Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » Further Lessons on Mormon Sugar Patriotism

Further Lessons on Mormon Sugar Patriotism

By: Ardis E. Parshall - April 10, 2009

From 1943:



  1. I just finished reading Arrington’s Great Basin Kingdom. I was surprized just how much the church invested (in money and encouragement) in getting the sugar industry started, and how many tries it took to get it right. The U and I sugar company was the ultimate benficiary of all that effort.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — April 10, 2009 @ 6:39 am

  2. Go Diggers!

    Comment by Owen — April 10, 2009 @ 8:12 am

  3. (That’s the Jordan High School Beetdiggers, for readers outside our salty little valley …)

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — April 10, 2009 @ 8:29 am

  4. Putting aside the silly adoration of sugar as a source of energy, I really like the way this ad reminded me of the importance of our local, home-grown food producers. I know, I know, some of it rings as hollow as all those presidential candidates in Iowa glorifying corn and its byproducts, but still . . . thanks for this.

    Comment by Hunter — April 10, 2009 @ 9:41 am

  5. I love how everything could be seven degrees of kevin baconed back to the war effort back then. Of course some historians don’t call World War II a “total war” for no reason. So I can understand why the sugar beat industry would advertise their efforts.
    Anyways, thanks for the post, interesting as always.

    Comment by Morgan Deane — April 10, 2009 @ 9:42 am

  6. “everything could be seven degrees of kevin baconed back to the war effort”

    Ha! That’s hilarious!

    Comment by Hunter — April 10, 2009 @ 10:00 am

  7. We’ve had some silly “Sugar is good for you!” posts before, and I know it would be very easy to lump this one in with those. I appreciate that you haven’t done that, that you’ve all gone beyond that to recognize what this ad really represents: home industry and patriotism, and the pulling-together-we-can-do-it cooperative spirit that marked both the pioneer and World War II (and other) eras.

    Please believe that I’m not mocking that by posting this. I love the comic book format, as well as the informative nature of the ad.

    If the subject were World War I rather than II, the comic book might have been about the alunite deposits near Marysvale, Utah. These deposits in Utah were virtually the only source the U.S. had for potash (used for fertilizer and explosives) during World War I, because the world’s previous supplies were all controlled by Germany. Since my grandmother went to the Alunite mining camp as a school teacher and met my grandfather there, I have extra reason to celebrate.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 10, 2009 @ 10:15 am

  8. Does my work thinning beets on my uncle’s farm in the 60s count as a contribution to the war effort? Sugar beet farming, though, was a labor intensive effort in those days, requiring thinning and weeding several times before the crop could be harvested, so lots of children, teenagers and women were probably out there in those fields in the hot summers of WWII.

    Comment by kevinf — April 10, 2009 @ 10:58 am

  9. Nothing subliminal about the message of the U/I sugar ad. And it’s even endorse by Uncle Sam. Got to love it!

    Comment by Steve C. — April 10, 2009 @ 11:19 am

  10. This is awesome, thanks!

    (I’ve heard stories about similar print ads for Utah’s Silk Industry. I’d love to find some of those.)

    Comment by queuno — April 10, 2009 @ 11:22 am

  11. My grandparents were married during the war, and their families carefully saved a couple cups of sugar out of their rations, which my grandparents delivered to Mrs Backer’s Bakery on South Temple in Salt Lake City for their wedding cake. I went with them to the bakery 50 years later to pick up a cake for their 50th wedding anniversary. This time there was no need to bring the sugar with them!

    As I understand it, bakers did not like to use beet sugar, since it did not give the same results as cane sugar. I do not know if that is true or if it is propaganda by the cane sugar lobby.

    Comment by Researcher — April 10, 2009 @ 12:57 pm

  12. Funny, my mother swore that U&I beet sugar was far superior to that C&H cane stuff that she sometimes had to settle for. I suspect their prejudices were both formed by lobbies.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 10, 2009 @ 3:12 pm

  13. Timely message for our day and age as well. If ever there was a time for:

    home industry and patriotism, and the pulling-together-we-can-do-it cooperative spirit that marked both the pioneer and World War II

    now is the time, this is the place, and we are the people.

    Comment by Guy Murray — April 10, 2009 @ 8:27 pm

  14. One source I found says that the U.S. imported 90 percent of its sugar at the start of the war. The loss of the Philippines and German U-boat activity in the Caribbean and along the east coast led to severe shortages, which were exacerbated by hoarding by nervous consumers. So rationing began in 1942–and continued, by the way–until the end of 1946.

