What Are Antique Milk Cans?

Antique milk cans are metal cans with lids. They were used to transport and store fresh milk before the advent of large storage tanks and tanker trucks.

Milk cans were used to store and transport milk, beginning in Europe in the 1860s. Antique milk cans range in size from 5 to 10 gallons and are usually made of tin. A huge drawback to the use of milk cans was their lack of insulation, which meant the milk was not easy to keep cool. They were also not easy to wash. In 1884, people began to store milk in individual glass bottles, making the milk easier to keep cool. Since the bottles were easier to sanitize, they were safer to use than the metal cans. Pooling milk into large tanks for storage and shipment began in California in 1938 and on the east coast in 1948.

Today antique milk cans are used for crafts and for interior and exterior home decor as stand-alone decorative elements, umbrella stands, large vases and planters and even lamps. Antique milk cans are sold anywhere from antiques stores to eBay, and range in price depending on their rarity, age, condition, design and whether or not they come with their original lids.