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WWII popular culture

            During World War II the United States government successfully and relentlessly promoted the victory garden to the public through the combination of Franklin Roosevelt’s speeches and the patriotic propaganda posters. However, encouraging the population was not enough, in order for the population to actually participate in growing a victory garden they needed to be instructed on how to grow a garden. The majority of the people participating in the voluntary victory garden program were first-time gardeners.[1] Therefore, there was a movement to educate the population on the proper techniques of growing a garden.

            Growing a victory garden was safe and easy, meaning there was little danger in tending a garden. Even though actually tending a garden was quite labor intensive, it was something that children could do. Therefore, the victory garden policy was aimed particularly at children and promoted to them via the public education system.[2] While in school, children learned how to properly grow and tend victory gardens. Some of these gardens were located in vacant lots close to the school, designated as community gardens; other school-aged children grew victory gardens in their yards with their families. In either case, they used the information that they learned in school to take care of their garden and record the progress of their garden while it was growing. The vegetables that they grew were displayed at school to demonstrate the garden’s success and the children’s patriotism.[3]

            States provided victory garden handbooks with instructions on how to properly lay out a garden for those who were not of school age, but still wanted to participate in the victory garden program to show their dedication to the war effort and prove their patriotic zeal. Theses instructional handbooks gave distinct directions on when to plant, where to plant and how to plant. They also gave advice on how to get rid of insects and deal with dying plants.[4]

            The goal in educating the population was to get as many people as possible to participate in this simple way to aid the war effort. Previous sections have focused on the government and the way they advertised to the United States home front, but the actual education of the population shows how American citizens actually engaged with and participated in the voluntary victory garden program.


Exhibit 1. The Time of the Garden: Government-Endorsed Gardening Past and Present

WWII Government-Endorsed Gardening

Post-WWII Government-Endorsed Gardening


Exhibit 2. Victory of the Garden: Selling and Remembering the WWII Victory Garden

WWII Propaganda Posters

Post-WWII Children’s Literature


[1] Erpi Classroom Films Inc. Gardening (1940), 1940, Prelinger Archive,  

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Victory Gardens 1939-1945, Prelinger Archive

Official Films, Inc. Brownie’s Victory Garden, 1939-1945, Prelinger Archive

U.S. Office of War Information, Wartime Nutrition (1943), 1943, Prelinger Archive

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Henry Browne, Farmer (1942) 1942, Prelinger Archive

[2] Fred G. Heuchling, “Children’s Gardens in Chicago” The American Biology Teacher 6, no. 5 (February 1944), (accessed January 9, 2014)

H. W. Hochbaum, “Victory Gardens in 1944: How Teachers May Help” The American Biology Teacher 6, no. 5 (February 1944), (accessed January 9, 2014)

Earl R. Gabler, “School Gardens for Victory” The Clearing House 16, no. 8 (April 1942) (accessed January 9, 2014)

M. A. Russell, “Highland Park’s School Victory Gardens” The American Biology Teacher 6, no. 8 (May 1944) (accessed January 9, 2014)

Lippincott, Williams, & Wilkins, “Victory Gardens for 1943” The American Journal of Nursing 43 no. 4 (April 1943) (accessed January 9, 2014)

Frank Thone, “Victory Gardens” The Science News-Letter 43, no. 12 (March 20, 1943) (accessed January 9, 2014)

C. Clair Culver, “Growing Plants for Victory Gardens” The American Biology Teacher 4, no. 7 (April 1942) (accessed January 9, 2014)

[3] M. A. Russell, “Highland Park’s School Victory Gardens” The American Biology Teacher 6, no. 8 (May 1944) (accessed January 9, 2014)

[4] Pennsylvania State Council of Defense, Victory Gardens: Handbook of the Victory Garden Committee War Services, (Pennsylvania: State Council of Defense, 1944).

Hans Platenius, Victory Gardens in New York: Instructions for Vegetable growing in Urban Areas (New York: 1943);view=1up;seq=1