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Otto’s Suburban Dairy, Photographs, 1928-1968 (bulk 1932-1955), MSP #473
Library & Archives, Senator John Heinz History Center

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What's online

All 86 photographs from this collection pertaining to Otto’s Suburban Dairy are available online.

What's in the entire collection

The collection, held by the Library & Archives at the Senator John Heinz History Center, is comprised of 86 images, dating from 1928 until 1968, and contain images of buildings, employees, machinery, products, and vehicles. Many of the photographs document machines and vehicles that the company was replacing with new models and technology.

About Otto’s Suburban Dairy

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. 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.

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