The National Archives at Fort Worth

Records of the United States Food Administration | Series List

Records Available at the National Archives at Fort Worth

The United States Food Administration was created by Executive Order No. 2679-A of August 10, 1917, under authority of the Food and Fuel Control (Lever) Act of the same date, with Herbert Hoover as Food Administrator. Hoover had already established a headquarters for the agency on May 4, 1917, following his return from a fact-finding tour of Europe.

Branch Administrations were set up in every State and in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia.  Two corporations, the United States Sugar Equalization Board, Inc. and the Food Administration Grain Corporation were created to act as agents of the Administration. The Food Administration worked closely with the War and Navy Departments, the War Trade Board, the Railroad Administration, and the Department of Agriculture. After the armistice of November 11, 1918, it cooperated with various agencies involved with the relief of Europe. Following the armistice, the activities of the Food Administration were gradually terminated. Herbert Hoover resigned as Food Administrator on July 1, 1919, and was replaced by Edgar Rickard. A Presidential proclamation issued on November 21, 1919, transferred most of the remaining work to the Office of the United States Wheat Director that had been created on May 14, 1919. On August 21, 1920, all branches of the Food Administration still in existence were abolished by Executive Order No. 3320.

The Food Administration was given broad powers to control the production, distribution, and conservation of food. It also had responsibilities for preventing monopolies and hoarding and maintaining governmental control of foods by means of voluntary agreements and a licensing system for the importation, manufacture, storage, and distribution of foodstuffs.  The Washington Office of the Food Administration functioned through numerous divisions and sections which were continually being reorganized or combined with other units as the changing situation demanded changes in emphasis. The divisions included Alimentation, Baking, Canadian Relations, Canned Foods, Cereal, Collateral Commodities, Coordination of Purchase, Dairy Products, Distribution, Educational, Enforcement, Garbage Utilization, Home Conservation, Hotels and Restaurants, Legal, License, Marine Transportation, Meat, Mexican Relations, Milling, Miscellaneous Commodities, Perishable Foods, Schools and Colleges, Staple Groceries, States Administration, Statistical, Sugar, Transportation, and Wholesale and Retail. At the height of its activities, in September, 1918, there were 44 divisions.

As early as June 19, 1917, Hoover, in testimony given before a Senate committee, proposed “the erection in every State in the Union of some form of food administration and the decentralization of our functions so far as possible into the State administrations.”  State Food Administrators were appointed after the passage of the Lever Act. Eventually county and city administrators were appointed so that by the time the Armistice was signed in 1918, there were more than 3,200 local food administrators in existence.

The Food Administration had very little enforcement powers and relied primarily on encouraging voluntary cooperation in conservation and sales with slogans such as “Food Will Win The War” and pledge campaigns to “enroll all men, women, and children …in a food conservation army.” It relied heavily on using the “weapon of publicity” to appeal to the “patriotism and loyalty of citizens.”  Prices were controlled mainly through local price interpreting (“fair price”) committees which prepared and published fair price lists and “retail price reporters” who investigated violations.  Local food administrators tried to “hold in check the forces of speculation and avariciousness” and prevent “extortionate profits” by merchants by publicizing the names of business that did not follow the price guidelines. The Food Control Act of August 10, 1917 and subsequent Presidential proclamations did give the Food Administration the authority to license the manufacture, storage, and distribution of  “certain necessaries” including the milling of corn, oats, barley and rice; the manufacture of “near-beer” and similar cereal beverages; operation of warehouses to store food or food commodities; baking; cotton ginning; salt water fishing and the distribution of seafood; importation of flour; and use of commercial feeds for livestock, cattle, and hogs. Failure to obtain a license could result in fines and imprisonment. Most of the enforcement powers of the Food Administration were ended by a Presidential proclamation of January 1, 1919.

There was never a standard organizational structure for the State or local offices, but they generally mirrored whatever structure was in place at the Headquarters at any particular time. The State and local offices of the Food Administration were directed in December 1918 to wind up their affairs and to ship all their records to Washington, D.C. The records were transferred to the custody of the Archivist of the United States on January 6, 1936. They were transferred to the National Archives at Fort Worth in Fort Worth, Texas in 1984.

