September 28, 2022

Blue Valley Creamery Company was a company that operated many creameries and milk plants across the United States.

Before 1900, limitations in transportation and storage limited the geographic scope of creameries. To that time, creameries were primarily local, gathering cream from nearby dairy farms and distributed the produce locally. Also, cream separation was inefficient, primarily relying on gravity or centrifugal force. Advances in the railroad network and cold storage and practical implementation of a hand cream separator permitted creameries to serve larger areas and achieve economies of scale. These large de-localized creameries were referred to as “centralizers” – especially by those who suspected them of anti-competitive practice.

Blue Valley Creamery Company was founded by Huston Wyeth (1863-1925) and James A. Walker around 1900. Huston Wyeth’s father, William Maxwell Wyeth, had built a hardware, saddlery and real estate empire in St. Joseph, Missouri. Wyeth took over the business and branched into other endeavors, including formation of the Artesian Ice & Cold Storage Company in 1892. James Walker had been involved in the dairy business since 1888. Their respective experiences with cold storage and transportation on Wyeth’s part and dairy on Walker’s part likely contributed to the formation and success of the venture.

The Blue Valley Creamery Company was incorporated in Missouri on May 1, 1900. Business was to be conducted in St. Joseph. Initial stock holders are listed as G. M. Johnson, James A. Walker and H.S. Hamilton. The listed business purposes are “to manufacture, buy and sell, both at wholesale and retail all kinds of creamery and dairy products, especially milk, butter, cheese and ice creams, and any and all such other articles and products as are usually bought, manufactured and sold by parties or companies engaged in a general dairy and creamery business and to purchase, hold, manage, mortgage and convey, or otherwise acquire, control and dispose of, all such real and personal estate materials, machinery, appliances and fixtures, as may be necessary to effectually conduct and perform the business and purposes for which this company is incorporated.” Capital stock was increased in 1901, 1905, and 1915 based on meetings held in St. Joseph with James A. Walker as secretary and, for the first two meetings, Huston Wyeth as chair and, for the last, L.C. Hamilton as chair. The 1915 statement lists shareholders, residence and share count as: Huston Wyeth, St. Joseph, Mo., 1672; L C Hamilton, St. Joseph, Mo., 1628; C J Walker, Chicago, Ills., 1100; and J A Walker, Chicago, Ills., 1100. On 13 May 1918, Blue Valley Creamery Company, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Missouri “transferred all of its property and assets to the Blue Valley Creamery Company, a corporation organized under the laws of the State of Delaware” and dissolved.

Blue Valley was one of the larger centralizers from its inception, alleged by one source to be the largest in 1904. In 1917, Blue Valley hired noted dairy educator Otto Frederick Hunziker to establish a laboratory and manage manufacturing operations. According to the FTC, in 1918, Blue Valley Creamery Company was the fourth largest U.S. butter marketing company, producing 26,484,000 pounds, 3.2% of the total market. (Swift, Beatrice and Armour were larger.) Total sales for the year 1920 were $22,963,038.66.

Blue Valley Creamery was acquired by Beatrice Creamery Company in 1939. This consolidation of the two Chicago-based centralizers raised regulatory eyebrows, but was not expressly challenged.

Blue Valley Creamery Company headquarters were in Chicago at 1137 West Jackson Boulevard. Some sources indicate South Jackson; 1920 and 1921 sources indicate an address of 700 South Clinton Street. A Blue Valley Creamery Institute was found at the same address. This building appears to have been later used by Archibald Candy Corp., maker of Fannie May and Fanny Farmer candies. Blue Valley creameries and other offices were found from the east coast to the great plains, including:

Cream buyers were located in various locations.

The federal “Blue Valley” trademark (registration #1086552) for use in dairy products, namely milk, low fat milk, and butter, was filed 1977-06-30 by Beatrice Foods Company and is expired. Similarly, the “Blue Valley” trademark (registration #1088264) for use in dairy products, namely ice cream, was filed 1977-09-12 by Beatrice Foods and is expired. According to both registrations, the trademarks’ first commercial use was in 1907. A trademark registration on file with the Ohio Secretary of State indicates the “Date[] when the trade-mark was first used anywhere” was “September 1894”. References suggest that Blue Valley also transferred a “Valley Farm” trademark to Beatrice in 1939.

Patents, as assignee

Various Blue Valley products are found in antique markets. Examples include

In FTC Complaint No. 1064, 1925: “The respondent is engaged in the manufacture of butter and obtains its cream or butterfat from farmers by the direct-shipment plan, Involving the use of cans or containers which are the sole property of the farmer and which are accepted for shipment by the transportation companies without record of shipment other than the shipping instructions attached to each can. Unfair methods of competition are charged In that the respondent adopted a plan of substituting for all other tags or shipping instructions found on the cans, Including those Intended to insure the safe return of the can to the owner, its undetachable tags or plates bearing the permanent shipping instructions, ‘When full ship to Blue Valley Creamery Co.,’ thereby making it difficult for farmers to ship cream to competitors and bringing about the receipt by the respondent of cream intended for its competitors, In alleged violation of section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission act. Disposition: A stipulation having been entered Into in lieu of testimony, the commission entered the following order: It is now ordered that respondent, Blue Valley Creamery Co., Its officers, directors, agents, representatives, and employees, cease and desist from attaching to shipping cans or containers not belonging to respondent any plates or tags bearing shipping instructions such as ‘When full ship to the Blue Valley Creamery Co.,’ or their equivalent, without the consent of the owner of such cans.”

Blue Valley was a corporate supporter of the American Dairy Science Association, National Dairy Council and the American Society of Animal Production. In 1911-1913, Blue Valley funded scholarships given to student dairy breeders at the National Dairy Show. Otto Frederick Hunziker, head of Blue Valley’s research laboratory, was a charter member and third president of ADSA. Edward K. Slater was a Blue Valley public relations manager in Chicago who helped found the National Dairy Council. H. C. Darger (Chicago), L. S. Holler (Chicago), W. A. Cordes (Chicago) were also Blue Valley employees and early members of ADSA.

Stanley H. Abbott (1892-) was a cream buyer for Blue Valley in 1920-22, either for the Louisville plant or based in Louisville. Then he was a buyer at St. Joseph in 1922. In 1923-1939 he managed the Blue Valley’s Hastings plant and from 1929-1939 also managed Topaz Dairy. Before Blue Valley, he was assistant dairy commissioner of ND, 1917-18 and, in 1917-18, assistant market specialist in dairy products at the USDA, in DC & Chicago

Aaron John Ihde (1909-2000), staff chemist, research and development, Blue Valley Creamery, Chicago, 1931-1938. Later professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and author.