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Cost of Living 1918­–1944, poster by the United States Office of Price Administration, ca. 1944

Congress implemented price controls and rationing requirements during World War I and World War II. The Food and Fuel Act of 1917 and the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942 both authorized the use of price ceilings and rationing programs. This 1944 poster suggests that, with the public’s cooperation, the program achieved remarkable success.

Records of the Office of Government Reports, National Archives and Records Administration

Cost of Living 1918­–1944

Controlling Wartime Prices

During both world wars, domestic prices rose rapidly as the government diverted goods to the war effort and federal spending soared. Early in World War II Congress passed legislation authorizing the government to regulate and set prices that were “fair and equitable.” By rationing many consumer goods and employing price controls, Congress helped stabilize the economy by keeping rampant inflation at bay and the cost of living reasonable.

It will prevent excessively high prices, gross profiteering . . . and by stopping the upward curve of prices [it] will be a potent factor in preventing after-war collapse.

Senator Prentiss M. Brown of Michigan, The New York Times, January 28, 1942