Thursday, July 7, 2016

Where did all the Milkmen go?

As a child, I remember the Milk man arriving at our apartment once a week with glass bottles full of fresh whole milk and other dairy products. My brother and I used to argue about who was the first to check on 'milk status' in the front entryway. More often than not, our mother did the checking, and made sure the empty glass milk bottles were left for the milkman to pick up on his next round. Never saw any milk women in our neighborhood, but the milkman was always there, dressed in clean, crisp white, delivering milk for our cereal and brownie and cookie snacks. 

Don't remember when this service stopped, but according to John Mixon, a milk enthusiast, and an article from Wikipedia,,  as more homes got better refrigeration (or even for the first time got refrigeration) in the 1950's, the need for milk men declined. Although some people kept the service into the late 1970's, by that time increased delivery costs and decreased customer bases made the service unprofitable and it was discontinued. It still may be in practice in some small U.S. towns, and in other parts of the world, but for most of us, it remains a fond memory.

Found this article compliments of the Society for the Preservation of New England antiquities, and thought I'd post for those who remember, and for those curious. 

"Over two hundred years ago the New England Milk and Cream Dairy traveled only a short distance from the cow to the table. In the hundred years between 1860 and 1960, people moved away from farms and cows, and dairying changed from women’s work at home into a mechanized industry. A delivery person — the milkman — brought dairy products to villages, towns, and cities. At first, milk route men, and occasionally women, came in wagons with milk cans and dippers. Later, the wagons were replaced by fleets of trucks rattling with glass bottles. Without milkmen, generations of families in cities and towns would not have had fresh milk in their coffee, cream on their cereal, or pudding for dessert. Infants would not have had cows’ milk to fill their bottles.

In the same time period, dairying and the milk delivery system had to adapt to change. New processes and government regulation made commercial milk from far away dairies safe to drink, and science and mass advertising persuaded homemakers of milk’s nutritional value. By the 1960s, social, economic, and industrial changes caused milk delivery to shift to the self-service supermarket, and platoons of home delivery milkmen said goodbye..."

From Dairy to Doorstep, Milk Deliver in New England 1860 - 1960 was originally organized by Historic New England and made possible by H.P.Hood, Inc. and Elizabeth Hood McAfoose and Emily C. Hood.