Early Developments in the American Dairy Industry

Early Developments in the American Dairy Industry

Dairy Barn, Pennsylvannia

Pennsylvania dairy barn.
Emerson Brooks Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.



Early History

In the early 1600s immigrants brought cattle with them from Europe to supply their families with dairy products and meat. Although many different breeds of cattle including Durhams, Ayrshires, Guernseys, Jerseys, and Brown Swiss were imported through the next few centuries, it was not until the late 1800s that cattle breeds were developed specifically for dairy purposes.

In rural America, milk and milk products were made primarily for home or local use. However, with the movement of population from the farms to the cities at the turn of the century, it became necessary to mass produce and improve the quality of milk. Significant inventions such as commercial milk bottles, milking machines, tuberculin tests for cattle, pasteurization equipment, refrigerated milk tank cars, and automatic bottling machines contributed towards making milk a healthful and commercially viable product.

Widespread use of the Mehring milking machine in the 1890s provided a more
efficient milking method for the farmer and made it possible to produce a cleaner milk product. Shown here is a farmer operating the Mehring milking machine, York Roads, Maryland, in 1908.

Mehring milking machine

Mehring milking machine.
USDA Bureau of Dairy Industry Records.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

In appealing to customers, milk companies emphasized the safety of their product because of cleanliness, pasteurization, and tuberculin testing. South Jersey Milk Company, which distributed the products of Shoemaker Dairy Company and Abbotts Dairies, Inc., stressed the importance of safe milk for children in this 1930 advertisement.


South Jersey Milk Co. advertisement

Abbotts milk advertisement. 1930.
Charles E. North Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.


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USDA Contributions to Dairying

pasture grasses

In an effort to improve the quality of American dairy products and to make them more acceptable abroad, the Bureau of Animal Industry of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) established the Division of Agrostology and the Dairy Division in 1895.

Scientists in the Division of Agrostology studied the effects of forage grasses on the flavor, odor, and quality of milk and milk products. The watercolor drawing on the left depicts different types of pasture grasses.

Colored drawing by R.H. Woods for J[ohn] P[rince] Sheldon, Dairy Farming: Being the Theory, Practice, and Methods of Dairying. (New York, [188-]), Plate 163. Special Collections, National Agricutural Library.


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Dairy Division

The Dairy Herd

The early work of the Dairy Division consisted primarily of collecting and disseminating information. In response to surveys, the division issued bulletins on subjects of particular interest to the dairy industry such as "The Dairy Herd: Its Formation and Management." There was also a series of articles for the dairy farmer about the work of USDA in the Yearbook of Agriculture, 1897.

In addition to education, regulations were necessary to ensure a safe food supply. With the passage of the Meat Inspection Act of 1890 and amendment of 1906, Congress authorized USDA inspectors to enforce standards of sanitation and hygiene in the meat and dairy industries.

Alvord, Henry E. "The Dairy Herd: Its Formation and
Management." USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 55.
Washington, D.C. Government Printing Office, 1904.



Dairy Score Card

An important tool utilized by USDA Dairy Division inspectors was a score card. When the inspector visited dairy facilities, he filled out a form called a dairy score card to record the health of the herd, the cleanliness of the cows and of the utensils used for milking, the cleanliness of the employees, and the handling of the milk. A sample score card is shown at left.

Score card.
Charles E. North Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

To provide facilities for carrying on experimental work, the Bureau of Animal Industry purchased the farm at Beltsville, Maryland, in 1910. Of the 475 acres of land, 190 were assigned to the Dairy Division. The first major building erected was the large concrete dairy barn nearest to Powder Mill Road. By 1927 Animal Husbandry acquired 1,000 more acres. The aerial photograph below is a portion of the facility in Beltsville circa 1940s.

Farm at Beltsville, Maryland

Animal and dairy research facilities.
Beltsville, Maryland. Circa 1940s.
Bureau of Dairy Industry Records.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.


In 1916 the Department of Agriculture leased the Grove City Creamery in Grove City, Pennsylvania. There the Dairy Division conducted experimental work on the manufacturing of butter, condensed milk, cheeses, and other dairy products. Shown below is a photograph of the Creamery in 1919.

Grove City Creamery

Grove City Creamery.
Grove City, Pennsylvania. 1919.
Ralph E. Hodgson Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricultural
Library.


In 1919 the milk specialists of the Dairy Division began to organize educational milk campaigns in cities and in rural communities to deal with surpluses generated by the increased production of milk and dairy products during World War I. As a result of ongoing milk campaigns, substantial increases in consumption of milk occurred.

Below is an advertisement for milk in the motion picture Milk For You and Me. Walter Johnson holds a milk bottle and straw at American League Ball Park, New York, April 1925.


