1942 – Gas rationing begins in US for WWII efforts

On this day in 1942, 17 states in the eastern United States began gas rationing at the order of the Office of Price Administration, as the effort to preserve materials for World War II ramped up. Gasoline was not the only commodity being rationed. Rubber was the first material to have a rationing program initiated by the OPA, in part due to the Japanese invasion of the Dutch East Indies, which cut off major rubber supplies to the US. Tires for wartime vehicles were a necessity, which meant non essential drivers had limited access to new or used tires for their personal vehicles.

Various levels of gas stamps were issued, based on levels of importance. Your average motorists would likely have been issued issued an “A” sticker for their windshield, which allowed for the purchase of up to four gallons of gas a week. Essential drivers, business owners, doctors, truckers, and those with with necessary transportation jobs were issued either “B,” “C,” “T,” or “X” stickers that would ensure they received the proper amount of gas for their duties.

Above: WWII rationing stamps.
Top: Atlantic service station in Philadelphia, PA, photographed in June 1942.

Other efforts to reduce fuel consumption included the passing of a national speed limit of 35 mph, which became known as the Victory Speed. By December 1, 1942, mandatory gas rationing was in effect across all 48 states and the territories of Alaska and Hawaii.

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