Collection number: MC 237
Size: 1 box (0.75 cu.ft.)
About Derby Department Store
Derby Department Store of Peterborough, New Hampshire, had been a profitable undertaking since its founding by the Derby family in 1882. The advent of World War II, however, brought new challenges to owner Clarence Derby (UNH Class of 1930) and his business. Faced with the unprecedented level of resources needed to conduct the Second World War and to mitigate price inflation, the United States government created the Office of Price Administration (O.P.A.) in April of 1941. The O.P.A. informed retail and grocery stores across the nation that they could no longer procure new suppliers, but instead had to make do with their current arrangements. It also mandated that retail stores accept Government-issued ration stamps from their customers in lieu of cash and open ration accounts with local banks. Stores like Derby’s Department Store also had to compile a list of their saleable items, what their wholesale and other costs were for each, and a calculated ceiling price that could not be exceeded. In one instance in late October of 1945, a customer complained to the O.P.A. that Derby’s had sold them a hot plate at a rate beyond the ceiling price. The Office sent an investigator to inquire after it and fined the business twenty-five dollars.
About the Derby Department Store World War II ration records
The collection includes invoices, business checks, ration checks, account and credit sheets, O.P.A. directives, and business correspondence. It was donated in 1979 by Clarence Derby, who organized the collection and added commentary stickers to nearly every page. The records narrate instances of conflict between the O.P.A. and Derby, as in a small suit brought against the store in the fall of 1945 for having a shortage of shoe ration coupons. Overall, however, the collection portrays a small business struggling to be as honest and profitable as possible while negotiating the complexities of wartime regulations. In retrospect, Clarence Derby entertained mixed emotions on the O.P.A.’s performance. “Probably they were effective in controlling prices during the first part of the war period,” he admitted on sheet 66. “However, along toward the end they became very oppressive,” Derby continued: “We certainly were glad to see them disappear.” In addition to understanding small business practices during the rationing period, researchers might also catch a glimpse of the wartime material lives of customers as well. This is especially the case in terms of hard-to-get items, such as tires and nylon.
This collection is open.
Contents of this collection are governed by U.S. copyright law. For questions about publication or reproduction rights, contact Special Collections staff.
[Identification of item], Derby Department Store World War II Ration Records, 1943-1945, MC 237, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH, USA.
Donation: Clarence Derby, Peterborough, N.H., 1979 [Accession number: 7920]
|Box 1, Folder 1||Scrapbook 1, sheets 1-50|
|Box 1, Folder 2||Scrapbook 2, sheets 51-100|