Walter Johnson


Walter Johnson.
American League Ball Park, New York. April 1925.
USDA Bureau of Dairy Industry Records.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.


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Research in the Private Sector

While the federal sector was working on the research and regulation of the emerging dairy industry, the private sector was campaigning for improved dairy products as well. Notable among the individuals contributing to this movement was Dr. Charles E. North (1869-1961), physician, public health officer, inventor, and agricultural scientist. North was a leader in gaining public acceptance of milk pasteurization laws, developer of processes and devices, and author of many articles and reports related to the development of the dairy industry.

Charles E. North

Dr. Charles E. North.
Charles E. North Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.


One of North's significant accomplishments was a system of sanitation from
which dependably clean milk could be produced on any farm. This simple but effective sanitary system comprised six basic requirements - (1) healthy cows; (2) careful grooming of the cows; (3) clean hands and clean clothing; (4) clean, dust-free barns (5) thoroughly washed and sterilized milking utensils; (6) prompt and effective cooling of the milk.

Below is an advertisement (circa 1934) for Hood's Grade A Milk which shows that the company followed North's practice of keeping milk clean and cold at all times.

Hood's Milk Advertisement

Hood's Grade A milk advertisement. Circa 1934.
Charles E. North Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

Between 1910-1920, North visited many U.S. and Canadian cities to promote pasteurization. Shown here is the Hygeia Dairy, Baltimore, Maryland, in 1912. At the time, Baltimore market milk retailed at 8 cents per quart, while higher quality Hygeia Dairy milk was 10 cents per quart.

Hygeia Dairy, Baltimore, Maryland

Hygeia Dairy.
Baltimore, Maryland. 1912.
Charles E. North Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.


The mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, employed North to investigate, inspect, and make a survey of the milk supply of the city. A group of sixteen people was involved in North's work which was begun on May 30, 1921, and included dairy farm inspections, laboratory milk tests, and statistical work in the office. The accompanying photographs illustrate their work.

Collecting raw milk samples

Collecting samples of raw milk in Kansas City.
July 1, 1921. Charles E. North Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricutural Library.

Kansas city laboratory

Kansas City laboratory at work.
July 1, 1921. Charles E. North Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

Collecting raw milk samples

Collecting samples in Kansas City.
July 1, 1921. Charles E. North Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricutural Library.


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Bureau of Dairy Industry

Secretary of Agriculture Henry C. Wallace, a dairy specialist, supported the expansion of the Dairy Division into the Bureau of Dairying on July 1, 1924. Two years later the name changed to the Bureau of Dairy Industry and five major divisions formed - Division of Dairy Research Laboratories; Division of Market Milk Investigations; Division of Breeding, Feeding, and Management; Division of Dairy Herd Improvement Investigations, and Division of Dairy Manufacturing Investigations and Introduction.

Of all the divisions, the Division of Dairy Research Laboratories was the largest. This division conducted experimental and investigational work of products and by-products of the dairy industry and nutrition of dairy cows.

The Division of Market Milk Investigations conducted dairy inspections which ensured higher quality milk levels for the consumer. The inspectors examined dairy farms, city milk plants, and dairy products.

By the 1930s the Division of Breeding, Feeding, and Management studied breeding, feeding, and management investigations, fertility, physiology of production and reproduction, and structure and anatomy of dairy cows. Additionally, the Division maintained the bureau's field stations in cooperation with the states.

The Division of Dairy Herd Improvement Investigations sponsored the work of dairy associations. An association was an organization of about 26 dairy farmers in a given locality who cooperatively employed a trained tester to test their cows for economic production of milk and butterfat. From records obtained by farmers, the bureau could tabulate and summarize production and feed records throughout the country and use them for investigational purposes.

Many basic problems related to manufacturing good quality dairy products and by-products and making them available to the consumer were solved through the Division of Dairy Manufacturing Investigations and Introduction.

Key Figures in the Bureau

For all but the first two years of its existence, the Bureau of Dairy Industry was headed by Ollie E. Reed (b. 1885- d.?). Reed (shown below) had the longest tenure as bureau chief at USDA, from 1928-1953. A man of action, Reed promoted, "Greater efficiency in production, production of the highest quality in dairy products, and increasing the consumption of dairy products." He was widely known for his work on breed improvement through production testing, and fostered the development in this country of high grade cheese and butter.

Ollie E. Reed

Ollie E. Reed.
USDA Bureau of Dairy Industry Records
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.


