Title: United States Naval Academy Dairy Farm Milk Carton
Accession #: NHHC 1998-59-A
Size: 3.75 x 3.75 x 9.75
Location: Headquarters Artifact Collection, Naval History and Heritage Command
One US Naval Academy milk carton from the Academy dairy farm in Gambrels, MD. The tapered, rectangular, dark blue and white paperboard carton has a gold fouled anchor on front and back with gold lettering below that reads “BEAT ARMY”. The side panels bear the lettering “United States Naval Academy Midshipmen’s Wardroom” above the Naval Academy seal and “Pasteurized, Homogenized, 2% Milk” below.
Prior to creating their own dairy farm, the US Naval Academy obtained their milk from public sources. An unknown illness spread among Academy Midshipmen in 1902 followed by a typhoid fever outbreak in 1910, both attributed to the supply of milk. These events were the catalyst for the Naval Academy to purchase and operate its own dairy farm for nearly 90 years. In 1911 the Academy started the farm with a $40,000 loan from the Midshipmen Store. By the time the Academy stopped operating the farm in Gambrels, MD in 1998 it had nearly 300 cows and a civilian staff of 15. The farm produced upwards of 1,200 gallons of milk daily for the Midshipmen’s mess, packaged in the distinctive blue container.
Originally milk would have been brought to the mess in glass milk bottles. The advent of the paperboard milk container in the late 1930s led to the decline in the use of glass containers by the 1970s. The milk cartons, decorated with anchors and the Naval Academy insignia, were stamped with the date the milk came from the cow, usually two days before it wound up on the midshipmen’s tables. Midshipmen in the 1990s recalled collecting the milk cartons for their parents during “Parents Weekend” when family would visit the Academy.
Whether or not the USNA should be operating a dairy farm became an issue in Congress in 1967. An attempt to close the dairy was rebuffed by the House Armed Services Committee, which wrote into the Military Authorization Act of 1968 an order for the Academy to keep milking. By the late 1990s however, it was no longer economically sensible for the Academy to continue to operate the dairy and the farm was closed. The land was leased to Anne Arundel County who in turn subleased it to a private farm. The Naval Academy now purchases off-the-shelf commercially available milk for the Midshipmen’s Mess.