Summary Information
Title: Otto’s Suburban Dairy Records,
Collection Number: MSS#473
Creator: Otto’s Suburban Dairy
Collection Dates: 1926-1978
Extent: 1.25 linear feet (3 boxes)
Otto’s Suburban Dairy was founded in 1926 in Emsworth, Pa., by Richard Otto and served the northern boroughs and the greater Pittsburgh area for fifty years. The Otto’s Suburban Dairy Records includes publications pertaining to the dairy industry as well as a small selection of advertisements, promotional material, order forms, and pricelists from Otto's Suburban Dairy.


The material in this collection is in English.


Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania
Senator John Heinz History Center
1212 Smallman Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Date Published:

April 2010

The guide to this collection was written by Sarah Zimmerman.

Encoded by Matt Strauss on April 28, 2010, from an existing finding aid.


Otto’s Suburban Dairy was founded in 1926 by Richard (Dick) A. Otto and his four sons: Frank, Walter, Richard, and Luther. When Richard was eleven years old, he and his father, Benjamin, created the Harmony Creamery Company in Pittsburgh which continued to function as an independent company for many years. When he was 17, Richard opened the Economy Creamery in McKees Rocks, Pa. On February 22, 1924, Benjamin F. Otto died, leaving R.O. at the head of the family business.

In 1926, R.O. and his sons started Otto’s Suburban Dairy as a small milk distribution business on Camp Horne Road in Emsworth, PA, to serve the northern boroughs of Pittsburgh. On the first day of operation, 35 gallons of milk were handled. By the fall of 1932, the plant was processing 2,200 gallons daily and serving 7,000 homes. An ice cream department was opened in May 1931, which made use of the cream split from the whole milk used to make butter cream. On opening day, all 125 gallons of ice cream sold out.

Frank Otto graduated from the Dairy Husbandry Department at Penn State College and took over as the president of Otto Suburban Dairy in 1932. During his tenure, a retail and lunch department operated and approximately 600 gallons of buttermilk were sold per year. Otto’s Suburban Dairy allowed their customers to open monthly charge accounts and their driver salesmen received ten percent commissions and a one dollar bonus for bringing in new customers.

Even during the Great Depression, the company experienced growth. The Dairy Produce wrote in 1932, “High quality supported by excellent service and buttermilk effectively merchandized as a trade builder have established the Otto Suburban Dairy securely in the environs of Pittsburgh and in some sections of the city itself.” A country plant was later opened in Adamsville to gather the milk and transport it to the main plant for processing. Another plant was also opened in Zelienople.

Many Pittsburghers recognize the Otto name, not only from having had Otto’s delivered to their homes until the 1970s, but also from the Otto Milk building in Pittsburgh's Strip District neighborhood (Otto Milk was another dairy company run by the members of the Otto family). Otto’s Suburban Dairy was eventually purchased by the SealTest Label in the mid-1970s.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Otto’s Suburban Dairy Records are housed in three boxes and arranged in three series: Publications, Related Companies, and Topical. The collection includes publications pertaining to the dairy industry as well as a small selection of advertisements, promotional material, order forms, and pricelists from Otto's Suburban Dairy.

Series I: Publications, 1929-1978

This series contains a range of local and national publications concerning various aspects of the dairy industry. Issues of Dairyman's Price Reporter reveal efforts to align dairy prices in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio during the 1960s. Another locally published trade magazine, Milk Inc. Reporter , chronicles regional and national dairy industry news. Other topics covered in this series include the advantages of using paper containers ( Milk Trends ) and marketing strategies ( Milk Marketer ).

Some of the publications offer more technical information, such as Food Engineering's "Processing Milk and Milk Products" and the Pennsylvania State University College of Agriculture's "Specifications and Costs for Processing Operations in Small Market Milk Plants." Regulations established by the state of Pennsylvania regarding dairy production can be found in the Advisory Health Board of Pennsylvania folder.

Several items are aimed at children, including a comic book about milk production published by the SealRight Company and the Animals that Give People Milk and About Moo and Me booklets. This series also contains some material not directly related to the dairy industry. The National Sales Development Institute contains three small booklets about general sales techniques.

Series II: Related Companies, 1939-1943

This series contains a small amount of material from two other dairy companies with ties to the Otto family: Harmony Dairy and Otto Milk. These folders house a pricelist from Harmony Dairy, advertisements from Otto Milk, and a letter from Otto Milk addressed to the Retail Food Market Operators of Metropolitan Pittsburgh.

Series III: Topical, 1926-1968

Some of the material in this series, including advertisements and promotional brochures, reveal the public face of Otto's Suburban Dairy. Other items, such as the stationary, route selling manual, cream separator instructions, customer order forms, and pricelists, offer a glimpse into the day-to-day business activities of the dairy.