Reed was featured in an article about ice cream and its importance to the dairy industry. The story, Ice Cream-An American Institution, was printed on the back cover of a Pennsylvania Railroad Dining Car Menu from 1930 (shown below). According to Reed, there were approximately 4,000 ice cream manufacturers in the United States in 1928. These manufacturers produced about 348,000,000 gallons of ice cream. The three gallon per capita consumption required about 6 billion pounds of milk, the product of 1,333,000 dairy cows. This placed the production of milk for ice cream almost equal to the quantity used in the manufacture of cheese and greater than the quantity used in the manufacture of condensed and evaporated milk.

PA Railroad dining car menuPA Railroad dining car menu back

Pennsylvania Railroad dining car menu. 1930.
(Front cover on left, back cover on right.)
USDA Bureau of Dairy Industry Records.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.


Dr. Ralph E. Hodgson (b. 1906- d.?), Assistant Chief, Bureau of Dairy Industry, 1945-1953, worked for the United States Department of Agriculture from 1930-1973. Previous to his studies on dairying in seven countries in Latin America in the early 1940s, he conducted research on the nutrition of dairy cattle. Hodgson (shown below) was associated with virtually every important international activity involving the dairy or livestock industry and served as the liaison officer and chairman of the U.S. delegation to the 13th through the 17th International Dairy Congresses.

Ralph E. Hodgson

Dr. Ralph E. Hodgson.
Ralph E. Hodgson Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

Because of the importance of the health of people and its direct correlation to dairy practices, the bureau offered dairy education to other countries. A Dairy Handbook for Tropical America, written by Hodgson and Reed, was designed for dairy farmers, milk dealers, and agricultural students in tropical regions of the American continents.

The photograph below, taken from A Dairy Handbook for Tropical America, depicts the internal organs of the cow, including the digestive, circulatory, respiratory, and mammary systems: 1, heart; 2, lungs; 3, gullet; 4, paunch (1st stomach); 5, reticulum (2nd stomach); 6, omasum (3rd stomach); 7, abomasum (4th stomach); 8, small intestines; 9, large intestines; 10, milk veins; 11, milk cistern.

Internal organs of a cow

Hodgson, R.E. and O.E. Reed. A Dairy Handbook for
Tropical America
. Bureau of Dairy Industry,
Agricultural Research Administration,
United States Department of Agriculture. Circa 1945.
Ralph E. Hodgson Papers.
Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.


Reorganization

In 1954 the Bureau of Dairy Industry was abolished. Its functions were transferred to the Agricultural Research Service. Non-regulatory functions of the former bureau were assigned to the Dairy Husbandry Research Branch and regulatory functions were assigned to the Meat Inspection Branch.



Bibliography

Alvord, Henry E. "The Dairy Herd: Its Formation and Management." USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 55 (revised). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1904.
NAL call number 1 Ag84 no. 55.

American Men and Women of Science. Physical and Biological Sciences. Volume 3, H-K. New York: Jaques Cattell Press/R.R. Bowker Co., 1972.
NAL call number Q145.A42 v.3

Baker, Gladys L.; Rasmussen, Wayne D.; Wiser, Vivian; Porter, Jane M. Century of Service: the First 100 Years of the United States Department of Agriculture. Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1963.
NAL call number S21.C9U5

"A Brief History of the Agricultural Research Center." September 1962. From the USDA History Collection. Buildings File. Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

Harris, George M. Thesis. A Report of the Organization and Activities of the Bureau of Dairy Industry. United States Department of Agriculture Graduate School. 1932-33.
NAL call number 44 H242

Hodgson, Dr. Ralph E., Papers. Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

Moore, Ernest G. The Agricultural Research Service. Washington, DC: Frederick A. Praeger, 1967.
NAL call number A21.C9M6

North, Dr. Charles E., Papers. Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

Pirtle, T[homas] R[oss]. History of the Dairy Industry. Chicago: Mojonnier Bros. Company, 1926.
NAL call number 44 P66

Porter, A.R., J.A. Sims, and C.F. Foreman. Dairy Cattle in American Agriculture. Iowa, Iowa State University Press, 1965.
NAL call number 43 P833

Rasmussen, Wayne D.; Baker, Gladys L. The Department of Agriculture. Washington, DC: Praeger Publishers, 1972.
NAL call number S21.C9R3

Sheldon, J[ohn] P[rince]. Dairy Farming: Being the Theory, Practice, and Methods of Dairying. New York, [1888-].

USDA Bureau of Dairy Industry Records. Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

USDA Division of Agricultural Engineering Photographs. Special Collections, National Agricultural Library.

United States Department of Agriculture Yearbook, 1897.
NAL call number 1 Ag84Y

Weimar, Mark R. and Don P. Blayney. Landmarks in the U.S. Dairy Industry. USDA, ERS, Agriculture Information Bulletin Number 694, 1994.
NAL call number 1 Ag84Ab no. 694


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