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Pasteurization, Healthy Babies, and a New Kind of Buying

Diagram for clean milk (background)
From The Home and the Family by Helen Kinne and Anna M. Cooley, 1917
Growing knowledge about public health and the causes of disease made its way into domestic science classes and textbooks. This diagram came from a school textbook for pre-teen girls.

Advertisement for the A & P Supermarket (above)
From Ladies’Home Journal, February 1951

Advertisement for Chevrolet automobiles (above)
From Ladies’Home Journal, September 1956
Trips to the supermarket, usually by homemakers in family automobiles, replaced home milk delivery.

Newspaper advertisement for pasteurization, 1930s (above, top)
Published by Oakhurst Dairy Company, Portland,Maine
Courtesy of Oakhurst Dairy
Milk consumers did not quickly accept pasteurization or even believe that it was beneficial. Decades after milk pasteurization became possible, not all localities had it.

Over the course of a century, milk and the way it traveled from dairy to doorstep were transformed. After pasteurization and government oversight put an end to deadly milk-borne epidemics, especially among children, milk gradually came to be considered an essential part of the American diet.Now a capital-intensive, mechanized dairy industry produced clean, homogenized, and standardized milk products in disposable containers. Suburban sprawl increasingly made the daily milk route inefficient and unprofitable. By the 1960s, the housewife in the family car had replaced the milkman on his delivery route. Supermarkets, refrigerators, and affordable automobiles made the milkman obsolete, and home milk delivery as a reassuring staple of city and village life receded into memory.

A typical supermarket of the 1950s

From The Hood Story: A Century of Progress in the New England Dairy Industry, circa 1953
Courtesy of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities Supermarkets represented a new kind of buying and selling that depended on self-service featuring prepackaged, heavily advertised food products under one large roof, often miles from where the customers lived. What a difference from the small, local specialty shops and home delivery of the past!


Pasteurization, Healthy Babies, and a New Kind of Buying