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Pan-American Exposition of 1901

Report of the Dairy Exhibit.1

By George A. Smith Frankfort, N. Y., Superintendent.

An exhibit of the agricultural products of New York State would not be complete which did not include the products of the dairy, as that is the source the principal revenue of a large class of farmers, and the way in which the business is conducted determines to quite an extent the financial prosperity of the agriculture of the State. In the year 1900 the amount of butter produced in the creameries of the State of New York was 39,183,311 pounds, and in the cheese factories 126,658,672 pounds of cheese.

Thumbnail: The Dairy Building

Dairy Building. Photo credit: n/a. Source: The Latest and Best Views of the Pan-American Exposition. Buffalo, N.Y.: Robert Allan Reid, 1901. Courtesy of the University Archives--University at Buffalo.

In the early history of commercial dairying New York had a high reputation for the quality of its product, but in later years this reputation was not maintained. Before the Canadian government turned their attention to making cheese for export the large portion of the cheese made in the State of New York was sent abroad. It was not an uncommon occurrence to see 100,000 boxes of cheese received in New York each week during the heavy flow of milk in summer months, and of this number from 80,000 to 90,000 were exported. But like many other branches of the business, having our market secured and reputation made, many of our ambitious dairymen thought they could send over inferior goods and no one would be the wiser. When Canada found that she could make dairy products as successfully as could be done on this side of the St. Lawrence river, instead of beginning with the skimmer and the use of foreign fats to take the place of butter fat, she sent representatives to England to find what kind of cheese pleased them best, and then the question came up, how to secure them. They went quietly to work and with the assistance of Prof. Arnold and J. B. Harris of our own State, together with the information gained abroad, they soon placed a product upon the English markets that pleased them. It was not superior to our best make, but of a much more uniform quality. The result was soon felt by New York State dairymen, and the export trade of New York was reduced to small proportions, while that of Montreal grew correspondingly large.

In 1888, under the wise management of the late Hon. J. K. Brown, who was then Dairy Commissioner of this State, a system of dairy instruction was started, not only through his department but through the assistance of the New York State Dairy Association and the Farmers' Institutes. The results of scientific investigation were spread broadcast through the dairy sections of our State, doing everything possible to induce the dairymen to change their methods, give the business that meant so much to them better attention and stop the fraudulent practice of selling a cheese with half the fat removed, and put on the market a cheese with all the fat retained.

This was a slow process of securing the desired result. It was hard to convince many farmers that present profit was not the only thing to be considered, and those who saw what was soon to follow found it necessary to seek legislation along this line and demand that such ruinous practices should cease. This was accomplished by the use of the full cream cheese brand on full cream cheese only, and making it a misdemeanor to use it on those when any part of the fat had been removed.

Thumbnail: The Dairy Exhibit

Dairy Exhibit. Photo Credit: n/a. Source: Report of the Board of General Managers of the Exhibit of the State of New York at the Pan-American Exposition - transmitted to the Legislature March 27, 1902 / Albany, N. Y.: J. B. Lyon Company, State Printers, 1902.

Slowly but surely we have gained ground by working along the lines of a more scientific system until a much smaller quantity of skim cheese is being made. Lately we have been turning our attention to a quality of cheese better suited for home consumption. The increased demand for the latter kind is giving us good markets at home for nearly all the surplus milk not required for supplying our great cities and towns with milk for domestic purposes. The export trade is now almost wholly confined to the northern counties shipping via Montreal, a shorter, cheaper and cooler route than via New York.

The lesson taught us at the Columbian Exposition when we came in contact with the finest Canadian product was valuable to our dairymen. Since that time we have made rapid strides in the quality of our dairy products, but no more so than other dairy States. The recent contest at Buffalo shows a marked improvement in New York State goods. At the same time the margin, as compared with other States, when attention has been turned to this important industry, is small. Great credit is due the inventors of dairy apparatus, and the supply houses who have not only turned out such perfect working machinery but have done much in distributing the latest and best information along the lines of dairy husbandry. We have a right to feel proud of our record at Buffalo, but we cannot afford to rest on present knowledge, as Canada did at the end of their sweeping victory at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. We shall no doubt be called upon again soon to compete with the world, and we will not be prepared if we spend our time patting each other on the back over the Buffalo victory.

We are only in our infancy in the dairy business. What there is for us to learn will make what we already know look insignificant to the dairyman of twenty-five years hence. Instruction in the improvement of dairy products is a slow process. Time has made fixed habits which are hard to remove and replace with new and better methods. Unlike other mammoth business enterprises, where the very latest and best methods are employed for perfection in goods and economy in manufacture, the dairymen seem to be hard to convince that the causes which produce effects are not worth their time to study. They seem to think that scientific research is intended for college professors to teach to boys, and the results not to be employed in agriculture. Be that as it may, the young men who are attending the various dairy schools of our country are going out among the people who are most interested and are successfully crowding out the old and imperfect methods of the past, and introducing the latest and best methods known to the dairy world. As the fine creamery butter was being scored at Buffalo, last summer, the question was asked of Mr. A. H. Barber of Chicago, "To what do you attribute the main cause of the great improvement in dairy products, both in quality and uniformity, since the contest in Chicago in 1893?" His answer was, "Dairy schools." He explained that it was not confined directly to the students who attended the schools, but the lessons taught them had permeated the whole country and good results had followed.

Fortunately the products from New York exhibited at Buffalo came from the various counties, and were so well distributed throughout the dairy sections that it shows a very uniform condition existing throughout the great Empire State.

I herewith attach the scorings for the different months in which a contest took place, when we competed with every dairy State in the Union and with Canada. Our exhibits were so large as compared with many other States that it put us at a disadvantage in averages. In most cases the butter or cheese was taken from the stock on hand, and no special pains had been taken to make a fancy package for exhibition. The exhibitors were nearly all young men who had been studying modern methods and putting them in practice. The results demonstrate the value of knowledge in dairy lines and the wisdom of those who were instrumental in securing the system of instruction which was first started in 1888.

It all goes to show an encouraging future for dairying in the Empire State if we will only continue to study these questions and keep abreast with the best modern research.

The Pan-American Exposition was the first opportunity since 1893 to make a showing in competition with other sections of the country and in that way demonstrate by comparative scoring whether we had made an improvement commensurate with the expense the State had incurred in the effort to secure a higher quality of butter and cheese. The record of the exhibit which follows answers this question in a very satisfactory manner and shows the wisdom of those who were instrumental in inaugurating this work. It shows that there were awarded at that exhibit seven gold medals, five silver medals, eight bronze medals and two hundred and fifty diplomas.


1. Unless otherwise noted, text and images have been reproduced in full from Report of the Board of General Managers of the Exhibit of the State of New York at the Pan-American Exposition - transmitted to the Legislature March 27, 1902, (Albany, N. Y.: J. B. Lyon Company, State Printers, 1902) pp.143-145.

2. This image of the Dairy Building did not appear in the Report of the Board of General Managers. It can be found in The Latest and Best Views of the Pan-American Exposition. Buffalo, N.Y.: Robert Allan Reid, 1901.