Pouring fresh, chilled milk from a disposable container that was conveniently purchased at a grocery store is something that all of us take for granted these days. Few people remain who remember the time when small local dairies delivered bottled milk to our doorstep. This is a short article about the dairies that once served our Catoctin community— The Dairies of Catoctin—and my interest in collecting and preserving the artifacts that remain from those local dairies.
By the early 1900s, door-to-door milk delivery was established in American cities and most small towns. The milk route and the milk man who delivered the product in glass bottles became a part of our American culture. The businesses, usually farmers, would bottle their milk and deliver it to customers within their local communities. Through a constant cycle, the milk man would deliver fresh milk to a customer and return the “empties” to the dairy for cleaning and reuse the next delivery day. Local dairies prided themselves on the quality of their milk, and their glass bottles and paper caps usually included the name of the dairy. Many times, their local advertisements included a slogan. For example, one of our local dairies advertised that “Careful Mothers Use Our Milk – It’s Safer.” Another local dairy advertised its product as “Pure fresh milk and cream, electrically pasteurized and refrigerated, at your door each morning.” As advances in refrigeration allowed for the transportation of mass-produced milk for convenient stocking in grocery stores, the local dairy and its milk man became a historic footnote by the early 1960s.
My interest in collecting artifacts pertaining to our local dairies started about twenty years ago, when my friend, Larry Hauver, took me to my first antique bottle show. I had no idea at the time that there was such a thing. But there I was, one early winter weekend morning, standing on the gym floor of a northern Baltimore college among endless rows of milk bottles. I was mesmerized by the sight—as far as you could see—of a wonder-world of beautiful glass objects of every color in the rainbow. There were milk bottles of all types and sizes from nearly every state. After a short time there, I quickly learned about the different kinds of milk bottles, including embossed (letters molded in the glass), pyro-glazed (letters painted on the glass), generic (no letters on the glass), and the wax cone (a primitive waxed paper container in the shape of a miniature megaphone). I also learned that dairies used a combination of bottle sizes, including the half-gallon, quart, pint, half-pint, and the much sought-after “gill” (quarter-pint). It was at that bottle show that I became aware of a small group of local dairies that distributed milk door-to-door over the years in and around Emmitsburg and Thurmont.
To date, I have acquired artifacts and information pertaining to the following nine local dairies that provided daily delivery of fresh milk and milk products to homes and businesses in our Catoctin community: Emmitsburg — Bollinger’s Dairy, Castle Farms Dairy, Harvey E. Miller – Fairview Farm Dairy; Thurmont — Bollinger’s Dairy, Gall & Smith Dairy, Emory L. Moser Dairy, Harry S. Simmers Locust Grove Dairy, Homarway Dairy, Munshour’s Jersey Dairy.
The history of our local dairies has yet to be written. The artifacts displayed in The Dairies of Catoctin collection include milk bottles of every type and size. One local dairy (Gall & Smith Dairy) used both embossed and pyro-glazed glass bottles over the years. Another (Emory L. Moser Dairy) only used a generic glass bottle with an advertising cap, while another (Castle Farms Dairy) used a primitive wax cone container. The only artifact that I have been able to locate to date for one local dairy (Munshour’s Jersey Farm Dairy) is an advertisement placed in a Thurmont baseball team scorecard from the 1940s. Then, there was a local dairy (Homarway Dairy) that created its name by combining those of the three local Thurmont families (Hobbs, Martin, and Weybright), who partnered in that business. As with every collection, there is a story behind finding each item.
The Dairies of Catoctin collection has been greatly enhanced by the generosity of Russell Moser and the late Kenneth “Doc” Simmers, who contributed rare artifacts from their grandfathers’ dairies, not to mention the many local milk bottles and related artifacts that Larry Hauver located for me.
As many collectors do at some point in their lives, I recently became concerned about what will happen to my milk bottle collection in years to come. I turned to my friend Erin Dingle, administrator of the Thurmont Regional Library/Emmitsburg Branch Library, for suggestions. Part of our local library’s mission is to maintain the Thurmont Center for Agricultural History. The purpose of the Center is to serve as a repository of materials that reveal the rich agricultural heritage of Frederick County and our surrounding area. Erin and I quickly agreed that a perfect solution would be to permanently display my milk bottle collection in the main reading room of our library, to complement the Center. With further guidance from Mary Mannix, Frederick County Public Libraries, The Dairies of Catoctin collection is now on permanent display at our Thurmont Regional Library for everyone to enjoy.
Please stop by to see the collection, enjoy the beauty of the artifacts, and learn about the nearly forgotten local dairies that served our Catoctin community. It is a unique part of our local history, captured in glass. As with any collection, it is never complete.
If you have any information or artifacts that would expand our knowledge of The Dairies of Catoctin, we would be grateful if you would contact us. I can be reached at 301-271-4297 or email@example.com. Erin can be reached at 301-600-7212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.