Report of the War Trade Board Committee




The War Trade Committee issues a report stating that they do not support absolute prohibition of any industry.


Hoover-Wilson Correspondence, Hoover Institution, Hoover Institution Archives, Stanford, California


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum





After careful study of the statistics gathered especially for the purpose, and upon mature consideration of the facts, your Committee is unanimously of the opinion,

First, that no industry should be absolutely prohibited, and

Second, that a plan of general curtailment can and should be devised broad enough to remove the present conflict between the necessities of war and non-war industries in the matter of raw materials, fuel, transportation, and labor.

We do not recommend absolute prohibition because, granting the possibility of selecting from all the products of industry those items which could be agreed upon as of relatively slight importance to the consuming public, the benefits to be derived for the war program by the total and sudden prohibition of the industries producing such commodities would be trifling compared to the economic loss during and after the war.

A searching analysis of all our industries revealed twenty-five which might fairly be classified as producers of non-war commodities, and therefore worthy of consideration for complete prohibition. We found that the aggregate capital employed by this particular group of industries was $733,000,000. The aggregate number of persons employed was 283,518. The aggregate fuel consumption per annum was 1,701,000 tons.

The conservation of fuel, the lessening of the burden placed upon the railroads of the country, and the releasing of labor and materials being the principal objects to be attained in setting up a complete prohibition against these industries, it will be seen that the relief thus afforded would be negligible. For example, while the consumption of coal for power, as estimated by the Fuel Administration for the current calendar year, will be 554,000,000 tons, the coal consumed by the non-war industries above specified is but 1,701,000 tons. The saving in so far as fuel is concerned would, therefore, be only three tenths of one percent (.3%) of the year’s supply. The relief to the railroads would be somewhat greater, but not of sufficient moment to constitute an appreciable alleviation of their burdens.

The brewing industry, considered as a possible non-war industry, is the subject of a separate communication.

Contrasting the degree of relief afforded with the hardships necessarily imposed upon a part of the community, your Committee has reached the conclusion that it would be inadvisable to direct industrial prohibition to accomplish the desired end. It would not only result in inequalities and thus engender intense dissatisfaction on the part of those affected but it would also create grave apprehension throughout the entire industrial community. This might weaken the morale of the nation and, in the final analysis, cause actual harm rather than positive benefit.

We also invite your attention to the fact that a sudden dislocation through complete prohibition of any industry involves the disintegration of entire organizations, including the workers, foremen, superintendents, and managers. Such organizations in most cases are the cumulative result of many years of constructive effort, and it is obvious that with the ending of the war the prohibited industries would be obligated to go through the pioneer process of re-creation. This would, in the opinion of your Committee, augment the embarrassment of post-war industrial readjustments.

It should also be noted that some of the industries affected center in a single town, where they are the only source of its support. We might cite in illustration the case of jewelry, the production of which centers at North Attleboro, Mass. Total prohibition would inflict a heavy blow upon that town; trade would be ruined; the deposits in savings banks withdrawn, and a disastrous state of affairs precipitated throughout the entire district.

While jewelry is perhaps one of the most obviously non-war products, it nevertheless has an economic value to the country in that its exportation serves, of only to a moderate extent, to establish credits in those countries where the normal currents of trade continue to show an adverse balance against the United States. The conscious utilization of this and various other so-called non-war industries to assist in correcting adverse trade balances abroad obviously will offer benefits that should not be overlooked.

A plan for the curtailment of non-war industries should be prepared at once, that men and materials may be released and transportation relieved for the more efficient prosecution of the war. Sufficient notice of proposed curtailments of non-war industries should be given, that they may anticipate such changes and effect the necessary reorganization of their business either to engage in the production of war necessities or to accept the curtailment which will follow. It is obvious that industries not engaged in production of direct value to the war program must make such sacrifices as may be necessary that essential war industries may be in no manner impeded, but on the contrary may attain their maximum output.

We beg to point out that the non-war industries are already being restricted by forces which will continue to operate with increasing pressure, such as the Army conscription with its selective processes, the imposition of heavy taxation, the restriction of imports, the regulations of the War administrations, such as Fuel and Food, and the Priorities Committee, indeed, of every agency of the Government. The operation of these upon industry, however, as now proceeding, is unduly slow and irregular. The curtailment of non-war industries as proposed by the Committee, based upon a scientific study, would not only hasten the necessary adjustment to war needs and reduce friction as among the industries, but would be welcomed, we believe, by business men as tending to lessen their present uncertainties.

Unless advised that your wishes lie in a contrary direction your Commitee will undertake the preparation of a plan for the systematic curtailment of non-war industries.

Respectfully submitted,

Edward Chambers
Edwin F. Gay
PB Noyes
Theodore F. Whitmarsh
Edwin B. Parker
Clarence M. Woolley

Original Format




War Trade Board Committee, “Report of the War Trade Board Committee,” 1918 June 22, WWP19450, Hoover Institute at Stanford University Collection, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.