The Van Trump Report

The First Milk Bottles

It was this week in 1879 that Echo Farms Dairy introduced the first purpose-made milk bottles in New York City, delivering the milk from their farm in Litchfield, Connecticut. Until this time, people bought milk as a bulk item, with the seller dispensing milk out of a keg or bucket into whatever jugs, pails, or other containers the customers brought. That practice left a lot to be desired on the cleanliness and storage front. Some dairies had started offering milk in fruit jars, perhaps because customers had started bringing the resealable containers to them to be filled.

Most dairies and dealers initially hated the milk-bottles as they feared the expense of breakage, and some customers didn’t like the drugstore look of the containers. The new method of delivery however eventually caught on. By the first decade of the 20th century, some cities were legally requiring that milk be delivered in glass bottles. Because of better sanitation and a lower bacteria count, thousands of children who otherwise may have died were now avoiding sickness. Childhood diseases and deaths decreased after 1879 for a variety of reasons, but medical historians often argue that sanitary delivery of milk certainly was certainly a contributing factor.

Because milk has a short shelf life, consumers used the contents quickly and returned them when they went to the market or when fresh milk was delivered to their doors by milkmen. The typical milk bottle made 22.5 round trips in the early 1900s before getting broken, lost or diverted by consumers to other purposes. The loss of bottles — as well as the expense of returning them to the bottling plant, washing and sterilizing them — contributed to the eventual abandonment of the glass bottle. Producers and consumers were also concerned about the health implications of transporting fresh milk in the same trucks right next to empty, unwashed bottles. All this led to the development of single-use containers. 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *