Today's World War Wednesday poster is one of the more whimsical food posters created during World War II.
"Lick the Platter Clean, Don't Waste Food" features a tall, thin man and a short, stout woman showing a shining clean brass platter. They are both dressed in old-fashioned, even Medieval-looking clothing, as befitting fairy tale characters.
Of course, they are Jack Sprat and his wife, from the famous nursery rhyme:
"Jack Sprat could eat no fat,
his wife could eat no lean,
but between the two of them,
they licked the platter clean."
The fairytale cartoon style is distinctive to artist Vernon Grant, who is probably best known for creating the original "Snap, Crackle, and Pop" characters for Rice Krispies cereal in 1933.
The use of cartoons during the Second World War to promote propaganda ideals was not uncommon, and even Walt Disney and his animators got involved. Like hearkening back to the patriotism of the American Revolution, the use of fairy tales and other common childhood references were a clever way to remind people of pre-existing frames of reference for the behavioral changes the government was requesting of everyone.
The message, of course, was a frequent one, although more often directed at soldiers and seamen than ordinary Americans, for whom the focus was more on food storage and cooking than eating. But the idea of not wasting food you took remains even today, when parents exhort their children to clean their plates.
Did you grow up with the Jack Sprat rhyme? Were you told to clean your plate growing up? Let us know in the comments!
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Sarah Wassberg Johnson has an MA in Public History from the University at Albany and studies early 20th century food history.
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