Office of Price Administration

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Office of Price Administration

Office of Price Administration (OPA), U.S. federal agency in World War II, established to prevent wartime inflation. The OPA issued (Apr., 1942) a general maximum-price regulation that made prices charged in Mar., 1942, the ceiling prices for most commodities. Ceilings were also imposed on residential rents. These regulations were gradually modified and extended by OPA administrators—notably Leon Henderson (1941–42), Prentiss H. Brown (1943), and Chester B. Bowles (1943–46)—until almost 90% of the retail food prices were frozen. Prices continued to rise, however, and new drives to secure compliance resulted; ultimately the OPA succeeded in keeping consumer prices relatively stable during the remaining war years. Besides controlling prices, the OPA was also empowered to ration scarce consumer goods in wartime. Tires, automobiles, sugar, gasoline, fuel oil, coffee, meats, and processed foods were ultimately rationed. At the end of the war rationing was abandoned, and price controls were gradually abolished. The agency was finally disbanded in 1947.

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