The History of Milkmen
Life Before Milkmen
Before the industrialization of America milk and cream only traveled a short distance from the cow to the kitchen table. In a matter of a hundred years, from 1850 to 1950, people moved away from farms and cows. Industrialization changed dairying from women’s work at home into a mechanized industry.
Milk Route Men
A delivery person – the milkman – would deliver milk and other dairy products to towns and cities. In the beginning, milk route men – milkmen delivered the milk in milk cans by wagon.
Milkman at Minnesota Ave – now 17th St. circa 1905-1908
Milkman in Bracebridge, Ontario, in the late 40s and early 50s
Horse Milkcart 1950
3 milkmen pose with horse and cart in Highgate Hill, Brisbane.
The Reliable Milkman
In time fleets of trucks rattling with glass bottles would replace the wagons and milk cans. Without milkmen, families in cities or towns would not have cream for their cereal, fresh milk for their coffee, butter, or pudding for desert. Mothers would also use the milk for to feed and care for new born infants. The milkman was a familiar character in the neighborhoods of small towns and cities alike, and dairy products now held an unquestioned place in the American diet.
Valleymaid Milk – “Full Flavored Milk”
Government Regulation & Commercialization of Milk
Dairying and the milk delivery system quickly adapted to change. Government regulation and new processes made commercial milk from far away dairies safe to drink. Mass advertising promoted science and persuaded home makers of milk’s nutritional value.
Eat More Milk Advertisement
Milk & Cadbury Advertising
The Refrigerator & the Demise of Milkmen
Change came to the milkman shortly after World War II. Refrigerators, supermarkets, suburban sprawl, and automobiles threatened home delivery. Consumers chose to live in different places and get milk in different ways. In fact, by the end of the 1950s, home delivery fell into a decline and never recovered.
By the early 1950s, reliable power refrigeration replaced ice boxes and revised the homemaker’s job of buying and cooking for the household. Perishable foods like milk could now be bought in greater quantity and kept longer without spoiling, more meals could be made from leftovers, and frozen foods could replace fresh. The milkman did not have to arrive every day in order for the family to have unsoured milk.