Thiamine or thiamin (vitamin B1) has been nicknamed the “morale vitamin” since at least 1939. Vitamin B1 is the “morale vitamin” because it improves mental attitudes and energy levels. Russell M. Wilder (1885-1959), of the Mayo Clinic, promoted vitamin B1 both immediately before and during World War II and possibly coined its “morale vitamin” nickname.
Other vitamin nicknames include “Anti-Infective Vitamin” (Vitamin A), “Anti-Sterility Vitamin” (Vitamin E), “Anti-Stress Vitamin” (Vitamin B5), “Forgotten Vitamin” (Vitamin K), “Memory Vitamin” (Choline), “Sunshine Vitamin” (Vitamin D), “Vitamin of Memory” (Vitamin B1) and “Woman’s Vitamin” (Vitamin B6).
Thiamine or thiamin or vitamin B1 ( /ˈθaɪ.əmɨn/ thy-ə-min), named as the “thio-vitamine” ("sulfur-containing vitamin") is a water-soluble vitamin of the B complex. First named aneurin for the detrimental neurological effects if not present in the diet, it was eventually assigned the generic descriptor name vitamin B1. Its phosphate derivatives are involved in many cellular processes. The best-characterized form is thiamine pyrophosphate (TPP), a coenzyme in the catabolism of sugars and amino acids. Thiamine is used in the biosynthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). In yeast, TPP is also required in the first step of alcoholic fermentation.
All living organisms use thiamine in their biochemistry, but it is synthesized only in bacteria, fungi, and plants. Animals must obtain it from their diet, and thus, for them, it is an essential nutrient. Insufficient intake in birds produces a characteristic polyneuritis. In mammals, deficiency results in Korsakoff’s syndrome, optic neuropathy, and a disease called beriberi that affects the peripheral nervous system (polyneuritis) and/or the cardiovascular system. Thiamine deficiency has a potentially fatal outcome if it remains untreated. In less severe cases, nonspecific signs include malaise, weight loss, irritability and confusion.
Milk as a Food throughout Life
By Margaret House Irwin
Madison, WI: Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Wisconsin
No wonder thiamine has been nicknamed the “morale” vitamin. The thiamine content of milk does not vary with the season and the cow’s ration; in fact, it is surprisingly constant.
10 November 1940, Springfield (MA) Sunday Union and Republican, “Body Craves Foods It Cannot Get” by Marjorie Van de Water, pg. 6D, col. 2:
But when you are deprived of vitamin B you will develop a special relish for food containing this “morale vitamin.”
19 November 1940, Lethbridge (Alberta) Herald, ‘An Open Letter To General Dawes,” pg. 4, cols. 3-4:
General, what you seem to need is a ounce of that B-1 morale vitamin to remove the jitters that seem to be affecting you.
P.S.—Don’t forget to visit your corner drugstore tonight and buy a bottle of the morale vitamin.
Google News Archive
17 April 1941, Pittsburgh (PA) Press, “Pills Produce Pennants” by Harry Ferguson (United Press Sports Editor), pg. 27, col. 5:
Having converted his ball players to B-1 by the simple device of ordering, “Take them pills,” Breadon decided to do a little missionary work among the sports writers lolling on the bench beside him. He pointed out that B-1 was the “morale vitamin,” and that baseball writers would need something to sustain them in the grinding, monotonous work of watching ball games all summer.
The Science of Nutrition
By Henry C Sherman
New York, NY: Columbia University Press
Coming at the time in our national history that it did, its colloquial interpretation was to dub thiamine “the morale vitamin.” This, of course, is an oversimplification. The undoubtedly important function of nutritional well-being and the resulting positive or buoyant health in promoting morale depends upon appropriately liberal intakes of several nutritional factors rather than of any one alone. Yet it is possible that thiamine may have a somewhat outstanding influence upon the stability of the nervous system, as it seems to have upon the stabilization of appetite.
Vitaminology, the Chemistry and Function of the Vitamins
By Walter Hollis Eddy
Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins
Williams, Mason, Wilder and Smith (56) reported similar experiments with good response to thiamine therapy and Wilder suggested the term “morale vitamin” for thiamine.
5 October 1961, Boston (MA) Globe, “Pork Best Meat Source of ‘Morale Vitamin’” by Dorothy Crandall, pg. 25:
Thiamine is known as “the morale vitamin.” But pork has many other advantages.
OCLC WorldCat record
Thiamine : the morale vitamin
Author: Inez Eckblad; Washington State University. Cooperative Extension Service.
Publisher: Pullman, Wash. : Cooperative Extension Service, College of Agriculture, Washington State University, 
Series: Extension circular (Washington State University. Cooperative Extension Service), 356.
Edition/Format: Book : State or province government publication : English
The Official Anti-aging Revolution:
Stop the Clock, Time Is on Your Side for a Younger, Stronger, Happier You
By Ronald Klatz
Accessible Publishing Systems PTY, Ltd.
Known as the “morale” vitamin, vitamin B1 converts carbohydrates (sugar) into energy, promotes growth, aids digestion, and is essential for nerve, muscle, and heart tissues. It also plays a vital role in the functioning of some important enzymes and is essential for the transmission of certain nerve signals between the brain and the spinal chord. Vitamin B1 helps repel insects and mosquitoes and is used in the treatment of alcoholics and drug addicts.
Vitamin B1 or Thiamine—All About This Important Nutrient
By Alison Stanton June 28, 2010 - 7:16am
Vitamin B1 also helps the brain work properly and as best as it can, and it also acts as a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical that helps with memory and learning. It is required for proper muscle tone in the heart, stomach, and intestines, and it has a positive influence on our appetites and energy levels. Some articles refer to thiamine as a “morale vitamin” because it has such a positive effect on our mental attitude.
Fear of Food:
A History of Why We Worry about What We Eat
By Harvey Levenstein
Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press
Leading this charge was Russell Wilder, head of the NRC’s food and nutrition committee, who deftly used the new RDAs to rally the nation behind his pet project. This was to ensure that the nation had the “nervous energy” necessary to win the war by stoking the national diet with vitamin B1 (thiamine), the “morale vitamin.”