WWII: Detail from War Supply Contracts

Business Reference gets a fair number of questions about contracting with the United States government and since that is my area I tend to keep an eye out for good sources.  Most people are considering becoming contractors so they get directed to FedBizOpps.   Sometimes researchers want to know who got what contract or want general statistics.  Thankfully, there are sources for those questions as well – the Federal Procurement Data System (free but registration required), USASpending.gov, the Defense Department (for data prior to 2007), and the Statistical Abstract.

Because this is Library of Congress things aren’t always that simple and the above sources only go so far.  Questions about old military contracts are quite popular and it was while answering a question on a World War II military contract that I found four titles that have become favorites.

  • The Alphabetical Listing of Major War Supply Contracts (1943) was published by the War Production Board and is just one volume. It includes contracts though 1943 for those contracts above $50,000 for the Army, Navy, Maritime Commission, Treasury, and purchasing missions of foreign governments. It is organized by company with the individual contracts for that company listed chronologically.
  • The Alphabetic Listing of Major War Supply Contracts (1946?) was published by the Civilian Production Administration.  It is cumulative for contracts between June 1940 and September 1945 for major contracts above $50,000. This 4 volume title included contracts for the Army, Navy, Maritime Commission, Treasury (for lend-lease), and purchasing missions of foreign governments. It is also organized by company.

    Alphabetical Listing of Major War Supply Contracts, 1943. http://lccn.loc.gov/52048657

  • The Alphabetical Listing of Completed War Supply Contracts was published by the War Production Board’s Statistics Division. This title covers completed contracts priced above $50,000 through 1943 for the Army, Navy, Maritime Commission, Treasury, and purchasing missions of foreign governments.
  • The State Listing of Major War Supply Contracts was also published by the War Production Board.  It was a monthly supplement published from 1942-1945, though there is also a retrospective volume that covers the years1940-1942. Obviously it lists contracts by state for each monthly publication.

The image from today’s post comes from Alphabetical Listing of Major War Supply Contracts (1943).  There are many contracts for machine tools and engine parts manufactured by General Machinery of Hamilton, OH but further down on that page is the beginning of the list of General Motors’ contracts. That list went onto a second page and included guns, hardware, airplane parts, batteries, forgings, trucks, station wagons, etc.

I just wish I had such a great starting point for other older contracts.

4 Comments

  1. Jerry Holmes
    May 9, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks for the info about WW2 mfg. contracts !

    How can I search the mentioned titles for a specific manufacturer ?

    Best,
    JH

  2. Ellen Terrell
    May 10, 2013 at 8:04 am

    Jerry – If you want to submit a question into Ask a Librarian with the names of the company(s) that you want to check out I can do it for you. If you are in the DC area you are welcome to come to the Library and look at them yourself.

    Here is the link to the business Ask a Librarian form:
    http://www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/ask-business.html

  3. Kerry
    May 11, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Great information;
    How can I find drawings, sizes and specifications for completed military contracts, i.e., tools, tents, foot lockers etc?

  4. Ellen Terrell
    May 11, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Kerry – it is likely that what you are looking on may depend on the time frame of those contracts. If you are looking more current (particularly after WWII) it may be that you won’t find anything or much of anything as paper output (particularly if there are any security issues). Often time specs for an item – for example a locker size – may have been part of the contract itself. The first places is to look at the full details of the contract (what is in those volumes is just summary). It may be that some equipment may have had to produce more detailed output data to go along with what they were required to make.

    Generally, the output of government agencies is sent to the Archives after a period of time. The Archives does have an ask a question form but if you submit a question there it may be helpful to include a time frame.
    http://www.archives.gov/contact/inquire-form.html#part-b

    Since that is just a quick answer you may want to submit a question directly to us at the Library with more specifics like a time frame and maybe I can provide more insight.
    http://www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/ask-business.html

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