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I remember this scare and those times; I was in my third year of college back then.

For most Americans, 1973 was marred by shortages. In the year’s first few months, the stock market crashed and lost over 45% of its value -- one of the worst declines in history. In October, an Arab oil embargo sparked an ongoing crisis that saw gas rise from $3 per barrel to nearly $12 per barrel. Quietly, the U.S. spiraled into a period of economic stagnation and malaise it hadn't seen since the Great Depression (albeit, much less serious).

Gasoline, electricity, and onions were heavily reported as goods and services that were in limited supply, and Americans cultivated a “shortage psychology.” Then, right in the midst of this economic turmoil, a toilet paper scare ignited a communal panic attack. Perhaps the most memorable shortage in a decade of shortages, it involved government officials, a famous television personality, a respected congressman, droves of reporters, and industrial executives -- but it was the consumers themselves who were ultimately blamed.

Like most scares, the toilet paper fiasco all started with an unsubstantiated rumor. In November of 1973, several news agencies reported a tissue shortage in Japan. Initially, the release went unnoticed and nobody seemed to put much stock in it -- save for one Harold V. Froelich. Froelich, a 41-year-old Republican congressman, presided over a heavily-forested district in Wisconsin and had recently been receiving complaints from constituents about a reduced stream of pulp paper. On November 16th, he released his own press statement -- “The Government Printing Office is facing a serious shortage of paper” -- to little fanfare.

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