In modern days, whenever we want to get milk, we travel down to the supermarket to get a carton of our favourite type of milk. In the past, however, people received milk through a different method. Let’s revisit the nostalgic days of the traditional milkman delivery!
The origins of the milkman
Back in the 1700s, back when people of the United States used to own their own dairy cows and had their own supply of dairy milk. However, as industrialisation moved people to more urban areas, less people had the opportunity to own family cows due to the lack in space and an increasingly busy lifestyle. As such, people turned to local dairy farmers to purchase milk instead.
The very first milk home deliveries happened in Vermont in 1785, where the milkman would visit each house with a barrel full of milk. Residents would then bring out their own containers, jugs, pails and jars, and the milkman would fill them with milk.
The invention of glass milk bottles
In 1879, milk was sold in glass bottles for the first time in the United States. This improved the cleanliness and the convenience of milk deliveries, keeping the milk fresher for longer. The first purpose-made milk bottles were introduced by Echo Farms Dairy, and the usage of glass bottles to store milk became so popular that by the 20th century, some cities made it a requirement for milk to be delivered in glass bottles.
When consumers were done consuming the milk, they would return the bottles when they went to the market, or when milkmen came to their house to deliver new filled bottles of milk. The typical milk bottle made 22.5 round trips on average in the early 1900s before getting lost, broken or used by consumers for other purposes!
How milk deliveries worked
Customers would place their orders with the milkman, and would have fresh milk delivered to their doorsteps the very next day. Some homes had insulated boxes placed on their porches, while some had milk boxes built into the sides of their houses. The milkman would place fresh bottles of milk into the milk boxes and take the empty bottles before collecting his payment.
The decline of the milkman
By the 1930s and 1940s, most homes in the United States had their own refrigerators, allowing milk to be kept cold and fresh in the house. The pasteurisation of milk also increased the shelf life of milk, further eliminating the need for milkmen to deliver milk fresh daily.
Additionally, after World War II, people started moving into more suburban areas, meaning that milkmen had to travel further distances, resulting in higher milk costs.
Grocery stores also rose in popularity in the mid 1900s, where people could pick up bottles of milk conveniently and at a cheaper price. As more people had their own cars, they could travel to grocery stores whenever they needed to.
Due to the costs of bottling, washing and sterilising milk bottles, people eventually stopped using glass bottles to store milk due to the higher costs. Soon, wax cartons replaced glass bottles for cost and convenience, and by the 1950s, almost all milk in the United States was packaged in square cartons.
Today, doorstep milk delivery is no longer commonplace. According to USDA, in the 1950s, more than half of consumer milk sales came from home delivery services. In 2005, however, this number fell to only 0.4 percent.
However, did you know that there is still a way to get milk delivered to your doorstep in Singapore, just like how it was historically done in the United States? Here at The Better Milk, we provide a modern twist to this traditional practice - we deliver environmentally friendly, delicious cruelty-free plant-based milk right to your doorstep in glass bottles, just like how dairy milk was packaged and delivered in America!
From $50 a month, our doorstep-delivery milk subscription service allows for you to receive a bottle of freshly made plant-based milk of your choice every week, all from the comfort of your own home.