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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Victory Garden poster from World War II.
Victory Garden. As part of the war effort during the GREAT DEPRESSION and later during WORLD WAR II, the federal government encouraged families to establish gardens to raise their own produce. "Victory Gardens" began to produce their first harvest in July, 1934. Locally the project was encouraged by Ella B. Lyons, the wife of Edwin B. LYONS, who led the effort through the garden department of the DUBUQUE WOMEN'S CLUB. (1)
Government publications aided Americans in planning their garden. Photo courtesy: Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park, Crescent City, California

In Dubuque, the Victory Garden Committee of the Dubuque County Civilian Defense supported victory gardens and urged anyone in the city with vacant property to make this available to others for gardens. (2) Coupons appeared in the Telegraph Herald in which property owners could report their extra property and its size. When these coupons were filled out they could be returned to the Chamber of Commerce Building at 9th and Locust. (3) More than five hundred pieces of unimproved property acquired in the city by Dubuque County at tax sales were made available by the Board of Supervisors to the Civilian Defense Council for gardens. (4)

An estimated 20 million Americans responded. They planted gardens in backyards, empty lots and even city rooftops. Neighbors combined their resources, planted different kinds of foods, and formed cooperatives.

Magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post and Life printed stories about victory gardens. Women's magazines gave instructions on how to grow and preserve garden produce. Speakers addressed fraternal and business groups. (5) Families were encouraged to can their own vegetables to save commercial canned goods for the troops. Reports of gardens yielding over one hundred quarts were reported. (6) To encourage gardening, the Farm Bureau created a contest with the prize being named "Champion Victory Gardener." (7) In 1943, families bought 315,000 pressure cookers (used in the process of canning), compared to 66,000 in 1942. The government and businesses urged people to make gardening a family and community effort.

The US Department of Agriculture estimated that more than 20 million victory gardens were planted during the war. Dubuque County in 1944 was expected to have at least 5,000. (8) Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 9-10 million tons, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables.

The bounty of food grown created some difficulties with distribution and disposal. Extra help was needed for harvesting and processing food before it spoiled. With estimates of three hundred people needed for canning, it was suggested that a farmers' exchange be set up to deal with surplus and that many women would offer to can as a way of contributing to the war effort. Community canning centers were discouraged, but churches with kitchens were thought to be willing to help. (9)

In March 1945 the chairman of the Dubuque ration board announced that those raising victory gardens would be able to obtain ration allowances of up to twenty gallons of gasoline for travel between home and their garden. Regulations, however, would not allow supplemental gasoline to be used for travel to garden more than fifteen miles from the gardener's home. Gasoline would not be granted either if the garden was less than 1,500 square feet. (10)

When World War II ended, so did the government encouragement of victory gardens. Many people did not plant a garden in the spring of 1946. Because agriculture had not yet geared up to full production for grocery stores, the country experienced some food shortages.



1. Hogstrom, Erik, "1934: 'Subsistence Gardens Withstand Threat," Telegraph Herald, July 25, 2019, p. 5A

2. How About a Victory Garden?" Telegraph Herald, Feb. 23, 1943. p. 5. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=1FdFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6LsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4317,3766626&dq=victory+gardens+dubuque&hl=en

3. Ibid.

4. "Supervisors Approve Idea," Telegraph Herald, Feb. 26, 1943. p. 2. Online:http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=11dFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=6LsMAAAAIBAJ&pg=7016,4092612&dq=victory+gardens+dubuque&hl=en

5. "Victory Garden Plan Outlined to Lions," Telegraph Herald, June 14, 1944, p. 9. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0RtiAAAAIBAJ&sjid=qnUNAAAAIBAJ&pg=3111,5110152&dq=victory+gardens+dubuque&hl=en

6. "Dubuque Victory Gardeners Reap Big Harvest," Telegraph Herald, Aug. 6, 1944, p. 8. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=0O9iAAAAIBAJ&sjid=rXUNAAAAIBAJ&pg=2514,3561337&dq=victory+gardens+dubuque&hl=en

7. "Start Judging Girls' Gardens," Telegraph Herald, July 25, 1944, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=xu9iAAAAIBAJ&sjid=rXUNAAAAIBAJ&pg=2376,2351532&dq=victory+gardens+dubuque&hl=en

8. Duddleson, Irvin F. "Expect 5,000 Victory Gardens," Telegraph Herald, Apr. 16, 1944, p. 16. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=V0xjAAAAIBAJ&sjid=aXUNAAAAIBAJ&pg=1870,5891313&dq=victory+gardens+dubuque&hl=en

9. "Surplus Foods Are Discussed," Telegraph Herald, July 9, 1943, p. 3. Online: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=L0lFAAAAIBAJ&sjid=o7sMAAAAIBAJ&pg=4018,4033861&dq=victory+gardens+dubuque&hl=en

10. "Gardeners Can Get Extra Gas Rations," Telegraph Herald, March 22, 1945, p. 1