Grandview Heights Moment in Time

Wayne Carlson
Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Historical Society
During the first and second world wars, the U.S. government encouraged the development of personal and community gardens as a way of encouraging rationing and building community togetherness. Grandview Heights’ Wallace Gardens is an example of such public spaces.

During World War I, a food crisis emerged in Europe as agricultural workers were recruited into military service and farms became battlefields. The opportunity to feed millions of people overseas was taken up by the United States. In early 1917, the National War Garden Commission was organized to encourage Americans to contribute to the war effort by planting, fertilizing, harvesting and storing their own fruits and vegetables so that more food could be exported to Europe. Citizens were urged to utilize school and company grounds, parks, backyards or any available vacant lots for gardens.

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Promoted through “Sow the Seeds of Victory” war propaganda posters, the war-garden movement was spread by numerous women’s clubs, civic associations and chambers of commerce. Amateur gardeners were provided with government instruction pamphlets on how, when and where to sow and were offered suggestions as to the best crops to plant, along with tips on preventing disease and insect infestations. In addition, the U.S. Office of Education initiated a U.S. School Garden Army to mobilize children to enlist as “soldiers of the soil.” By the end of World War I, the campaign promoting home gardens (victory gardens) had dropped off, but many people continued to maintain them.

Shortly after the U.S. entered World War II, victory gardens began to reemerge. With the introduction of food rationing in the United States in the spring of 1942, Americans had an even greater incentive to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Throughout both world wars, the victory-garden campaign served as a successful means of boosting morale, expressing patriotism, safeguarding against food shortages and easing the burden on the commercial farmers working to feed troops and civilians overseas.

In 1942, roughly 15 million families planted victory gardens. By 1944, more than 40% of all fresh fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States were grown in victory gardens.

This photo is from 1918 and shows two women consuming the "fruits" of their labors. The inset is from a 1942 Mechanix Illustrated magazine instructing readers how to best plan their “V-Garden.” Grandview Heights had a community garden on Goodale Boulevard, and it was moved to the corner of Grandview Avenue and Goodale and named Wallace Gardens. A community kitchen existed during World War I on First Avenue in which the vegetables from the community garden were prepared into community meals. When World War II ended, so did the government promotion of victory gardens. Many people did not plant a garden in the spring of 1946, but agriculture had not yet geared up to full production for grocery stores, so the country experienced some food shortages.

This historical narrative from the Grandview Heights/Marble Cliff Historical Society was provided by Wayne Carlson.