During World War II, specially designed milk bottles helped to support the war effort. The war slogan messaging on the bottles encouraged the average person to buy war bonds and stamps. Milk bottle collector Roger Thomas, from Cortland, New York, has about 40 to 50 such milk bottles.
“The milk bottle was something that somebody looked at every day, and so it was like a billboard that went out every day to 11 million people saying, please help,” said Roger, whose dad was a veteran of World War II, having served the United States Air Force.
Americans answered the call for help. The Allies won the war. “A lot of people don’t even remember that time period and that there was so much going in to support the war effort and our military. Everybody had to do their part,” Roger said. Now Roger is doing his part through his milk bottle collection. He’s fighting to keep war slogan milk bottles from fading away and preventing war veterans from being forgotten. The challenge with the milk bottles is that they were only produced during a five-year period, between 1941 and 1945, and limited amounts remain.
There’s quite a variety of war slogan milk bottles, says Roger, with pictures of the battle tanks and the battle ships to the victory gardens. “‘Sow the seeds of victory’ or ‘Food Fights Too’ war slogan milk bottles encouraged house wives to grow as much of their own produce for their own use in the garden,” he explained.
Roger’s passion for preserving these pieces of history started by happenstance while growing up on his family dairy farm in Baldwinsville, New York. In between his job of caring for the 60 or so cows on pasture as a young boy, Roger liked to dig in a nearby dump pile. That’s where the 12-year-old uncovered some of his first milk bottles.
One of Roger’s prized possessions is his grandfather’s milk bottle used in 1928. He keeps it in his “Bottle Room” with the rest of his collection. “Barnes Dairy in Baldwinsville, which happened to be the dairy that we took our cans of milk to in the late 50s and early 60s, had a war slogan milk bottle with the fighter planes on it. Once I saw one of those, I thought, ‘Boy, I’d really like to find one of those bottles.’ And eventually I did,” said Roger.
For Roger, his milk bottle collection is a way of paying tribute to war veterans and honoring all who served. “Farmers always stood behind the soldiers,” said Roger, “We appreciate their service.”
As we celebrate another Veterans Day, to our veterans we say, “Thank you for your service!”