Milk is a staple in American homes. Rarely can we grocery shop without picking up a gallon of the creamy stuff. But there was a time before refrigeration that pushed city dwellers to take different measures to obtain their ice cold milk.
Some may remember the milk man, the devoted deliveryman that somehow left a bottle of chilled milk on the doorstep many mornings, always providing fresh milk straight from the source.
But I want to take you to a time before the glass bottles we may remember. Deliverymen would carry their milk from house to house in buckets, and he would ladle the milk to the costumers. This would cause the milk to become dirty. This became a concern of one Hervey D. Thatcher, a physician here in Potsdam, who was discouraged by the unsanitary nature the milk was transported.
Thatcher ran his own drug store, and milked his own cow. He wanted a way to transport his product from cow to consumer, and developed a sanitary Milk Protector that dispensed milk into covered pails. Then Thatcher would bring the buckets to the customers, and although dirt was not initially a concern, dispensing the cream soon became an unhealthy endeavor.
So, in 1884, Thatcher and his partner, Hervey P. Barnhart, designed a wide, smooth mouthed quart bottle that was easy to fill, empty, and clean. Patented in 1886, the bottle differed from any of the time. The mouth was free of dirt-retaining crevices, and a spring wire helped lock a glass cap onto the top, securing it tightly.
On his lathe Thatcher made a wooden mold for his bottles and caps, and from these sprung the first milk bottles.He would take the bottles to Ogdensburg, NY, and sell $500 worth of bottles, tubes, and pails to a man with the biggest delivery route in town. Thatcher sold exclusive rights to other towns and hired salesmen to open up new territories. Thatcher soon sold out to his partner, and would return to his drug store.
Production of the milk bottles was slow, but soon production companies developed with the improvement of glass blowing in 1903. What was once dilemma among milkmen and consumers alike turned into a healthy and sanitary way to drink a cold glass of cream.
Since Thatcher's creation of the milk bottle, plastics and cardboard containers have become the norm, and refrigeration has replaced any need for milkmen, and milk has become common place on the table for every meal.
Note: 8 bottles of milk were needed to hold a quart of milk, and the US alone produced 400 million bottles per year in 1954
(Source: "Hervery Thatcher's Milke Bottle" by Alfred Lief, Mechanix Illustrated, May 1954 issue)