One Year: 1942

Season 4: Episode 1

The Most Hated Man in America

In 1942, it was up to Leon Henderson to stop inflation. He became a nationwide villain.

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Episode Notes

At the beginning of World War II, the greatest threat to the American war effort wasn’t the Nazis or the Japanese—it was runaway inflation. The man in charge of stopping it was the country’s “price czar,” Leon Henderson. In 1942, he controlled how much coffee ordinary people could drink and how many tires they could buy. Those rules made him a nationwide villain. But would they save the country?

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Sources for This Episode

Books

Campbell, Tracy. The Year of Peril: America in 1942, Yale University Press, 2020.

Articles

Baime, A. J. “U.S. Auto Industry Came to the Rescue During WWII,” Car and Driver, March 31, 2020.

Barnes, Bret. “Leon Henderson Dies at 91,” Washington Post, Oct. 21, 1986.

Bartels, Andrew H. “The Office of Price Administration and the Legacy of the New Deal, 1939-1946,” the Public Historian, Summer 1983.

Coughlan, Robert. “Leon Henderson,” Life, Sept. 14, 1942.

Davenport, Walter. “What Price Henderson,” Colliers, Sept. 6, 1941.

Frohardt-Lane, Sarah. “Promoting a Culture of Driving: Rationing, Car Sharing, and Propaganda in World War II,” Journal of American Studies, May 2012.

Henderson Curbs Rent in 20 Areas,” New York Times, May 27, 1942.

Henderson, Leon. Preview of LIfe in ‘43, Office of Price Administration, 1942.

Henderson Rides New ‘Victory’ Bicycle,” New York Times, Jan. 15, 1942.

Jacobs, Meg. “‘How About Some Meat?’: The Office of Price Administration, Consumption Politics, and State Building from the Bottom Up, 1941-1946,” the Journal of American History, December 1997.

Kluckhohn, Frank L. “56 Billion in Year,” New York Times, Jan. 7, 1942.

Leff, Mark H. “The Politics of Sacrifice on the American Home Front in World War II,” the Journal of American History, March 1991.

Lentinello, Richard. “How gas rationing worked during World War II,” Hemmings, Dec. 30, 2019.

Longhurst, James. “Reconsidering the Victory Bike in WWII,” BikeBattles.net, March 25, 2020.

Lubell, Samuel. “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Pri-cees,” Saturday Evening Post, Sept. 13, 1941.

“Month’s Extension Given Retailers to File Price Lists,” Boston Globe, May 16, 1942.

One hundred years of price change: the Consumer Price Index and the American inflation experience,” Monthly Labor Review, April 2014.

Patterson, Wright A. “Rubber Shortage and Speed Demons,” Inwood Herald, April 2, 1942.

Price Boss Henderson,” Time, May 12, 1941.

The Day War Came to the Polo Grounds,” Sports Illustrated, Oct. 24, 1966.

The U.S. At War, HORRORS OF WAR: No Cushions,” Time, Jan. 5, 1942.

Vergun, David. “During WWII, Industries Transitioned From Peacetime to Wartime Production,” DOD News, March 27, 2020.

Audiovisual

Wong, Wailin and Amanda Aronczyk. “Uncle Sam wants YOU to fight inflation,” Planet Money, Feb. 4, 2022.

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About the Show

The people and struggles that changed America—one year at a time. In each episode, host Josh Levin explores a story you may have forgotten, or one you’ve never heard of before. What were the moments that transformed politics, culture, science, religion, and more? And how does the nation’s past shape our present?

The fourth season of One Year covers 1942, a year when inflation threatened to sink America, disinformation was rampant, and a worker revolt changed music forever.

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