SUBMARINES MEAN SUBSTITUTES (Jan, 1942)

SUBMARINES MEAN SUBSTITUTES

To produce weapons, we must give up many “daily necessities.” Here’s the story of the sacrifices we must make.

by W. M. Kimball

MAYBE you’ve noticed it already.

There isn’t any opener tucked into your box of beer in cans. There’s a slight yellowish tinge to your white wrapping paper. And your wife’s nylon hose have lisle tops.

These straws show which way the wind is blowing American necessities. The wind is the war with its submarines, its terrific demand for ships and goods, its overwhelming shakeup of American industry—a new mechanical revolution that will affect civilization for years to come.

Inevitably, the tremendous destruction in Europe means SUBSTITUTES in America. Substitutes for a thousand and one things in common use; but science and Yankee ingenuity may make some of these substitutes even better and more efficient than the originals. Most will work just as well.

At little additional cost silver will be substituted for copper wires (it is a more efficient conductor of electricity than copper). It may even be used as plating for the interior of cans. For silver is the least expensive of all the non-priority metals!

There is no telling how Mr. and Mrs. We are going to look upon these substitutes—we will not be aware of many of them, for they will be on the inside workings of our appliances—and we really have no choice in the matter. They are being made necessary by the stupendous demands placed on American industry. Here’s what experts say of the immediate future: “There will be no such thing as a plentiful material. The needs are too fantastic; the requirements are too vast,” said a veteran Washington consultant last week.

The OPM has been besieged by frantic businessmen and manufacturers declaring their impending ruin. But quiet men have begun telling them what to do, what materials will work just as well as those on the priorities lists.

Woodworkers and cabinet makers soon will be able to get only 378 kinds of wood screws. The manufacturers agreed to cut out 507 types.

There will be no more white galoshes—because white rubber requires zinc and zinc is needed badly in defense. The manufacture of roller skates has been cut 30%—because ball bearing steel is at a premium.

Soon you will find different kinds of tips on your shoelaces—plastic tips on 500,000,000 pairs of shoelaces will save 500,000 pounds of tin. ‘ All this may change, of course, in only a few months. Gargantuan efforts are raising new factories, producing new supplies, changing present requirements. Design is playing an important part in the changing needs of defense. Already mechanical design has knocked protuberances off of car and truck frames, simplified any number of attachments and mechanisms without sacrificing strength.

Redesigned cardboard cartons are more compact, thus saving pulp and cargo space.

Paper will be lighter. There are some heavy bonds that have already been discontinued, other types will go as soon as the situation tightens. The greatest shortage is in waste paper. For that reason there is being inaugurated a “waste paper drive,” similar to last summer’s aluminum drive.

Though there will be a shortage of fine steel casting rods for the sportsman, the lazy fisherman will still be able to get his long Tonkin poles. These poles are imported green, years in advance of sale and dried in this country. Silk fishing lines will disappear, but there is an adequate supply of linen lines.

There is now a definite shortage of Prestone and other “permanent” cooling liquids. “Shortage” is not quite the proper word—for instead of going to civilian use, such liquids are being used in the nation’s war machines. Whether there will be enough alcohol to use as a substitute is an unanswered question. The assumption is that SOME compound will be found to answer civilian need.

Though the zinc supply is improving, some experts believe there will be a definite shortage of “galvanized” products. Galvanizing requires zinc. So we will see and use enameled iron—and even resort to porcelain —for there is no shortage in ceramics.

In fact, manufacturers look for ceramics to fill the space that will be left on the shelves where the plastic gadgets now stand.

Porcelain tubs may even take the place of the enameled steel baths long in use. But tubs have gone entirely by the boards in the government’s defense housing projects. Stall showers are recommended in these houses and the stalls are being built of tile and even of Masonite, a bonded board, as well as common wallboard made impervious to water by lacquer and enamel. Showers don’t require so much copper and brass hardware.

