Beans are bullets: War-era food posters

Cory Bernat has curated an extensive online image gallery of war-era government posters related to food, food production, farming, backyard gardening, and rationing. The images come from the US National Agricultural Library.

One thing I noticed: the large number of posters promoting vegetarian protein sources, in order to conserve meat. Another: you know how gluten-free diets are more common nowadays? You'll find many posters in this collection referencing "wheatless" diets, and promoting other carbs like potatoes and corn. And finally, some of these would fit in quite well with my colleague Mark's Made By Hand book. Below, the poster from which the title of this gallery came: "Beans are Bullets."

(via Bibliodyssey)


  1. I think it was the strangest moment after the events of 9/11 and the beginning of the (now nearly decade old) War on Terror was being told that the best way to keep up the homefront was to go shopping.

    Imagine if the President had called on Americans to conserve energy, to reduce/reuse/recycle, to shop local and decrease reliance on fossil fuels?

    Sad that, for a lot of people, the wake up call was the economy tanking.

    1. I had a similar feeling. The sad difference is the nation has been so focused on moving away from “manufacturing” on any level that any manual labor is just some oddball option nowadays.

      Maybe if this recession lasts longer, people will start to realize that there are other ways of dealing with the world.

    2. Ok, I’m trying to imagine it. What difference would it have made to the issues of an economic recession caused by the disruption and uncertainty of the 9/11 attack?

      in WWII, you had to grow some of your own food because MASSIVE amounts of food and material had to be shipped to soldiers overseas for a war effort. Everyone piles on Bush for not calling on Americans to “sacrifice” more, but that isn’t what people think works in a ‘recession’. Look at the old Jimmy Duranty “give a man a job” NRA piece. He tells the rich guy to stop driving his own car and hire a chauffeur.

      1. There’s two thoughts at work:
        1. By borrowing less and saving more, we would have had more money on hand, which would have either allowed us more room to ride out the credit default problem that came up later or would have mitigated it to some extent.

        2. It would have rallied people around a common cause and group of ideals that could have permanently changed the course of human behavior. It’s easier in a time of crisis for a leader to say “Now is the time that we all come together and do what is right for our communities” because people want direction during those times.

        That’s why people wanted Bush to ask for the things that mgfarrelly suggested.

  2. We just had a chicken debate in the city (Winnipeg) and of course it got shot down. The City could have made some good money with permits and license fees, I don’t think anyone would have been against that. Hire inspectors to ensure good living conditions, and everyone could have been happy.

    I would have done it.

    1. It might help your cause if you can present council with legislation that’s passed in other communities. Ann Arbor, MI has one that requires permitees to seek written permission from all contiguous neighbors (which can suck if you have crap neighbors). Ypsilanti, MI has one with a limited window for obtaining permits, but no requirement to get permission from neighbors.

    2. I’m generally in support of the chicken lobby and we’re having the same debate in Kingston, Ontario at the moment. I do have some concern, however, that people are not being educated on the necessity for caution while dealing with chicken manure.

      My sister has disseminated histoplasmosis caused by working on a small scale chicken farm. She is legally blind in one eye due to the lesions which are untreatable in her case, and she is developing lesions in her other eye. It’s a widespread disease in North America but most people are asymptomatic. Those who deal with poultry droppings are at a greater risk.

      I’d like to know if any safe-handling routines would mitigate this risk and if there would be bylaw control over cleanliness for backyard coops before I sign any petitions supporting the cause. Needles in the middle of your cornea are not my idea of fun.

  3. I would love to have higher resolution files in order to print some of these to hang in my own kitchen – or modern versions of the same.

  4. A bowl of beans with a warm glass of milk.
    You can start a world fart war puting
    those together.

  5. I would love a high res of this so I could print and frame one from a friend of mine who is an avid gardener, food activist, and husband of chickens. I went to the curators site and he seemed to forget the “monetizing your traffic” step.

    1. You’re not reading it wrong. Rape is a perfectly cromulent crop– you may know it as canola, which is a specific variety:

      Farmers who grow it will now typically say they grow “rapeseed”, however. In fact there used to be, in some small town in the Carolinas (IIRC), an annual Rape Festival that included a parade and the crowing of a Rape Queen and Rape Princess. (You don’t want to try googling any of that.)

    2. No you are not, and as frogmarch replied in #10, it’s a crop that is celebrated in some interesting ways. For example, the Ministry album “Land of Rape and Honey” comes from the town Tisdale, Saskatchewan. That is their town motto, and they are very proud of their rape.

  6. I live in the city. Small house, small yard. We have a small vegetable garden (3 raised beds about 4’x8) and some fruit trees. We also raise four hens. The maintenance is almost nil. Scoop out a small amount of chicken manure from the coop every day into the composter. Feed and water the hens, collect eggs. I do it before I walk the dogs in the morning. Out of that setup, I get a fresh egg for every person in the house each day. Veggies and fruit of unmatched quality (tree ripened fruit taste different from store bought) and far superior to what passes off as organic these days. Growing your own food is worth it. Sure I still shop for most of my food but home grown stuff is great. I learned to can and preserve the surplus. These are simple easy skills America is losing and that is too bad.

  7. i really really love the “Will You Have a Part in Victory?” poster at the bottom of this page, and echo the call that it would be wonderful to have higher-rez versions of some of these posters. Or the uy could sell them — I would probably buy one.

  8. We’ve been planting a garden every spring for the last few years and it’s easy and rewarding.
    We also have limes, lemons and grapefruit trees.
    The city of San Diego is pretty liberal about chickens. You’re not supposed to have a rooster, but even in our city neighborhood, there are a few people that are raising hens for eggs.
    We’ve considered it, but we have dogs so we might need to build a pen in the back corner.

  9. Speaking of this subject, while out tending my garden recently two elderly gentlemen stopped to admire it and commented “With a Victory Garden like that, how can we lose?” I was deeply amused by the comment, and touched.

    I really do believe that if we who are able were to spend more time growing our own food, it’d help out the country on the whole. Less consumption, healthier food, more outdoor activity. Indeed, how can we lose?

  10. The curator has updated some of the images to compensate for the poor “stitching” done by the original scanning software. I have an updated version of the poster featured on the site, that is not available yet on I can email it over if you provide an address.

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