Skip to content

A Strong Nation

World War II changed the everyday use of milk and milk products. The war popularized milk on the nation’s menu in daily quantities approaching the recommendations of scientific nutritionists. Popular magazines and newspapers were filled with reminders that proper nutrition, including milk,would make a strong nation. Those preferring butter had to endure rationing and shortages, but substitutes like oleomargarine were found, and they, too, created new, lasting eating habits.

Sheet music for Milkman, Keep Those Bottles Quiet by Don Raye and Gene de Paul, 1944
Courtesy of Judith Moyer
A popular wartime song told the milkman to quiet the rattle of his milk bottles when delivering so he wouldn’t wake the nighttime war worker. Neighborhood residents knew who worked at night and an effort was made by the thoughtful and the patriotic to be quiet around those houses.
Advertisement for Allsweet Oleomargarine
From Good Housekeeping, April 1944

Oleomargarine, a butter substitute made at first with beef tallow and later with vegetable oils mixed with milk, had been available for almost 100 years. Farmers and processors persuaded some states to outlaw or restrict its sale to curb the competition with 100% butter. During World War II rationing, oleomargarine substituted for butter. In some brands, a separate packet of coloring came with the margarine and had to be mixed in by the consumer, a measure required by law lest the margarine be mistaken for butter.

Advertisement for “Junket” Rennet Powder,with patriotic imagery
From Good Housekeeping, July 1943
Patriotic newspaper advertisement for Oakhurst Dairy, Portland,Maine, 1943
Courtesy of Oakhurst Dairy
World War II increased the demand for dairy products because of the need to feed the American armed forces and to send food to European allies. Servicemen learned to drink more milk and include more dairy products in their diet. After the war ended, they brought their new eating habits back home.

“Milk Maids Replace Portland Men Who Have Gone to War”
From The Hood Spotlight, 1972
Courtesy of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities
Women stepped into jobs that men vacated during World War II, including milk delivery.


A Strong Nation