The new houses will have wooden gutters instead of copper or galvanized metal. And speaking of baths, Colonel George S. Brady, chief of Substitute and Secondary materials in the office of civilian supply, is worried about the effect of non-lathering soap on public morale. For, said he, “We can make soap out of any kind of fat and lye, but without at least a small percentage of certain tropical vegetable oils and imported essential oils we would have to revert to the coarse, unlathering old-fashioned soaps that would affect the morale of a people that respects cleanliness.”

That colonel is unduly alarmed, for available chemically, there are compounds (such as the soapless shampoo, “Drene”) that would cover Hardy and completely becloud Laurel in a lather bath.

Wire is a problem. One New York cleaning firm recently notified its customers that because of defense needs it “would no longer be able to return clothing on coat hangers.”

Farmers will revert to the old rail and pole fences, or adopt the single electrified strand to keep their horses and cows out of the corn. For barbed wire is a war essenital and all of it is being used in that respect. The glamour girl may have to do without sequins ultimately—but in their place will be bright ceramic bends, glass and even wooden decorations. Those screwy hats will be just as screwy, but they will be lacking the bright brass, copper, chromium bangles that have enlivened cartoon art in the last three years. So, too, will be affected the lapel and ear ornaments so dear to the gals’ hearts. Even the popular metal “V” for Victory will be changed from metal to some other material.

Two years ago, writers and observers hailed the development of plastics. Plastics, said they, will free metals for war—if war should ever come—and supply civilian needs.

Now, defense and armament are utilizing nearly all of the plastic material the factories can put out. The funny little trays and statuettes. The ornamental wall pieces and even some of the utility pieces of furniture will vanish from the shops soon, unless the factories now building and the raw materials now being gathered catch up to the terrific pace of defense manufacture.

Those dainty little waterproof aprons, and transparent shower curtains and kitchen fabrics that are impervious to water and stain, may be scarce. Koroseal went on priorities; and distributors of the Goodrich synthetic announced recently that the existing supply would be rationed on a basis of 1940 orders.

But the Goodrich plants at Akron, Ohio, and Niagara Falls, N. Y., are boosting Koroseal production and building at Louisville, Ky., is a huge new factory. These new efforts will increase production of the thermolastic (made of coke, limestone and salt) beyond essential defense requirements and make available many substitutes for civilian use. (Experimental Koroseal heels are reported as wearing many times longer than rubber.) This is but one of the plastics that are being turned to defense uses. Koroseal is requisitioned for insulation on complex gun control mechanisms. The Navy has taken the entire output of another synthetic. Another plastic is being used for “blisters” on bombers because of its high transparency and strength.

The government is urging the utilization of wood. Wood is a “quick crop.” By spring, there can be a plentiful supply in the drying kilns, and though the reserve is not now huge, it is adequate to take the place of some of the steel that is going into guns and tanks.

Household and schoolroom furnishings, filing cases, office desks and chairs, cabinets and all those pieces of equipment that have been made of steel for years will be turned out in wood.

They will probably be fire resistant, for new impregnating techniques have been developed to make them so. Plywood, already with hundreds of uses, will have hundreds more.

Familiar packages will change—that is almost certain. Even now the Hershey bar comes in a wrapper that only simulates the original foil. The ends of an impervious paper are tinted silver. Wrigley’s gum is sealed in a non-metal wrapper. Cigarets will soon be on cigar store shelves sealed the same way—without foil.

Tin cans will no longer be made of tin—IF the Far Eastern siutation becomes serious, and cuts off the tin supply. You may see cans with iron tops and fiber board sides. Goodyear has developed a PLIABLE container of Pliofilm. Pickles in liquid, and orange juice have already been sealed experimentally in this flexible, unorthodox container. A welding process has been developed so that iron can be used instead of tin to preserve the foods.

A coating of lacquer is inside most tin cans now, and the outside is usually covered by a label or lithographing. Germany has already adopted the welded iron can.

