Do You Remember the Horse Drawn Milk Wagons?

By Melissa Cole, Curator

Before the explosion of large grocery stores that sell a wide variety of foods, the people of Oshawa enjoyed home delivery of local-made milk.  Some of these “mom and pop” dairies grew to become large and profitable businesses that incorporated the latest technology to produce their dairy products.


Small family dairies such as Gimbletts Dairy and Henderson/Cedardale Dairy began as an almost single person operation with milk being delivered straight from the farm to the local houses.  Milk would be delivered to homes using horse drawn wagons.

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Milk delivery started with the scoop and pail method.  The delivery wagon carried large containers of milk, and the delivery man had a convenient carrying container and a quart and pint measure.  He would deliver to the home, or housewives and children would take their own container to the wagon.  Milk would come directly from the cow and it was delivered to the customer.  In some cases these early dairies operated from a residence or farm of the delivery man.  The milk man either bought the milk from the farmer or had his own cow.  There were several small dairies that used the scoop and pail method.  Dairies such as the Cedardale Dairy, Cameron Dairy and the Harmony Dairy are examples of scoop and pail dairies.


Many older homes had a little cabinet built into the exterior of the home.  Each week they would leave a sign out stating whether milk was needed or not.  If milk was needed the empty bottles would be left in this cabinet, that was accessed both from inside and outside of the house.  The milkman would take the empty milk bottles and exchange them for bottles filled with fresh milk.

It wasn’t until the 1950s Oshawa’s dairies made the switch from horse drawn wagons to trucks.  However, some dairies began this move a bit earlier.  Riordan’s Dairy appears to have had the earliest mechanized delivery service in Oshawa as it purchased three trucks to replace the horses in 1942.

The era of home delivery began to end in the 1960s.  It was during this decade that the quintessential glass milk bottle was replaced with cardboard cartons.  These cartons were only sold in stores.

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In 2011, the Oshawa Museum had an exhibit which featured the history of Oshawa’s dairies.  Milk Stories: Remembering the Oshawa Dairies showcased different artefacts, photos and memories of our local dairies.

Student Museum Musings: Making Ice Cream!

By Karen A., Summer Student

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! Who doesn’t love ice cream? That’s a silly question, since I’m pretty sure everyone enjoys some flavour of ice cream.  And since July is National Ice Cream Month, as recognized by The International Ice Cream Association, the museum has dusted off the ice cream maker in prep for Grandpa Henry’s picnic which features old fashioned ice cream making (and taste testing)!

The origins of ice cream date back to the second century B.C.E. although no specific date can be determined for when this tasty treat was invented. It is known that Alexander the Great enjoyed ice and snow flavoured with honey and nectar. Likewise, Roman Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar sent runners into the mountains to gather snow which he then flavoured with fruits and juice. England started making ice cream during the 16th century, along with the Italians and French. But it wasn’t until the mid-17th century that ice cream became available to the general public because of its expensive cost.

In the Victorian period ice cream was made by hand. With the use of wooden buckets which had hand cranks attached, the mixture was then combined together and frozen. It was difficult however as the Victorians didn’t have access to electric freezers or ice cream machines. A lot of the ice used to make the ice cream and to keep it cold, was collected from rivers and ponds in the winter time which was then stored in ice houses.

Lauren & Karen using our Ice Cream maker!

At the museum we now have our own hand crank ice cream maker; fortunately it also comes with a motor attached so we are not stuck hand cranking all the ice cream. This ice cream maker allows us to show visitors how Victorians hand cranked their ice cream, but also lets us make enough ice cream for everyone without getting tired!

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Here are some recipes on how to make Victorian ice cream;

Lemon Fig Ice Cream
1 c. whipping cream
1 c. milk
1 egg, well beaten
Few grains salt
¾ c. sugar
1 c. chopped preserved figs, and juice
Juice 2 lemons

Combine eggs, sugar, salt, figs and juice, lemon juice, and milk. Pour into freezer. Partially freeze. Carefully fold in whipped cream. Continue freezing until firm. 8 servings.


Lemon Ice
2 c. water
1 c. sugar
Few grains salt
6 tbsp. lemon juice

Combine water, sugar, and salt. Heat to boiling. Boil 5 minutes. Cool. Add lemon juice. Freeze. 4 servings.

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