100 Years Ago: Heatless Mondays

Map showing “Heatless Monday” states
proclaimed due to a coal shortage. From the
Fort Wayne Sentinel newspaper of 18
January 1918.

Many World War I researchers have read about “Meatless Mondays” in the United States–an effort to conserve on meat and other commodities in order to be able to ship more food to Europe. A little known conservation of fuel was enacted on 16 January 1918 and dubbed “Heatless Mondays.”

According to the Ephraim Enterprise newspaper (Ephraim, Utah) of 4 January 1918, page 4, “the government began to tighten its control over industry and business for the purpose of furthering war efforts and protecting the public. .. in order to relieve a serious coal shortage which threatened to delay the shipment of war supplies to France, Fuel Administrator Garfield ordered a general shutdown of industry and businesses in all states east of the Mississippi River for a period of five days and ten succeeding Mondays.

The Fort Wayne Sentinel Newspaper of 18 January 1918 explains what this meant to the public:
. Theatres and other amusement places must go fuelless on Mondays from January 21 to March 25.
. Department stores will be heatless Mondays, but buildings containing government offices, banks, doctors and dentists offices will be exempted.
. There must be washless laundries on the work days as they are deemed manufacturing plants.
. Grocery and drug stores can be heated and likewise schools.
. A select list of vital war plants are exempted. Railroads, shipping, public institutions, houses and apartments, strictly government plants but not U.S. war contract factories, public utilizies are allowed to have heart.
. Trolley service will be made to conform to holiday schedules on the workless Mondays.
. Saloons will be cold on workless Mondays.
. Papers will print as usual but on Mondays cannot run more editions than they do on legal holidays. If the paper does not issue on a holiday it may publish once on a Monday.

On 8 February 1918 the U.S. Fuel Administration’s “Heatless Mondays,” order was abandoned.

[Editor’s Note: this story is part of an on-going series about heroic New Hampshire men and women of World War I.  Look here for the entire listing].

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7 Responses to 100 Years Ago: Heatless Mondays

  1. Amy says:

    Wow, I’d never heard of this. It must have been terrible for those businesses affected—why open at all in midwinter if you can’t heat your building? (At least homes and schools weren’t affected.) Is that why it was so quickly rescinded?

    • Janice Brown says:

      Amy, thanks for reading and commenting 😀 There was in fact a severe coal shortage. Coal was the major source of creating heat in homes and elsewhere, from coal stoves to coal furnaces. It was a matter of there just not being enough. The timing was horrible of course, during a month that is typically the coldest in New England, but at the same time necessary so that homes and essential places could get coal. Following WWI, the focus shifting to using petroleum products, and today of course, many still heat using oil.

      • Amy says:

        Thanks for the explanation. And, of course, being dependent on oil hasn’t turned out all that well either. So why did they rescind the regulation? Public outcry? Or a sudden discovery of more coal?

        • Janice Brown says:

          Amy, according to Wikipedia who happens to be accurate and stated it succinctly, so I just repeat their words: “There was in fact plenty of coal being mined, but 44,000 loaded freight and coal cars were tied up in horrendous traffic jams in the rail yards of the East Coast. Two hundred ships were waiting in New York harbor for cargo that was delayed by the mess. The solution included nationalizing the coal mines and the railroads for the duration, shutting down factories one day a week to save fuel, and enforcing a strict system of priorities. Only in March 1918 did Wilson finally take control of the crisis.”

          • Amy says:

            Thanks, Janice—why didn’t I know this? Or did I once and forgot? I have no memory of the coals mines and railroads being nationalized back then. I guess I’d better return my degree in American history!

          • Janice Brown says:

            It was for a brief time, emergency measures. The reason I write these stories is often because I had never heard of it before. The history books tell us what someone wanted us to know, not always what we should know.

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