The milkman of years ago delivered milk & happy memories

Vintage milk bottle from the old-fashioned milkman

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People in Generation X and those who are younger probably don’t have any memories of the milkman delivering milk bottles fresh from the dairy farm directly to their front doors.

But this really was a thing for a long, long time. And, through rose-colored lenses, fresh milk delivery seems like a glorious thing indeed.

Small and large vintage glass milk bottles

As quaint and handy as it seems, there are many reasons for the disappearance of the milkman by the latter half of the 20th century, starting with the fact that many households didn’t need a daily dairy delivery once it boasted a refrigerator. By 1944, 85% of American households owned a refrigerator

Home delivery also became less practical when there wasn’t a housewife likely to be at home during the day. Another reason for the demise of home-delivered milk was the popularity of the then-new supermarkets

1950s Borden milk delivery truck

As grocery stores became widespread and popular throughout the burgeoning suburbs, people became more likely to buy their milk there (along with the rapidly diversifying product selection offered in the dairy case) instead of ordering it from a milk man — especially since it was considerably cheaper that way.

Admittedly, it makes sense how it all went down, but judging from the blissed-out faces featured in the 1940s & 1950s dairy advertisements below, we’re missing out big time!- BB

The Borden milkman (1951)

About the milkman & milk bottles from the dairy

Comparing life to the year 1900 – From Borden (1949)

Every industry has had a hand in speeding the country’s progress during the last half-century and lifting our daily living to its present excellence.

Developments brought about in some industries have been dramatic and revolutionary. In others, progress has been made quietly and gradually but has been no less substantial.

In the dairy industry, we have moved forward in small steps, but the total distance covered is impressive.

While every branch of the industry has advanced since the Gaslight Era, developments in fresh milk have most deeply affected the habits and well-being of Americans.

Milkman making delivery on his route (1949)

Today, fresh milk is not only a finer, vastly changed product, but it also represents a major contribution to public health. As a result of improvements in this product, Americans enjoy better nutrition and a lengthened life span.

To appreciate the progress which placed today’s bottle of milk at the top of the nation’s food list, the modern housewife should imagine herself a milk buyer back in 1900. These are the changes she would find.

Unpasteurized milk! A half-century ago, pasteurization was just getting underway. Today, pasteurization, which destroys disease-bearing bacteria and removes the danger of milk-borne illness and epidemics, is the rule in virtually every American community. To it goes much of the credit for the reduction in the nation’s infant death rate.

MORE: See how vintage baby bottles, infant nursers & feeding accessories have changed over the years

Girl on doorstep getting a bottle of fresh milk (1951)

Most milk sold in bulk! In 1900, most milk was dipped from a can into the consumer’s pitcher. Today, the glass milk bottle is in universal use, and paper bottles facilitate purchases from stores.

Both types of containers protect the purity of milk, assure fair measure and add to the buyer’s convenience.

Lower food value! In 1900, the word “vitamin” was unknown. Today, much of the milk sold is fortified with additional vitamin D, and the trend is toward enrichment with other vitamins and minerals.

ALSO SEE: Vintage Ovaltine: See 60 years of the chocolate malt milk drink mix

Borden milk products - Butter - cottage cheese - chocolate milk (1949)

Insufficient inspection! Fifty years ago, there was very little official examination of milk supplies. Today, most municipalities set high standards of sanitation.

Careful and sanitary handling of milk from cow to consumer is the general practice, and the outcome is a better product. Tuberculosis in dairy herds has been stamped out, and healthier cows yield a more wholesome milk.

Little uniformity! In 1900, the industry was not equipped to provide a uniform product. Today, measuring techniques permit the testing of milk for cream content and quality, and modern packages allow accurate measure and factual labeling — all assuring the customer her money’s worth.

No Homogenization! At the turn of the century, there were no homogenized products.

Today, a good part of all bottled milk is homogenized. A process that breaks down the butter-fat globules in milk, homogenization turns out a better-tasting, more easily digestible milk that is favored both as a beverage and for cooking.

ALSO SEE: Antique iceboxes: What they were & how they worked their magic (1850s-1930s)

Milkman delivering milk in the 1950s
Milkman delivering milk to a home back in the 1950s

Poor distribution! In 1900, a “horse-and-buggy” delivery system worked throughout the night. Today, a swift motorized fleet serves the consumer with less frequent calls and fewer interruptions of the household. More stores handle milk for those who want to buy that way.

Better refrigeration — in the plant, on routes, in the home — prevents losses from souring. Progress rightfully has its own price.

A better product, supplied with better service, is obviously worth more and might be expected to cost more. But, it is much easier to earn the price of a bottle of milk today than in 1900, the cost having risen less than wages and most other prices.

Fifty years ago, the average factory worker toiled 27 minutes for a quart of milk. Now he works an average of only 9 minutes for a vastly improved product!

Woman at an old milk processing factory plant (1949)
Woman at an old Borden milk processing factory plant (1949)

A happy 50s milkman at home (1958)

Milk man Frank Shelley of the Modern Dairy Co in Elgin, Illinois, gets a loving kiss from his wife. 

Milkman at home in the 1950s

Fifties girl being poured a glass of whole milk (1957)

Fifties girl being poured a glass of whole milk (1957)

Cream Top old-fashioned bottle of milk (1948)

The bottle of milk with a pitcher of cream inside!

Instantly Available — from the new square improved Cream Top Bottle — either…

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Cream Top old-fashioned bottle of milk (1948)

50s mom pouring a glass of milk for her daughter (1958)

DON’T MISS: See 30 popular vintage 1950s breakfast cereals

50s mom pouring a glass of milk for her daughter (1958)

Woman in old 1940s kitchen putting milk in the icebox/refrigerator

MORE: 35 retro pink kitchens: 1950s home decor you don’t see much today

Woman in old 1940s kitchen putting milk in the icebox refrigerator

“So good in glass…” vintage glass milk bottle (1958)

… because milk always tastes so fresh and wholesome when it comes from a clean, shining, easy-pouring bottle. Because glass is so pure it adds no taste of its own, nor does it take away any of the natural goodness of rich, health-building milk.

Ask your dairy and grocer for milk in safe, dependable glass bottles.

Vintage glass milk bottle (1958)

NOW SEE THIS: 25 vintage ice cream flavors from the 50s

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Comments on this story

One Response

  1. Growing up in the 1970s, I remember seeing many houses with zinc-plated metal boxes by their front or back doors. When I asked what they were for, I was told they were for milk deliveries… even though by then milkmen and door-to-door milk deliveries were a thing of the past. Flash-forward to when I became a parent, and I remember thinking how convenient such deliveries would have been.

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