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From Dairy to Doorstep


Two hundred years ago New England milk and cream 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.


Cover of a promotional booklet for H. P. Hood and Sons, circa 1953
Courtesy of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities

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.


From Dairy to Doorstep