The "Local Dairy News" and “News Articles” folders include articles relating to Otto’s Suburban Dairy and the dairy industry. The articles come from newsletters like Kiski Minutes , the Pittsburgh Press , and trade publications like Dairy Produce .

The "Promotional Products” folders consist of various items featuring the Otto’s Suburban Dairy logo, including stickers, paper bags, fact booklets, a calendar, coupons, and a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball schedule.

The “Wartime Rationing” folder features several advertisements that warn and instruct the public what will be expected of them and what to expect during rationing, specifically dealing with milk rationing.

Controlled Access Terms
Corporate Names
  • Otto's Suburban Dairy (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Otto Milk (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Harmony Dairy (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
  • Dairy industry and trade--Pennsylvania--Pittsburgh.
  • Dairy industry and trade--public relations.
Access and Use
Access Restrictions:

No Restrictions.

Aquisition Information:

Gift of Reed Otto, former owner of Otto's Suburban Dairy, in 2003 and 2009.

Acc. 2003.0277 and Acc. 2009.0178

Preferred Citation:

Otto’s Suburban Dairy Records, 1928-1968, MSS#473, Library and Archives Division, Senator John Heinz History Center

Processing Information:

This collection was processed by Sarah Zimmerman in February 13, 2008. Finding aid revised by Matt Strauss in March, 2010.


Property rights reside with the Senator John Heinz History Center. Literary rights are retained by the creators of the records and their heirs. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the Library and Archives of the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Separated Material:
Otto’s Suburban Dairy Records, MSP#473

Otto’s Suburban Dairy Oversize Records, MSO#473.

Otto’s Suburban Dairy Oversize Photographs, MSR#473.

An assortment of milk bottles 51 milk bottles and an assortment of items related to Otto's Suburban Dairy have been transferred to the museum collection.

Contents List
Series I Publications, 1929-1978

Box 1
Folder 1 About Moo and Me: Why Milk is Man’s Best Food Friend undated
Folder 2 Advisory Health Board of Pennsylvania regulations 1935-1945
Folder 3 American Dairy Review 1980
Folder 4 American Industrial Instrument Manual - Dairy Processes 1929
Folder 5 Animals that Give People Milk 1958
Folder 6 Changing Times 1970,1974
Folder 7 Dairy Supply and Equipment Company 1950
Folder 7 Dairy Supply and Equipment Company 1950
Folder 8 Dairymen’s Price Reporter (1) 1965-1966
Folder 9 Dairymen’s Price Reporter (2) 1966-1970
Folder 10 Dairymen’s Price Reporter (3) 1966-1970
Folder 11 Dairy Trends 1945
Folder 12 Elsie the Borden Cow growth chart 1945
Folder 13 Engineering News Record 1945
Folder 14 Food Engineering 1953
Folder 15 Greater Pittsburgh Dairy Industry Association 1950-1974
Folder 16 Milk…Let's Find Out About It - The Laboratory School, University of Chicago undated
Folder 17 Milk Facts 1955-1963

Box 2
Folder 17 Milk Inc. Reporter 1967, 1970
Folder 2 Milk Marketer 1974-1978
Folder 3 National Dairy Council, Chicago 1957
Folder 4 National Sales Development Institute 1958
Folder 5 Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture Bureau of Foods and Chemistry, Division of Milk Sanitation 1959-1960
Folder 6 Pennsylvania State University, College of Agriculture 1957
Folder 7 Pittsburgh District Dairy Council 1958
Folder 8 Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph 1941
Folder 9 Pure-Pak News Pictorial 1958
Folder 10 Sealright Company, Incorporated 1956
Folder 11 SealTest Dairy Products 1958
Folder 12 Standard Milk Machinery Company 1936
Folder 13 Questions and Answers on Vitamin and Mineral Fortified Milk undated
Series II Publications, 1929-1978
Folder 14 Harmony Dairy undated
Folder 15 Otto Milk Company 1939-1943
Folder 16 Advertisements 1936-1968
Folder 17 Cream Separator, Owner’s manual operating instructions undated
Folder 18 Forms and Charts 1926-1937
Folder 19 Letters 1957-1958
Folder 20 Local Dairy News 1936-1943
Folder 21 News Articles 1932-1947
Folder 22 Paper Hats undated
Folder 23 Pittsburgh Press “Home Inventory” 1941
Folder 24 Price Lists – Wholesale and Retail 1932-1946
Promotional Products
Folder 25 Bags and Pocket Protector undated
Folder 26 Pamphlets, Flyers, Coupons undated
Folder 27 Stationery and Cards undated

Box 3
Folder 1 Tags and Signs undated
Folder 2 Wartime Rationing 1942-1943
Volume 1 Illustrated Route Selling guide undated