The splendour and misery of urban life

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Frightful Apparition !
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
about 1870, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
12.4 x 13.2 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cartoon (19139) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

Skimming or watering down milk changes its taste and appearance. In addition, over time milk starts to turn: to smell and taste off. Unscrupulous dealers or milkmen found ways to camouflage the imperfections of diluted or sour milk by adding chalk to whiten it and other things to disguise the unpleasant taste and smell.

Canadian milk dealers were not doing anything new. They were part of a long tradition of doctoring food. To make milk look pure, they used tricks that were well-known in Great Britain and in Europe. Besides chalk, starch, sheep's brain, vegetable dyes and chemicals (boric acid, formalin) were added to milk in Montreal in the late 19th century.

  • What

    This caricature denounces the fraudulent practices of milkwomen; one of them is portrayed carrying a sack of chalk. The artist was clearly pleased by the creation of the Montreal Milk Company, which competed with traditional milkmen and women.

  • Where

    This humorous print is the work of engraver John Henry Walker. It was published in the June 11, 1869, issue of Diogenes magazine.

  • When

    The Montreal Milk Company was established around 1869. Like milkmen and women, the company sold raw milk; it promised, however, to sell only milk of the best quality.

  • Who

    Although the Montreal Milk Company was well known at the time, few written records of it remain. We know that the company had its premises on St. Antoine Street, in Montreal, between 1876 and 1880.