See pages 201-202 of the Handbook of Federal World War Agencies and Their Records, 1917-1921 (GPO, Washington, 1943) and the Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the United States Food Administration, 1917-1920, Part 1, The Headquarters Organization (Preliminary Inventory #3, Washington, July, 1943).

These records reflect the impact that a Federal bureaucracy can have upon the lives of people and how those bureaucracies grow. The volume of work for the local county administrators became so tremendous that they had to appoint deputies and eventually hire stenographers because volunteers could no longer keep up with the quantities of correspondence and paper being created. Some local officials made the most of their opportunity to exercise power and wrote long reports extolling their accomplishments while others appear to have done relatively little. The correspondence between local food administrators and business owners and fellow citizens reflects the wide range of human nature as many pledged their support to the war effort while others charged their neighbors with profiteering and hoarding. The records also indicate how Food Administration staff dealt with the question of whether their duties warranted exemptions from the military draft.

The National Archives at Fort Worth holds records of the following state food administrations:


Hamp Williams was appointed Food Administrator for Arkansas in 1917 and maintained his headquarters in the Old State Capitol Building in Little Rock, Arkansas. W. M. Rankin served as Executive Secretary, Walter M. Ebel as Publicity Chairman, E.R. Wiles as Chairman of the Hotel Committee, and J.P. Buchanan as Chairman of the Bakers’ Suggestive and Cooperative Committee. W.C. Chamberlin was appointed Assistant Food Administrator in May, 1918.


John M. Parker was appointed Food Administrator for Louisiana in 1917 and maintained his headquarters in the Tulane-Newcomb Building in New Orleans, Louisiana. District Food Administrators were appointed in each Congressional District in 1918 and they supervised Food Administrators in each Parish. S. J. Shwartz served as State Merchants Representative, Herman J. Sieferth was Director of Public Information, J. Madison Vance was Director of Negro Activities, and Alfred S. Amer served as State Hotel Chairman. Parker and his staff relied heavily on using "public sentiment" to make "profiteering unpopular and unpatriotic." In November, 1917, the Food Administration began issuing licenses to dealers in beef, pork, mutton, fish, poultry, eggs, butter, cheese, flour, sugar, cereals, lard, beans, peas, fruits, and vegetables. Operating without a license was punishable by up to 2 years in prison and a fine of $5,000.


Dr. Stratton D. Brooks, President of the University of Oklahoma, was named Food Administrator for Oklahoma on August 16, 1917. He maintained his offices at the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman. Stratton was replaced by Judge Charles B. Ames in April, 1918 and the offices of the Food Administrator were moved to the Capitol Building in Oklahoma City. The State Food Administrator worked closely with the Oklahoma Council of Defense and other state organizations. County Food Administrators (CFAs), County Merchant Representatives, County Home Economics Directors, and County Hotel Chairmen were appointed in each of Oklahoma's 77 counties. Volunteer District Food Administrators served in 2,400 cities, townships, and school districts. The state was divided into 11 zones to promote coordination between counties on July 18, 1918. Paul Cottrell served as Executive Secretary, W.B. Alley as Private Secretary, C. E. Lahman as Chief of the Baking Division, Charles H. Stone as Director of Library Publicity, A. B. Momand as Motion Picture Director, I. M. Rapp as Special Investigator of Weights and Measures, and Carroll Moore as Director of Education. A directive issued on February 4, 1919 to all of the County Food Administrators required them to send their files to F. F. Jenks at Food Administration Headquarters in Washington, D.C. and the positions were abolished as of February 15, 1919.


Mr. E. A. Peden, president of the Peden Iron and Steel Company, was appointed Food Administrator for Texas in 1917 and maintained his headquarters in Houston, Texas. In October, 1917, eight District Offices and an Executive Committee were established. County Food Administrators were established in each of the 254 Texas counties in December, 1917. All of the County Food Administrators were invited in a meeting in Houston in November, 1918. Unfortunately, a number of them contracted the flu while there and died. Mr. E. L. Neville served as Acting Food Administrator after Peden went to Europe with Herbert Hoover in January, 1919. John H. Regan served as Publicity Director. By January 27, 1919, all files had been packed and shipped to Food Administration Headquarters and the unfinished business of the Texas office was turned over to the U.S. Grain Corporation office in Kansas City in April, 1919.