The conservators of our tin have already suggested that TWO cents’ worth of silver would SILVERPLATE the inside of some containers that may be used for luxury items. Tin foil tubes are giving way to lead tubes with tinplated insides for toothpastes and cold creams.

Cosmeticians are working madly to get substitutes for the zinc that makes facepowder “stick”— and reports are that by the time their zinc supply is curtailed, they will have perfected powders with even better adhering qualities.

Beer in cans may have to give way to beer in bottles. But the bottlers have another problem facing them. The supply of cork is threatened and what good is a bottle without a cap? Crown closures have little cork fillers that keep the carbonation inside the bottle.

If the crown closure manufacturers are forced to use pulp paper for their caps, be warned that you will have to keep your pop, soda and beer bottles lying on their sides in the refrigerator—which is a good idea anyway. Placed on the side, the liquid in the bottles keeps the caps moist and prevents leakage of the carbon-dioxide with which they are charged.

Here are some of the little-thought-of-angles to this substitute program: Golfers will return to hickory shafts for their clubs. There may be a difference in golf balls— though it is hardly conceivable that golfers will revert to the ancient Scott’s feather and leather ball.

Zippers will become scarce.

There will be a shortage of gaudy juke boxes— for which some may praise Hitler. They are made of plastics.

Bicycles, already popular as a sports vehicle.

may become necessities. New York stores report a hundred per cent increase in orders for bikes in anticipation of gas rationing.

The “croakus” sack (“gunny sack” to you Northerners) may be a thing of the past. This two-way carrier is made of jute and the lack of bottoms is curtailing the supply from abroad. The government has called for increased manufacture of cotton bagging.

Your new radio tube will not have an aluminum cover. They are being made now with impregnated fiber. You won’t know it, but the nickel electron-emanating plate inside the tube will not be solid nickel any longer. It will be nickel plated.

“Red pop,” cream soda and root beer makers are worried because of a growing shortage in citric acid. Imported lemon oils are also scarce.

It may be hard to get an alarm clock—most manufacturers of clocks are four to six months behind on orders.

Flower essences were smuggled out of France as the Nazis moved in and there is a fair supply for perfumes—but, unless American essences are perfected soon, there will be no mere Eau de Cologne.

Canvas luggage, cloth belts, fabric gloves are sure substitutes because of the heavy defense demands for leather.

European rabbit fur has been the basic material for felt hats—but we are now making hats and even other fabrics out of milk. Casein is the basic material for a new fiber already in production.

Spun glass is being used extensively as an insulator, and is finding other uses as a defense and substitute material.

Many of these things England has already experienced. Germany began its “ersatz” manufacturer years ago in anticipation of this day. America can and will surpass European production.

Until recently Germany had an absolute monopoly on one necessary item. Americans know the secret now—and even if the secret were not known, a Colorado scientist has perfected a technique which makes possible the manufacture of GLASS EYES from plastic material.

And here’s a final bit of information for the kids of America, for the cartoonists and the Joe Miller jokesters: Think up a substitute for this. There’s a shortage of CASTOR OIL!

5 comments
  1. Hirudinea says: February 2, 20129:34 pm

    Actually that lady in the bath is helping the war effort, seh’s also doing her washing.

  2. Charlene says: February 3, 20121:10 am

    Laundry? She could fit the population of a moderate-sized city in that tub.

  3. tom says: February 3, 20128:13 am

    I collect old magazines and some of the hints on saving and recycling are so clever and reasonable they wouldn’t be out of place today. It makes you wonder if the rationing efforts during the war years wasn’t one of the “greenest” part of our history.

  4. Christoph says: February 3, 20124:51 pm

    I’ve never missed the lack of an opener tucked into my box of beer in cans.

  5. Charlene says: February 4, 20126:31 pm

    Unless I missed it, I don’t see anything about fabric rationing, nor the changes that would make to contemporary clothing styles.

    Soap became much less of a problem with the growing popularity of Castile soaps made from California olive oil. In fact, the war saved California’s olive industry, after the botulism problems of the 20s and the Depression.

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