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An artist in residence (she can afford)

Jun 24, 2019

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Marketplace
Brought to You By

Christmas time during WWII, Americans were encouraged to ‘Make do and Mend’

Daisy Palacios Nov 24, 2016
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A Office for Emergency Management War Production Board poster and a window display at Marshall Field & Company, circa 1943.
National Archives and Records Administration, Chicago History Museum

Once the dishes are cleared and everyone’s made their way to one couch or another this Thanksgiving, thoughts turn to the holidays.

Lots of our American Christmas traditions were actually established during World War II, but since then it’s all changed. A lot. Everything from the decor to the shopping to the music, and how far we travel to see our increasingly scattered families. But back then, a fair number of the traditions revolved around scarcity … And hope for better days.

Design historian Sarah Archer explores Christmastime during the war, as well as post-war, in her new book “Midcentury Christmas.” We had her on to kick of this season of our “Brought to You By” series.

Americans were encouraged to ‘make do and mend’: Conserve energy at home and in the car, tailor clothing to use as little fabric as possible, and recycle or reuse household goods and materials. Rationing meant scaling way back on all the things that had been associated with Christmas since the mid-nineteenth century: food and drink, material goods, the energy needed to power decorative lights, and even the use of the telephone for making long distance calls.

Hear the full interview in the audio player above.

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