History of Milk and Egg Home Delivery Service

CULTURE | May 30, 2019

Milk Delivery Driven by Horse in 1908. Source: (urbanmilwaukee.com)

Home deliveries of milk and eggs, as well as ice cream, were very common back in the early 1800-1900s but today are very rare. In the beginning, milk was delivered using churns before milk bottles were made. During the very early days, deliveries were made using horse-drawn carts.

Gridley Dairy, founded in 1897, was one of those companies that started off with a horse-drawn cart. By the 1930s, these delivery methods were replaced by refrigerated trucks. The company had more than 1,000 employees and 30,000 cows. The business lasted until 1942 when they were overtaken by Borden, a bigger outfit.

Milk Delivery Using a Float. Source: (winteringham.info)

Seen here is what is called a three-wheeled electric float that was used to deliver milk. All types of various vehicles have been used for milk delivery. Besides the usual trucks and horse-drawn carts in the early days, there have been bicycles, motorbikes, vans, push carts, and electric carts. Not only did men deliver milk and dairy products but so did women during wartime. Even children have delivered milk products.

Milk and Egg Delivery. Source: (ebay.com)

Sometimes the delivery guys would be referred to as the “butter and egg man” such as on the Andy Griffith Show. It was common practice to deliver milk, butter, cheese, and eggs to homes during those days. When they made their weekly rounds, either the customer would let them know when they arrived what they needed for that week or they would leave their order in a designated “cool spot” for them to fill along with the empty milk bottles from the previous week to recycle.

Milk Delivery. Source: (pinterest.com)

There are still a few companies left that will deliver various food items that include ice cream to your doorstep. As early as 1920, ice cream trucks would drive around the neighborhood ringing their bells to attract the attention of little ones wanting ice cream. To keep the ice cream frozen, big blocks of dry ice was used until refrigerated trucks became available. By the 1950s, these ice cream trucks had become quite popular with one such company making its debut in 1952.   

Schwan’s Home Delivery Truck. Source: (refrigeratedfrozenfood.com)

It all started with a dairy that Paul and Alma Schwan bought when their son, Marvin was only 19. Marvin, at the age of 23, started delivering ice cream on March 18, 1952, in his old wore-out 1946 Dodge van in Minnesota. He was pleasantly surprised when all 14 gallons that he took with him that day were sold. In 1957, non-dairy products began to be added starting with orange drink.

Today that company has more than 14,000 employees with delivery trucks that deliver to grocery stores as well as individuals. Based out of Minnesota, they have delivery trucks all across the United States not only delivering dairy products but all kinds of foods including meats, vegetables, loaves of bread, and desserts.

Tags: home milk delivery

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Penny Chavers


Penny, besides writing, loves to spend her time with family and friends. In her spare time, she also enjoys playing the piano, board games, and taking online classes on topics that interest her.