Before the emergence of milk bottles, milkmen would fill the customers jugs. I remember when milk used to come in reusable glass bottles and was delivered to the doorstep by the milk man. After customers finished the milk they were expected to rinse the empty bottles and leave them on the doorstep in a little wire carrier to be exchanged the next time the milkman came. The weekly bill was paid by leaving the money in one of the empty bottle. The quart milk bottles had a couple of inches of cream floating on top and before pouring a glass it was customary to shake the milk vigorously which left big globules of cream floating in the milk.
It is not clear when the first milk bottles came into use, but the New York Dairy Company is credited with having the first factory that produced milk bottles and one of the first patents was held by the Lester Milk Jar.
A patent for a paperboard milk container with a foldable spout was filed in 1915, but it didn't immediately catch on even though it was better than glass bottles. Paperboard bottles keep Vitamin A and riboflavin from being degraded by ultraviolet light and also ensures that the milk doesn’t develop an off-flavor from exposure to fluorescent lights. The inventor was G.W. Maxwell, but it was in 1915 that John Van Wormer of Toledo, Ohio was granted the first patent for the first "paper bottle."
In the United States a lot of rural people still owned cows into the late 19th century and farmers milked cows (by hand) and put it in glass bottles to be delivered to customers. Modern refrigeration didn't exist yet except in the form of an icebox, an insulated box with a clock of ice in it, which tended to melt quickly.
Glass is not a good insulator so the milk quickly went bad. The best solution was having the milkman make daily deliveries. The first refrigerators were not tested until the 1910s. In 1915, John Van Wormer invented the milk carton which is basically the same design that we use today… it called a “gable-top.” That's where the spout is glued and opened by pulling it out. The original Van Wormer models were made of paperboard the same as today. By the 1950s milk cartons were coated with wax you could scrape off with your finger. Today they have a polyethylene coating.
It took two or three decades for the carton to catch on because people still preferred the glass bottle. Glass is heavy, making up a third of the weight of the milk packaged in glass, but as refrigerators got cheaper and people got used to the idea of throwing packaging away the paper carton began to catch on...that wasn't until the 1950s though!
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