Saturday, January 28, 2023

Follow the Money – The War Production Board Mailing List


You have surely heard the old saying that if you want to know what’s going on, follow the money.  This find is a result of that.  Not in the dollars and cents aspect, but from the arcane bureaucracy that came from government regulation of the economy during the WWII emergency.  Capitalism and centrally controlled economies are more than a tad incompatible, but total mobilization to win WWII tipped the scale toward the latter.  The agency responsible for deciding who got what resources and what they got made into was the War Production Board.  To do this, they had to keep track of what industry was doing, so they collected data, reams and reams of it.  But before the internet, the favored means of communication was the US Mail.  Industry had to provide periodic reports that told the WPB how many widgets they made that period, what resources they consumed, etc.  But to make sense of all that, it had to be provided in a standardized format so the WPB clerks could aggregate the info from A.A.A. Mfg. Co., through Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corp. to J.A. Zurn Mfg. Co. 


Why did I mention AAA and JA Zurn with the likes of Ford and GM?  Because the WPB needed info from every plant using controlled materials and they are the first

and last entries

 in the Mailing List for Form WPB-732, Plant Report of Operations.

This mailing list allowed the WPB clerks to send out the blank forms and allow us, 80 years hence, to see a large cross section of plants supporting the war effort.  It’s not complete, lacking direct reference to the Army and Army Air Force depots or Petroleum companies, but it does have 135 pages of manufacturers, and their plant mailing addresses.  The data on the pages is explained on the cover page:

OK, but what did these plants make?  For that, we need a not so super secret decoder ring, the Industry Classifications from the 1939 Census of Manufacturers.

So, for our first entry, AAA Mfg Co, their industry code is 1611, which is in the Electrical Equipment group, Group 16, specifically a manufacturer of wiring devices and supplies. 

They are in Waltham, MA, which falls in Region 1 for labor markets, with an area code of 017



And that is the Boston-Quincy area as shown on the following map from the back of the mailing list:


The Mailing List is available on Google Books at


while the Industry Classifications is available on Google Books


I hope that you find this WWII industry information helpful.


John Barry

Lovettsville, VA

28 January 2023


  1. VERY interesting list. The classification link seems to be broken...Gives a 403 Error