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The Post World War II Boom: How America Got Into Gear

May 14, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

After years of wartime rationing, American consumers were ready to spend money—and factories made the switch from war to peace-time production.

In the summer of 1945, as , U.S. businesses at the time were still “geared around producing tanks and planes, not clapboard houses and refrigerators.”

Americans Were Ready to Spend

View of the assembly line and workers at the Studebaker automobile manufacturing plant in South Bend, Indiana, 1946.

Some economists even predicted a new crisis of mass unemployment and inflation, arguing that private businesses couldn’t possibly generate the massive amounts of capital necessary to run the pumped-up wartime factories during peacetime. A report released in mid-1945 by Senator James Mead of New York took this opinion, arguing that if the war in the Pacific ended quickly, “the United States would find itself largely unprepared to overcome unemployment on a large scale.”

But history proved the pessimists wrong. Most returning veterans had no trouble finding jobs, according to Herman. U.S. factories that had proven so essential to the war effort quickly mobilized for peacetime, rising to meet the needs of consumers who had been encouraged to save up their money in preparation for just such a post-war boom.

Photos: Rationing During Word War II

During World War II, every American was entitled to a series of war ration books filled with stamps that could be used to buy restricted items (along with payment), and within weeks of the first issuance, more than 91 percent of the U.S. population had registered to receive them.

View the 10 images of this gallery on the original article

By the summer of 1945, Americans had been living under wartime rationing policies for more than three years, including limits on such common goods as rubber, sugar, gasoline, fuel oil, coffee, meat, butter, milk and soap. Meanwhile, the U.S. government’s Office of Price Administration (OPA) had encouraged the public to save up their money (ideally by buying war bonds) for a brighter future. In her book A Consumer’s Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America, Lizabeth Cohen reported that by 1945, Americans were saving an average of 21 percent of their personal disposable income, compared to just 3 percent in the 1920s.

READ MORE: 8 Unusual Wartime Conservation Measures

With the war finally over, American consumers were eager to spend their money, on everything from big-ticket items like homes, cars and …read more


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How Did Billy the Kid Die?

May 14, 2020 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

Even though a widely-accepted account says the outlaw was shot by Sheriff Pat Garrett in New Mexico, murky details have led to other theories.

Western outlaw Billy the Kid , one prospective Billy was John Miller, a farmer and horse trainer who lived in a small village in New Mexico near the Arizona border and died in 1937. (His few possessions reportedly included a pistol with 21 notches on the grip, the same as the number of killings that some accounts attribute to Billy. The other, a resident of Hico, Texas named Ollie “Brushy Bill” Roberts, actually managed to get a meeting with the governor of New Mexico in 1950, in which he unsuccessfully sought a pardon for Billy’s murders. He died soon afterward.

The persistent belief that Billy the Kid survived and hid out somewhere shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, explains Jim Motavalli, author of The Real Dirt on America’s Frontier Outlaws, that examines the legends and the reality of various famed desperados of the American West. After all, similar stories have arisen after the deaths of other people who captured the public imagination, from Elvis Presley to Adolf Hitler.

“Things like this typically start out as bar stories,” Motavalli says. “You want someone to buy you a drink, so you say, ‘I’m Billy the Kid.’”

To add to the confusion, the actual facts about Billy the Kid haven’t been easy to come by. Details of his early life are sketchy, and much of what was written about him just before and after his death was what Motavalli calls “scurrilous literature”—sensationalized newspaper accounts and quickie books churned out by publishing houses. “They didn’t do a lot of actual research when they did these biographies,” Motavalli says.

Pat Garrett’s Account of Billy the Kid’s Death

The 1882 biography The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, Noted Desperado of the Southwest, Whose Deeds of Daring and Blood Made His Name a Terror in New Mexico, Arizona and Northern Mexico, which was written by Garrett, his killer, contains what seems to be the most credible account of the fatal confrontation, according to Motavalli. Instead of depicting an epic gunfight out of a dime novel, Garrett makes his shooting of the outlaw seem like an incredibly lucky break.

That night, Garrett wrote, he and two deputies, John W. Poe and Thomas McKinney, went to the ranch where Maxwell …read more