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Delivering the Milk

1463_panels_page_11_01The system of retail route delivery became an integral thread in the social and economic fabric in cities and villages across New England. Most — but not all — milk delivery people were men and boys who made a lifetime career of it. Women and girls on small family farms helped with delivery. In the large milk companies, however, route delivery belonged to men. It was said that some people set their clocks by their milkman’s regular comings and goings. Without a doubt they depended on the milkman for delivery of fresh milk and cream and, often, for news of the day. Many milkmen had keys to their customers’ houses and placed milk right in the kitchen refrigerators; they pulled the old bottles to the front and put the new in the back. The milkman had to sell himself in order to sell his milk. A neat-looking milkman in uniform gave the impression of uniformity and cleanliness in his products, too.
In the tradition of the first milkmen, horses pulled milk wagons through the streets of cities and towns as late as the 1940s. A horse who knew his route would start and stop at each house on his own while the milkman walked to the doorsteps with the day’s orders. Even a gasoline powered truck could not replace a horse’s efficiency along a densely populated milk route. Eventually insulated or refrigerated trucks, heavier loads, and longer routes made horses obsolete.
H. P. Hood and Sons milkman William R. Kay, Brookline, Massachusetts, 1907
(above, left)
Courtesy of David A. Kay
E.H. Elton Dairy, Bristol, Connecticut,
circa 1920

Courtesy of Guida Dairy, New Britain, Connecticut
Delivering the Milk