The Reason Fresh Milk Used To Be Delivered To Your Home

The smiling milkman in his white uniform carrying glass bottles of cold milk as he made his daily rounds has become a symbol of when life was simpler. A time when kids ate their bowl of cereal at the kitchen table, while mom fed the cat and dad read the newspaper before he headed into work and the kids ran into the backyard to play.

Home milk delivery started in 1785 in Vermont as people increasingly didn't have their own milk cow after adopting a more urban lifestyle, per Drink Milk in Glass Bottles. In the early days, the milkman would go to people's houses with a barrel containing milk and would fill people's containers, such as jugs, pails or jars, with milk from the farm. It wasn't until 1879 that milk began to be sold in glass bottlers (via Wired). 

Delivery of milk continued in this way for decades. Families would place the empty milk bottles on the front steps from the day before and the milkman would replace them with new bottles in an insulated box or even put them in a compartment with a door that was built into the house, according to The Dairy Alliance

Milk sales change

For decades, families relied on the milkman to bring them fresh milk because of a lack of grocery stores and transportation to them, as well a lack of refrigeration, both at home and in stores, to keep food items fresh (via The Dairy Alliance). However, as technology greatly advanced during the 1940s with more people owning cars and large refrigeration cases being installed at growing grocery stores, the milkman began to get replaced. Milk sold in the grocery stores was also an inexpensive option, according to Modern Farmer.

The electric refrigerator could be found in 64% of homes in the United States by 1940, reports the National Museum of American History. Two decades later, by the mid-1960s about 30% of milk consumed at home had been delivered by the milkman, but by 2005 only 0.4% was brought to the home, per NPR

While technology helped to keep food fresher and healthier for Americans, it also meant the milkman was out of a job. However, in recent years home milk delivery has seen a resurgence with consumers wanting fresh milk from local farmers, according to Modern Farmer. If you are nostalgic for a simpler time when farm-fresh milk was delivered in a glass bottle to your front door, you may yet be able to recapture that feeling.