Vintage Photos: World War II ‘Victory Gardens’

Urban farming was way more than a fad in the 1940s.

Man planting in a front yard Victory Garden.

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI CollectionLC-DIG-fsa-8d31671

Urban gardening may be popular now, but today's urban gardeners have nothing on their grandparents. During the World Wars, the United States government urged citizens to plant their own small vegetable gardens. It was a super positive spin on "We don't have enough war rations."

I don't know what people would do today if the government asked them to grow cabbage in their front yards, but people back them were ready. Around 20 million families planted victory gardens; they grew 40 percent of the country's vegetables by 1944.

Naturally, the government wanted to remember this successful project, so the Library of Congress kept a collection of photos. I happened upon them and I couldn't stop looking. I thought you might like to check them – and their captions – out too.

Children planting seeds
Library of Congress

"Victory Gardens--for family and country. Hopscotch has been supplanted by a new and serious game for these Girl Scouts--it's called Plant the Victory Garden. Like thousands of other school-age youngsters, Pat Nelson, Doris Laclair and Barbara Redford, all of San Francisco, are enthusiastic participants in the nation-wide Food for Victory campaign. Doris seems to be jumping the gun slightly, but at this stage cookies are more palatable than embryonic cabbages."

Children working in a garden with the New York City skyline visible behind them
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8d35488

"New York, New York. Children's school victory gardens on First Avenue between Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth Streets."

Man working a small fenced garden behind a trailer
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8c34636

"Arlington, Virginia. FSA (Farm Security Administration) trailer camp project for Negroes. Project occupant tending his victory garden."

victory garden poster during wwii
Library of Congress 

"Join the United States school garden army - Enlist now."

Women working in the gardens on the Charles Schwab estate
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8d35449

"New York, New York. Victory gardening on the Charles Schwab estate."

Woman riding a tractor
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8b07416

"There's a feminine hand at the controls of many of America's activities these days. Like many other farm wives whose husbands are engaged in war work, Mrs. William Wood manages a 120 acre farm in Colona, Michigan, with little male assistance. With a crop of corn, tomatoes and rasberries to harvest, she still finds time to care for her own Victory garden and to attend a first-aid class. And for the scrap drive Mrs. Wood salvaged 1,600 pounds of outworn metal and rubber articles from the farm, and contributed them to her local collection agency."

Girl holding vegetables in her hand and tasting one
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8d35483

"New York, New York. Children's school victory gardens on First Avenue between Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth Streets."

Young boy using a hoe in a field
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8b09856

"America's youngsters will take a hand in feeding the family this year. A worthwhile project for every member of the family. Victory Gardens, whether planted in the smallest backyard plot or in large acreages, will go a long way toward augmenting supplies of fruits and vegetables severely reduced by war demands."

Poster encouraging people to plant a victory garden
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USE6-D-009050

"Plant a victory garden. Poster distributed by the Office of War Information to libraries, museums post offices. The original is 22 inches and is printed in full color. The poster was designed by Robert Gwathmey, mural artist. Copies are obtainable from Division of Public Inquiries, OWI, 14th and Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C."

Couple working in their garden
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USF34-082775-C

"Childersburg, Alabama. Cousa Court defense housing project. After work, Mr. and Mrs. Smith find time to work in their Victory garden behind their house."

Vice president Henry A. Wallace working in a corn field
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USW3-006467-D

"Washington, D.C. Vice President Henry A. Wallace in his victory garden."

Two girls working in a garden in New York City
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-DIG-fsa-8d35481

"New York, New York. Children's school victory gardens on First Avenue between Thirty-fifth and Thirty-sixth Streets."