M991X.5.501 | Nestle's milk food

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Nestle's milk food
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper - Wood engraving
7 x 5 cm
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  advertisement (407) , Print (10661) , Sign and symbol (2669)
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Keys to History

What was to be done about the dangers of raw milk? Experts and consumers alike were deeply concerned about this question at the turn of the 20th century. For some, the answer was simple: babies were not to be given cow's milk under any circumstances and breast-feeding was to be advocated instead. But what if breast-feeding was difficult or impossible? In the 1860s, Swiss chemist Henri Nestlé (1814-1890) developed a new milk food; around the same time an American, Gail Borden (1801-1874), created Eagle Brand condensed milk. These and similar products were soon available in Quebec, but they were very expensive. Many mothers had no choice but to buy cow's milk. The experts had plenty of advice for them, producing pamphlets entitled: "How to recognize bad milk" or "How to keep milk cold when you don't have an ice-box."

  • What

    Pictures of a stork or of a bird feeding its young were often used to decorate the labels of foods for children. The advertiser's message is clear: good mothers buy Nestlé's products for their babies.

  • Where

    To promote their products, manufacturers of milk foods for infants advertised in the big daily newspapers and in women's magazines.

  • When

    In the early years of the 20th century, Montreal companies also made baby formula. The Canadian Farm Products Co. Ltd. promoted Laurentia milk as "milk for the 20th century."

  • Who

    Illustrator John Henry Walker (1831-1899) reproduced the Nestlé trademark for an advertisement by the Montreal agent of the Swiss company.