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Milk Bottle Collecting An Offshoot Of Dairy Career
Pete Birchard's extensive antique milk bottle collection represents a big part of his own history. The Meshoppin, Penn., man has 1,400 designer bottles plus a variety of other dairy antiques that represent almost all the dairies in Northeast Pennsylvania and many in southern New York.
  He started collecting while working in the dairy industry for 28 years. He retired in 1985.
  "We delivered milk directly from a farm-based dairy to a store. The milk was so creamy that customers could scoop off the cream for their coffee or to make butter and still enjoy a fresh glass of milk," Birchard says. "Many farmers made their living bottling their own milk in the same way, using glass bottles and delivering them to stores and homes."
  At that time, people paid a deposit on the heavy glass bottles and returned them to the store once they were emptied.
  Birchard finds bottles at yard sales, antique shops, and over the Internet. He doesn't sell any of the bottles he has accumulated, but will trade with other collectors who have something he wants.
  Birchard's oldest bottle is an 1889 model, originating from a Binghamton, N.Y. dairy. The glass is a deep purplish color and has no logo painted on it. He's also got some Lancaster area bottles that are uniquely shaped and have faces molded right into the glass.
  Besides the bottles, he has also collected many milk cans, signs, some of the first cottage cheese containers, antique milk crates and small coolers.
  Birchard is building a new garage that will have a special 12-ft. by 24-ft. bottle room at the back of it to display his collection. He says that the collection will likely continue to grow, so if he runs out of room again, he can always move the room partition further back into his garage.
  He occasionally displays a small portion of his bottles at various events and is diligent at keeping his entire collection shiny and dust-free.
  "I never tire of looking at them and it's a constant challenge to see if I can find even better bottles to add to the collection," Birchard says. "I remember being a boy and using old milk bottles as bb-gun targets. Who would have thought that I would one day fill an entire room with a piece of dairy industry history."
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Pete Birchard, Rd. #2, Box 1930, Meshoppin, Penn. 18630 (ph 570 833-0240).

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2001 - Volume #25, Issue #3