Questions About Milk a Hundred Years Ago

Questions about milk
Source: Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews

I enjoy reading the questions at the end of chapters in old textbooks. They provide so much insight into what the book author considered important. These questions in a hundred-year-old home economics textbook at the end of a section about milk made me realize that the issues and concerns were somewhat different back then.

In case you are wondering, here is what it said earlier in the book about clean milk:

Clean milk is the only safe milk. Dirty milk may contain disease germs that cause typhoid fever, tuberculosis, or other diseases. Clean milk comes from clean cows kept in clean barns. The milk must be handled by persons with clean hands and clean clothes, and it must be placed in clean pails, bottles, or pans. 

If milk is purchased from a store or dairy wagon it should be in bottles, tightly covered. The bottles must be kept in a cool place where there are no flies. If a bottle of milk is put in the refrigerator it must always be tightly covered. 

Elementary Home Economics (1921) by Mary Lockwood Matthews 

20 thoughts on “Questions About Milk a Hundred Years Ago

  1. Amazes me that we take for granted that our milk is clean and free of disease causing pathogens. I can imagine the worry about milk safety kept it off the table as a beverage in many families and only used for cooking. No wonder custards were so popular!

  2. I was amused at the question about the cost of various types of milk. Our prices seem to keep going up on everything, so the answer now is go to the store and look at the price yourself.

    1. I wonder if the textbook author wanted the students to think about things that affected the price of milk and cream – Smaller amounts cost more. Cream is more expensive than milk. etc.

  3. Wow. This was just a hundred years ago, but it does seem very primitive to us now. I remember that one of my grandmothers never drank milk and the other one, and my grandfather, always drank buttermilk! I’m thankful for not having to worry about the cleanliness of the milk I drink! Thank you for an interesting look back!

    1. I had a similar reaction. Students today would be shocked if they read the description in the old text book. Today we worry about things like whether the milk will get too warm while we drive home from the grocery store.

  4. Funny coincidence—my husband and I were just watching an old What’s My Line episode, where the contestant sold automatic cow washers! The cows walked through rotating brushes and jets of water. The contestant explained that in California, dairy cows were required by law to be washed twice a day to ensure safe milk. I wonder how far back that regulation goes, and whether it’s still in effect.

    1. The episode sounds like one that I would have enjoyed. I don’t know what current regulations are, but I know that when I was a child that a milk inspector came to our dairy farm several times a year to make sure that we were following proper procedures.

  5. I grew up on a dairy farm and have many happy memories of helping milk the cows and yes cleanliness was next to godliness the dairy and the cows were spotless I can still remember how clean the floors were and the clean smell 🙂 x

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