Food prices jump from $.90 to $1.29, Brooklyn Daily Eagle: January 31, 1918

This striking headline appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle one hundred years ago today. A jump from $.90 to $1.29 represents a 30% increase in the price of groceries. The way I have always understood it American food producers had done well the first three of the war, selling food stuffs to European governments to feed their hungry armies out in the field. This demand in turn set off inflation here in the United States, not to staggering proportions but at least enough for American consumers to feel the pinch. Rationing and price controls too contributed to inflation at the dinner table.

As of late January 1918 the United States still had few troops stationed overseas, though the number of men in uniform and in training stateside was growing exponentially. This was putting additional strain on both the food supply and the transportation systems that brought goods from here to there within the United States. One can only imagine what Americans were thinking when they saw headlines like this in the winter of 1918.