    Thus, it didn’t take any stretching to tie domestic sugar production to the war effort. It was as integral to that effort as the manufacture of weapons or ammunition. Take the sugar (and substitutes) out of your diet and you’ll find out why in a hurry.

    Comment by Mark B. — April 10, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

  15. my first experience with sugar beets was in march of 1961. i had been in the church about two weeks when our ward was asked to go hoe Sb’s. so we went. now i am a city kid and had no farming experience as i started to hoe after a bit someone came to me and said “you have chopped the beets and left the weeds” . “why dont you go over there with that older man” which i did. he asked about me and i told him “new convert, city boy…” anyway he said “work along side me and do as i do”. well i did and we each did a very long row of beets.the very kind man said he had to leave and said “thank you for helping”. as the day closed i asked who was that nice man—i was told he was a stake pres and a pres of one of the big banks in the bay area.well i was impressed that a leader would do “stoop labor” just like everyone else and spend time with some dumb 18 year old kid. i got to thinking that this must be some great church

    Comment by tjk — April 10, 2009 @ 11:09 pm

  16. Great story, tjk! Thanks.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 11, 2009 @ 4:41 am

  17. Were other types of sugars also rationed during the war, such as molasses, honey, maple syrup, or corn syrup?

    Were any sugar substitutes already around at that time, such as aspartame or xylitol?

    Comment by Researcher — April 11, 2009 @ 9:14 am

  18. Sugar becoming an “evil” is a recent thing, and is not entirely inherent in the nutrient qualities (or lack thereof) in sugar.

    I used to decry and mock the church’s recommendation to have 60 pounds of sugar per person in one’s year’s supply. For a person to consume 60 pounds of “added” (not naturally occuring in fruits/vegetables) sugar annually is unreasonable in a normal modern-day diet.

    However,the operative phrase is “normal modern-day diet”. We forget that today we have a literal over-abundance of food that did not exist as recently as WW-II.

    If times were to get real tough, and millions of saints literally _had_ to eat off their year’s supply for a year, (and if millions of saints _shared_ their year’s supply, effectively cutting it in half) and not be able to get all their necessary daily calories, then that 60 pounds of sugar makes a bit more sense. It may not make you healthy, but its compactness and high calorie-density (with ease of storage and transportation) will at least provide some calories to keep you alive.

    Our sedentary life-style of work and TV-as-recreation only require 1800 (female) to 2000 (male) calories per day. But for heavy manual labor, a caloric intake of up to 5000 calories per day may be needed.

    The stress and necessity of physical labor during times when using food storage is necessary would also require a higher than normal daily caloric intake.

    Meat-heavy diets were also not widely available back in the 1940’s and earlier. And the _abundance_ of enough food to over-fill one’s stomach was not all that common back then either.

    So that left many people literally unable to get enough calories to sustain their body mass. A lot of people got skinny during the Great Depression and during World War II.

    To get another take on the picture I’m trying to paint, think of dog mushers and arctic explorers using chocolate as a compact high calorie-density food to fuel them in their extreme condition.

    The generation of the Great Depression just lived under different situations of economic and food availability than we do.

    So yeah, our laziness and poor eating habits and over-abundance of better foods (along with an over-abundance of bad foods) have turned sugar into an “evil.” But if laziness, poor eating habits, and the overabundances are removed, sugar turns out to be not so bad.

    Besides, eating boiled cracked wheat cereal three times a day without any sugar gets boring pretty fast.

    Comment by Bookslinger — April 11, 2009 @ 10:01 am

  19. This book, Grandma’s Wartime Kitchen, says that only sugar, not the other sweeteners were rationed in the U.S. I did find a couple of sources that said molasses was rationed in Canada, in part because it was used in the production of artificial rubber. I don’t know whether any artificial sweeteners had been invented yet (where’s J.?), but if so they probably couldn’t have been in widespread use — the packaged and processed foods we’re so used to were not produced until later.

    Bookslinger’s comment so completely predicts a post I have on the agenda that I’m going to link back to it when I get that far. That post will focus on a Relief Society lesson about getting adequate nutrition in wartime — in the U.S. at least — and includes a chart reminiscent of the Food Pyramid, but radically different from what we know today where our main problem is avoiding a superabundance rather than getting enough.

    It is, of course, the difference between “then” and “now” in how we view sugar (and, generally, all the other commodities plugged in the ads we’ve posted) that gives all these ads their humor.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — April 11, 2009 @ 10:28 am