Snow and Palmer Dairy, Bloomington, ILL

Eight of the nine milk bottles found in the Old Main cistern were from one local dairy, the Snow and Palmer Dairy of Bloomington. Before effective refrigeration was available during transport, only local milk would have been available.


Milk bottle embossed “Snow & Palmer”

In the mid-nineteenth century, milk was primarily given to babies when mother’s milk was unavailable, but this carried some risks, as milk was dispensed with a ladle from street vendors (Robert Dirks, 2011, Come & Get It: McDonaldization and the Disappearance of Local Food from a Central Illinois: pg 172). Bacteria grew in the containers, especially during the warmer months of the year, causing “‘summer diarrhea’ a disease that often proved lethal among children. Gastrointestinal disease accounted for up to 25 percent of infant mortality in the United States as late as 1900” (Dirks 2011: 172).  In the town of Normal, at the turn of the twentieth century, consumers could choose from several dairy options. Dirks notes “early supermarkets stocked bottled milk and other dairy products, but most families preferred to purchase them from a ‘milkman’ who delivered right to the door” (2011: 172).


Milk bottle embossed “One Quart Snow & Palmer”

The Snow and Palmer dairy was started by Willis Snow in 1870, who formed a partnership with Harry Palmer in 1897 (Dirks 2011:174). Bloomington passed ordinances to ensure the safety of milk in 1911, which outlawed selling milk from canisters, and necessitated bottled milk (Dirks 2011: 173). Pasteurization was introduced in 1895, and mandated by the city of Chicago in 1908. “In Bloomington, the Snow and Palmer Dairy was the first to introduce pasteurization to its customers” (Dirks 2011:173). They merged with Beatrice Creamery in 1925, and began selling milk products under the Meadow Gold brand (Dirks 2011:174). The eight milk bottles then can be firmly dated within the 28 years of the Snow and Palmer partnership.


Image from “Bloomington-Normal in Vintage Postcards” by Elaine J. Taylor, 2002, pg 42.


Image from “Milk wagons pulled by ‘Old Dobbin’ came to end in 1946” Pantagraph newspaper, by Bill Kemp, October 17, 2010


Image from “Illustrated Bloomington” by J. H. Hudson, 1917, page 75


About Jessica

I am the supervisor of the analysis of the archaeological collection recovered from the Old Main excavation.
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4 Responses to Snow and Palmer Dairy, Bloomington, ILL

  1. Fran Majors says:

    We have a Buhl milk can that is stamped “Snow & Palmer Co. Bloomington, IL. Do you know if it is of any value?

    • Jessica says:

      The artifacts featured here were excavated and not purchased. I cannot make any claims to offer accurate appraisals, but for my own knowledge I look at sold listings on ebay to ascertain what others have paid for the item.

  2. Jerry says:

    My father worked at Snow and Palmer Dairy, later Beatrice Foods from 1920 to 1947. I have many memories of the building on West Washington Street in Bloomington, IL. I can remember the horse drawn wagons that were used to deliver milk to residential customers. After World War II, they switched to using trucks for retail delivery

  3. Lauren says:

    We found a lid to an old copper Colgate and co bottle of some sort on a cape cod beach, just wondering what product it could have been.

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