President Eisenhower at the Vermont Dairy Festival

The summer of 1955 was an especially busy time for Vermonters engaged in dairy farming. June was declared Dairy Month and a series of public events, including a parade, square dance displays, and dairy exhibits, culminated in President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s visit to the first statewide Dairy Festival in Rutland. His time at the festival was enthusiastically documented, as these photos from the Elmer Towne Papers demonstrate. Towne was Vermont’s Commissioner of Agriculture from 1954 to 1963.

President Eisenhower enjoyed milk, right from the tiny carton. A decorative cow figurine graced the table. Photo credit: Vermont Development Commission, Montpelier, Vermont

President Eisenhower smiled at Ayrshire cow UVM Hans Jean after she was declared “Queen of the Vermont Green Pastures” in a public vote. Her prize was being presented with a garland of carnations by the president. The nine year-old cow weighed 1500 pounds and delivered over 40 quarts of milk daily in 1955. Photo Credit: Vermont Development Commission, Montpelier, Vermont

This photo was used on the cover of the October 1955 issue of the UVM Bulletin, with the following description.

President Eisenhower took time from his busy schedule when he was in Vermont recently to place a wreath of flowers across the shoulders of UVM Hans Jean, the University’s Ayrshire champion, which had just been crowned “Queen of the Vermont Green Pastures.”

The President, an honorary Laird of the County of Ayr in Scotland, home of the Ayrshire breed, showed keen interest in Jean. Talking with Robert Fitzsimmons, class of ’47, in the foreground, the President noted that he was amazed at both the animal’s size and productiveness. Bob, who is Assistant Professor of Dairy Husbandry at UVM’s College of Agriculture, told President Eisenhower that Jean weighs in at 1500 pounds and this year has delivered over 40 quarts of milk daily. The nine-year old grand champion of the Rutland and Champlain Valley Fairs has two daughters – both promising.

President Eisenhower became the official owner of a registered Brown Swiss Heifer, a gift of Allen Alfred, dairy farmer from South Burlington. Alfred’s daughter Betsy, wearing a Swiss-style costume, leads the cow. Derrick Webb of Shelburne also helps with the presentation. According to the Rutland Daily Herald (June 23, 1955) the cow was sent to Eisenhower’s working farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Eisenhower was also presented with Vermont delicacies and a new fishing rod. Photo credit: Alice Hobart, Rutland, Vt.

Elmer Towne (wearing VT sign) challenged fellow commissioners from neighboring states to a milking contest. When reporters asked him how long it had been since he last milked a cow by hand, he answered “twenty-four hours.” In contrast, Maine’s commissioner, Fred Notter answered ten years! Judged on a combination of the weight of milk collected in 2 minutes and 30 seconds, technique, and costume, Towne was declared the winner. Rhode Island’s commissioner, John Rego, beat Towne by one ounce, giving all the credit for this success to the cow, but he was marked down by the judges for wearing “Sunday clothes” (Rutland Daily Herald, June 23, 1955, page 13). Photo credit: Department of Agriculture, Montpelier, Vermont

This float from the New England Milk Producers Association (NEMPA) proudly declares Vermont milk to be “the true fountain of youth.” Ponce de Leon even made an appearance to prove it.President Eisenhower addressed the crowd from a very patriotic grandstand at the Rutland Fairgrounds. Commissioner Towne can be seen just to the left of the podium.

President Eisenhower greeted photographers before stepping down from his convertible, while a huge crowd angles for a glimpse.

Vermont kids demonstrated their square dancing skills. Note the news cameras poised above, documenting the action.

For more information about Vermont agriculture and to see Elmer Towne’s papers, contact Special Collections.

Contributed by Erin Doyle, Manuscripts and University Archives Assistant


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