The industrious and friendly milkman is perhaps one of the unsung everyday heroes of American history – on equal ground with the whistling postman and bell-ringing ice-cream seller.
Milkman services began shortly after the budding years of our nation, through the familiar sound of clinking bottles that greeted the neighborhoods in the wee hours of morning as the household drink arrived safely and punctually on doorsteps and mailboxes.
Historically, citizens had owned personal plots of land with their respective cattle and steady supply of milk but as people began to shift towards more urban areas of the country, milk sources became less accessible, which called for a special delivery service – fulfilled by the milkman.
The first home deliveries were recorded in Vermont from the late 18th century. Soon, came the application of milk bottles, which made way for better containment of the precious liquid, which improved delivery services as a result.
However, as refrigerators became a common installation found in urban homes, the demand for milk deliveries dwindled, since this meant that families could drive off to the local mart and stock up on weekly or monthly supplies.
But in 1958, cartoonist Arthur Radebaugh created a comic strip depicting a milkman making his deliveries with the use of a futuristic jet pack. The artwork became a public sensation, which led to a revival in milkman services onto subsequent decades.
Although milkman services are no longer as popular as they were when citizens first depended on them, they will always be remembered as an integral part of early American society.
Yes, there used to be a milkman who delivered fresh milk to the front door of their customers. The milk often came in cartons or glass bottles. Back then, efficient refrigeration was not available yet for most households. Because of this, food and beverages, including milk, would spoil immediately. Since milk must be consumed fresh, milkmen delivered it right after it was acquired from the dairy farm nearby.
Decades before cartons or bottles, milkmen brought churns with them as they visited the homes of their patrons. They would dip a certain measure into the churn and fill the jugs of the waiting customers. Mornings meant that the milk deliveries will come. Milkwomen or milkmen usually had other products, such as soft drinks, eggs, butter, cream, yogurt, or cheese, with them whenever they delivered.
In some cases, milkmen or milkwomen used horse-drawn carts to bring milk to their customers. They were still used in Britain during the 1950s. In some areas of the United States, they were still used up until the 1960s.
In the early sixties small motorized vehicles such as small trucks were used, making milk deliveries faster especially in areas that still don’t have good refrigeration and access to well-packaged milk.