The small town of Waterloo, Illinois is known primarily as a bed room community to the St. Louis metropolitan area. The simple proximity to the large city allowed many residents to commute daily to their jobs for years. However at one time Waterloo was known for their primary employers which were a couple of milling companies and the cities largest employer, The Waterloo Milk Company, which got its start in 1895 as the Fountain Creamery.
The Fountain Creamery was started by local Waterloo residents Conrad Kolmer and Oscar Schulz. Members of the original Board of Directors included Louis Kolmer, Emil Kolmer, Balzer Schmidt, Peter Maurer, George Pottoff, Louis Nobbe, Herman Stickann, Fred Nobbe, and Charles Hoelscher.
Over the years the company was known as the Fountain Creamery, The M&O Milk Company starting in 1908, The Waterloo Condensed Milk Co until 1925 at which time it officially changed the name to The Waterloo Milk Company. During the companies nearly 75 year run they produced many products including whole milk, chocolate milk, grape drinks, orange juice, cottage cheese, butter and of course many different ice cream flavors.
Other Advertising Items:
Collectors today can find many variations of advertising containers which evolved in designs over the years. In addition the company produced quite a bit of advertising items including cardboard signs, metal flange signs, ice picks, flour scoops, spoons, pens and pencils, thermometers, hand fans, baby diaries, etc. Of course over the years the dairy bottles they sold their milk in changed designs quite often, resulting in many round and later square bottles in multitudes of styles and sizes. My favorite bottles from the company are the pyro ACL painted quart and half-gallon size bottles which all feature an image of the old dairy building on the frontside and different scenes on the backside. The majority of those painted bottles are painted in an orange color but the company also made many varieties with a green and red paint also.
Featured with this blog is an early celluloid style Wateloo Milk Company celluloid button sign which is ten inches round and has the famous yellow/red color scheme the company started using in the mid 1930’s. This celluloid sign would have been placed in an early ice cream parlor or soda fountain to advertise the companies ice cream product. Over the years the celluloid signs often broke due to temperature extremes making a surviving example a rarity almost 80 years later. In fact this is the only example I have seen from the company in 35 years of local collecting.
Over time the company started to get a lot of competition from larger dairies due to advances in refrigeration. Larger dairies from St. Louis were now able to deliver their products in refrigerated trucks. Due to simple volume the larger dairies would price their products under the small dairy to steal business. With time, this advantage caused the smaller dairies to close due to the competition.
The end of the Waterloo Milk Company came in January1969 when the company closed and approximately 30 remaining employees lost their jobs. Many of these employees had worked at the plant for years, and some were even second and third generation employees. The closing of the dairy was tough on the local economy but fortunately due to advanced transportation many of those employees simply became employed by other companies in the St. Louis area.
The factory building remained standing for many years before the majority of the buildings were finally torn down around 2005. The last remaining building from the complex was their last office building, which was not an original building and hence, was in better condition and could be easily fitted for another business. Today the only remnants for many local Waterloo families are the stories told by their family members who used to work there, some factory photographs, various forms of advertising pieces, and for those lucky enough to remember, the taste of the companies delicious ice cream remaining a pleasant memory!