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Dunteman’s Dairy, and Milk Caps in Winter

DuntemansDairyMilkCap1.jpgWhen I was a pre-teen, we used to get milk delivered to the house every few days. I don’t recall fersure which dairy it was (Hawthorn Mellody Farms?) but the milk was in massive gallon returnable glass bottles with wire carry-handles, and a paper cap was machine-pressed over the lip to seal it. The caps themselves were circular sheets of blank white paper, but stapled to the center of each cap was a printed cardboard disk about an inch and a half in diameter, containing the name of the dairy. The cardboard disks are now collectibles, related in a vague way to the juice-bottle “pogs” that were stylish for half an hour or so in the mid-1990s.

Last week I got an email from someone asking if I knew anything about Dunteman’s Dairy. I did (a little) and when I went looking around for more info I found an eBay auction for one of their milk cap disks. The disk arrived yesterday, and you see it above. As I’ve explained here a time or two, my great-grandfather Frank W. Duntemann was the only boy of five in his family to keep the second “n” at the end of his name. Most Duntemans that you see these days are related to me, and all the Duntemanns, what few remain.

Dunteman’s Dairy was located at 420 E. Northwest Highway in Arlington Heights, Illinois. It was founded and run by Lenard Barney Dunteman (1906-1992) and his wife Grace Stippick Dunteman (1909-1978). As best I can tell, Lenard started the business in 1939, built a dairy plant from scratch, and ran it for almost twenty years. He bought raw milk from local dairy farmers (including some of his cousins) pasteurized and homogenized the milk, bottled it, and delivered it with his own trucks in Arlington Heights and adjacent Chicago suburbs. He was of my grandfather’s generation. Technically, Lenard and I would be third cousins, twice removed. His father Albert Dunteman was my great-grandfather Frank Duntemann’s younger brother, if that helps at all.

I don’t know a lot more than that, nor how broad their product line was. I know that they made and sold chocolate milk, but whether they sold butter or cream, I’m still trying to find out. Lenard had a mild heart attack in late 1958, and panicked. Fearing early death, he sold the equipment to another local dairy (I don’t know which one) to generate cash to support his wife, and retired. Ironically, Lenard lived to a genteel old age, but Grace died fourteen years before he did. The dairy building is still there and has been different things over the years. Parts of it have been razed, and what’s left has been given a new facade and is now a Shell station.

One final note about paper milk caps. In the worst of a bad Chicago winter, a bottle of milk left on an exposed front porch (like ours was) would begin to freeze after an hour or two on a particularly raw morning. I still find it odd that the bottles didn’t crack from the expanding milk, but something even odder did happen: A column of frozen milk would rise from the neck of the bottle, forcing the cap off. I remember seeing the cap a full two inches above the neck of the bottle on our porch once, circa 1959. This used to be a common sight (Stevan Dohanos did a Saturday Evening Post cover on it in 1944) but these days I doubt that more than a handful of my readers have ever had milk delivered to their homes. It’s just not done much anymore.

As for why the bottles didn’t crack, well, that still bothers me. I’m speculating that with whole milk, at least, the cream that collected at the top acted as a lubricant, allowing the ice to move freely upward, relieving pressure and keeping the bottle intact. If you’ve got a better theory, I’d love to hear it!

9 Comments

  1. I also remember getting milk deliveries, although IIRC they lasted well into the 60’s, and possibly into the 70’s in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Of course, we we also the center of a large Amish community, so my mother often bought eggs, vegetables, and other produce directly from the Amish, who used to drive their buggies around our neighborhood.

    I also remember the milk freezing and pushing up the lid. It didn’t break the bottle because less force was required to displace the lid than to break the bottle.

  2. Kevin Anetsberger says:

    Oberweis Dairy in Chicagoland still delivers milk in glass bottles. Today is delivery day for us and I just brought ours in from the back patio about 10 minutes ago. Tops are now plastic, but resemble the paper ones, although they seal tightly. Ours have never frozen, as the milk boxes are insulated, but if you leave a half full bottle on the counter for about 10 minutes the top will shoot about 2 feet into the air with an audible pop.

  3. Tom R. says:

    The R.L. Mathis dairy near Atlanta made home deliveries of milk well into the 1970’s. I will be 62 this year and I remember milk being delivered twice a week when we lived down town in the 1950’s. and in close in suburbia (still in the city limits) throughout the 1960’s. My parents moved to what was then far out suburbia in about 1973 while I was in Ohio in the Air Force. However, they still had milk delivered, but I think it was only once a week. I think the Mathis dairy is gone now, but it has not been more than a decade or so since I did see it being sold on stores! Oh, we had an insulated metal box with a hinged lid that the milk was put in. I think around here it was more to keep it cold in the summer than to prevent freezing in the winter!

  4. marlene febuary says:

    I have a Dunteman’s Dairy glass bottle that we found in my Grandfathers chicken coop. Didn’t know if you knew anyone that would be interested in the bottle (family member)

    1. Yes, absolutely. I’ll contact you direct via email. Thanks for taking the time to write!

  5. Dick Glade says:

    I worked for Dunteman’s from 1953 to 1959.I have a few things from the dairy but am still looking for more.They had 7 routes and carried
    a complete line of dairy products.
    Very nice people, Len and Grace.
    Dick Glade

    1. Do you remember the product line in any detail? Did they sell cream? Ice cream? It would be cool if you would brainstorm here for a minute and just jot down any Dunteman Dairy products that you can recall!

  6. Gary Leydig says:

    Jeff, I grew up in Arlington Heights. We are having an estate sale next week and one of the items is an old Dunteman’s Dairy gallon milk bottle in perfect shape that came out of our cellar. I was doing a search to see what it might be worth and came across your site. I’d just as soon sell it to someone who has a connection to it than a stranger. I still have no idea what it is worth, but if you would like to know more about it, please shoot me an email. -Gary

  7. Donald R Kiehl says:

    My name is Donald Kiehl. I was raised in Arlington Heights. My aunt was Grace Dunteman. Her maiden name was Stippick. Her brother Ralph was my grandfather who was one of the first postal carriers for Arlington Heights.
    Leonard Dunteman upon selling the Bottling plant, bought a 103 acre farm in Lyons Wisc. Which my father was set up as a manager. My dad also was name Donald Kiehl worked in the bottling plant as well as delivered milk.

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