May 6, 2016

Did You Know?: Purdue University Creamery

Purdue Creamy Students crowded into the Purdue Creamery to buy ice cream cones for a nickel a scoop when this photo was made in 1949. ‚Äč (Photo provided by Purdue Agriculture Connections) Download image

From the mid-1910s until 1969, Purdue faculty, staff, students and visitors had the chance to stop by the Purdue University Creamery on campus where they could purchase fresh ice cream.

The creamery was housed in Smith Hall after a gift of $50,000 from William C. Smith, a farmer from Williamsport, Indiana, to fund a building dedicated to instructing students on the principles of modern dairying. Smith Hall was completed in 1913 and the creamery store was located on the ground floor toward the south end of the building. A driveway for the delivery of milk was located on the southeast corner of the property, what is now South University Street.

Smith Hall also housed classrooms, laboratories for research and teaching, office space and room for the production of dairy products. The main east-west hallway that housed the creamery store now houses classrooms and offices of the Department of Entomology.     

The Agricultural Experiment Station annual report in 1915 reported that the creamery produced 204,933 pounds of butter and nearly 25,000 pints of whipping cream. Throughout the 1930s, the creamery averaged more than $3,000 in annual profit and a $4,307 profit in 1931. During the 1932-33 school year, the creamery processed more than 121,000 pounds of butter, 20,000 pounds of cheese, 6,300 gallons of sweet cream, almost 28,000 gallons of buttermilk, 60,500 gallons of milk and more than 7,600 gallons of Purdue Creamery ice cream, according to the AES annual report.

Purdue Creamery interior Purdue University Creamery. (Photo provided by Purdue Agriculture Connections) Download image

In 1968, the price per scoop increased to a dime. Merle Cunningham, professor emeritus of animal sciences, said, "You never walked away hungry after having a double dip. You always got more than your money's worth."

During Edward C. Elliott's presidency at Purdue, he had the creamery's trademark copyrighted. 

In a 1940 report on food purchased and served for campus use, Elliott announced to Purdue trustees that all dairy products served on campus were manufactured at the Purdue Creamery and that no butter substitutes were served. It was board policy to give the students access to all the high-quality milk and butter they wanted.

The trustees hired an architectural firm in the early 1960s to develop plans for a new creamery to replace the antiquated facility used at the time. The building was to be finished by 1965, but was put on hold before planning was completed.

After an Indianapolis Star article released on Sept. 28, 1962, criticizing Purdue for competing with privately owned dairies, creamery sales dropped. The home delivery route sales, which were limited to the West Lafayette-Lafayette area, dropped and were eliminated. This limited the creamery distribution to the food service complexes and student dormitories on campus.

In April 1969, university treasurer Lytle J. Freehafer informed the public that the methods of dairy processing had drastically changed, causing the creamery to become outdated. Trustees believed dairy products could be purchased more reasonably on the competitive market, so production at the creamery was halted on June 30, 1969.

Although the Purdue creamery is no longer around, Purdue Creamery ice cream can be found at Pappy's Sweet Shop in Purdue Memorial Union. The ice cream is manufactured using the original formula at Glover's Ice Cream in Frankfort, Indiana.

Source: Purdue Agriculture Connections  

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