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World War I Agencies

During World War I, the economy was placed under an unprecedented degree of federal control to produce the materiel needed to win the war in Europe.

The War Industries Board was established in July 1917 with the purpose of coordinating purchases by the United States government. The board was led at first by Frank Scott, previously head of the General Munitions Board. Next came railroad executive Daniel Willard and finally Bernard Baruch.

To achieve the production levels required, the WIB encouraged efficiency and standardization among producers. It also aimed to head off labor disruptions by working with labor and industry to keep plants running. The WIB was dissolved on January 1, 1919.

Another board was the Food Administration. Established after the entrance of the United States into the war in 1917, its job was to ensure adequate supplies of food to America`s allies while preventing price gouging. In August 1917, Wilson established the Food Administration Grain Corporation to buy and sell grain. After the armistice, the Food Administration was repurposed as the American Relief Administration, again under the leadership of Hoover, to provide food to the war ravaged regions of Europe. The ARA fed millions by delivering over 20 million tons of relief supplies to 23 countries through 1923.

Yet another federal agency was the Fuel Administration,created on August 23, 1917. The Fueld Administration was directed by Harry Garfield, son of president James A. Garfield, who left his job as president of Williams College at the request of Woodrow Wilson to assume control of the new agency.

The main responsibilities of the Fuel Administration were to ensure adequate production and delivery of coal and oil and to keep their prices reasonable. The winter of 1917 was severe and shortages of coal were blamed on the Fuel Administration. An investigation showed that it was more the fault of the railroads, which were placed under federal control on December 28, 1917.

In order to provide enough fuel for defense industries, the Fuel Administration forced nonessential industries to close on certain days during the winter of 1918. The move naturally generated opposition from the industries affected, and Garfield`s plan was replaced after a few weeks by one that prioritized deliveries. After the war, Garfield returned to the presidency of Williams.

One of the policies advocated by Garfield in 1918 was the adoption of Daylight Savings Time, which was intended to reduce energy consumption by scheduling more activities when the sun was shining. DST was introduced into the United States (it was already in effect in Europe) by legislation that passed on March 18, 1918 by a joint resolution of Congress. It proved unpopular with many people and was repealed following the war.

Fuel Administration, a World War I agency instituted 23 August 1917 under authority of the Lever Act. The agency exercised control over the production, distribution, and price of coal and oil. Its main activities were to (1) stimulate an increase in the production of fuel; (2) encourage voluntary economy in the private consumption of fuel; (3) restrict consumption by industries not essential to winning the war; (4) regulate the distribution of coal through a zoning system; and (5) check the inordinate rise of fuel prices by fixing maximum prices within each zone. Characteristic of its methods for inducing voluntary conservation was its appeal to people residing east of the Mississippi River to observe "gasless Sundays." The Fuel Administration ceased to function on 30 June 1919.

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