Flashback Friday: Will Pigs Help Win World War I??

After the United States entered World War I in April of 1917, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Herbert Hoover head of the U.S. Food Administration. Hoover believed that food would win the war and established specific days to encourage people to avoid eating particular foods in order to save them for soldiers’ rations and use overseas: meatless Mondays, wheatless Wednesdays, and “when in doubt, eat potatoes.”

Hoover also instigated a national campaign for greater swine production. He said in 1917: “We need a ‘keep-a-pig’ movement in this country-and a properly cared for pig is no more unsanitary than a dog.” In fact, said Hoover: “Every pound of fat is as sure of service as every bullet, and every hog is of greater value to the winning of this war than a shell.” Even suburbanites, he asserted, could help by raising hogs on domestic garbage as the Germans were doing. As a result of this campaign many patriotic cities repealed ordinances which forbade the raising of pigs within their respective limits, thereby enabling many of their citizens to raise their own pork.

The Lincoln Sunday Star on July 10, 1918, discussed the Hoover mandate on its society page, commenting: “Society has been told for the last few years that she must do her bit towards helping in this world war, but never before has she been told to do such a new and seemingly ridiculous thing as she has been told now. Last year we were all planting our potatoes and many a front yard that in former years had been given over to the raising of flowers alone, was changed into a veritable potato patch. Where people used to vie with each other as to the number and varieties of flowers they could grow, last year much rivalry was caused over the number of potatoes raised to the acre, and the number of acres or lots planted. . . .

“But just how many of us have given over a portion of our yards or lawns to the raising of pigs[?]. . . . Now the first thing I hear you say is that they are too dirty to have around, but they are not dirty, at least not dirty by preference. People have had the idea that they thrived better by leaving them wallow in the mud, but the only reason the pigs liked it was because they were not given a choice in the matter.”

The Star maintained that hogs wasted less and yielded more value to their owners than “other animals we think are so much nicer to have around,” and urged its readers with “a bit of available ground that is not being used for anything but flowers or nice green grass,” to “fence it off, build a sty or house or whatever seems to you to be the best thing to call it, and herein deposit Mr. Pig.”

John Nelson's photograph, dating from 1913 to 1915, depicted young Hilda Nelson with a pig named Polly. During World War I city dwellers were asked to raise pigs to increase the nation's food supply. NSHS RG 3542.PH:020-01
John Nelson’s photograph, dating from 1913 to 1915, depicted young Hilda Nelson with a pig named Polly. During World War I city dwellers were asked to raise pigs to increase the nation’s food supply. NSHS RG 3542.PH:020-01

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Portraits of Omaha’s 1898 Indian Congress

Portraits of Omaha’s 1898 Indian Congress

Marker Monday: Shell Creek Pawnee Settlements

Marker Monday: Shell Creek Pawnee Settlements

The Huskers wore blue jerseys for Memorial Stadium’s first game

The Huskers wore blue jerseys for Memorial Stadium’s first game

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.