1875 : Mrs. Gertrude Klinck’s Milk Wagon and Horse Stolen

December 8, 2021 all-day

“Mrs. Gertrude Klinck is a milk peddler, and yesterday she left her horse wagon and cans on Russell Street while she entered a grocery store to make some purchases. She desires to know now where her horse and wagon are,” said a notice on December 8, 1875 in the Detroit Free Press.

They delivered on foot or drove their horse-drawn wagons along streets, selling milk out of cans which they ladled into customers’ pitchers. The larger peddlers, called “dealers,” had multiple wagons and hired delivery men. They included companies such as Towar’s Wayne County Creamery, A. Easter, Union Creamery and more who also delivered wholesale to restaurants, ice cream parlors and grocers. Unlike trusted milkmen in their trucks, milk peddlers had a decidedly mixed reputation: colorful, cantankerous, independent, and not always honest.

Milk peddlers appeared in Detroit 10 years before the Civil War. Prior to that, 93 percent of Americans lived on farms and had their own milk cow or had a neighbor with one and usually bartered for a pitcher of milk. There was no such thing as a dairy industry. Only about 45,000 people lived in Detroit in the 1860s. But times were changing.

For more of the story, see Bill Loomis, “Got milk? A century ago, it came from a peddler – and bring your own pitcher“, Detroit News, February 28, 2011.

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