Friday, April 15, 2011

Pass the Milk Please

Growing up as a child in the 1950's through 1970's, it wasn't uncommon in our home to find food items on the dinner table in their original containers. Whether it was jelly in the jar it was canned in or the peanut butter in the grocery store can... it would simply be set on the table. For the Victorians, this type of behavior would not have been tolerated.

One of the food items that was not uncommon on the dinner table during Victorian times was consdensed milk. And since the milk was purchased in a can, they had to find a decorative and practical serving dish for the food. Often the milk would not be consumed during a single meal so it would need to remain in the original container for storage. Hence, the condensed milk can holder was developed.

This serving piece was usually found in five pieces as a complete underplate/saucer, the outer container, the liner, a dipping spoon and a lid. Like most of the Victorian items, they were richly decorated and designed in a practical manner. In the case of the can holder itself, there was usually a small hold in the bottom of the holder so the liner could easily be pushed back out when the meal was over. The underplate was used to set the spoon on after the milk was scooped out. Most often, these items can be found in three pieces with the spoon and lining not included.

The condensed milk holder was usually made of porcelain (although I have seen a few of them made of silver) and manufactured by companies like Nippon and Limoges to name a few. The pieces were often exquisitely decorated with flowers or fruit. Prices can range from $40 to upward of $250 or more for complete five piece sets.

Pictured are a 5 piece set of Nippon and a 3 piece Victoria Austria Set (items not available for sale)


  1. First time visit for me Mark, via Deb's blog, and have found your finds, and particularly the history behind them fascinating. I look forward to seeing and learning much more here.All the best with your research and purchases, a lot of fun I would imagine!

  2. Deb talked about your antique business with such nice words and I see she was right. It shows that this is a real hobby for you and you also take time to tell the story behind the items.

    Good luck with your store!

  3. Hi Mark, you took me back to my childhood then, and my love of condensed milk! I've seen these items before but had always thought them for sugar cubes or such. I see a rapid increase in my knowledge of antiques developing from this site. One thought - I don't always keep up with my blog reading unless the new posts arrive via my emails - have you thought about offering a "subscribe via email" option.?

  4. HI Mark,
    Just found your blog via my weekly check-in with Deb's. She brought me up to visit your place a few months ago.
    I love how you are taking a piece and providing such a lovely history. I have already learned more about Victorian pieces than I knew before.
    Looking forward to discovering new information about this beautiful era.

  5. Dropping by to wish you a happy Easter!

  6. I realize I don't know much about the china I see, or occasional piece I buy. I just think they are pretty. Need to learn from you, eh?

  7. I have a small collection of the condensed milk containers. I'd like to know more about exactly how they were used. I've tried using the ladle to put sweetened condensed milk into tea, and it was a very messy process. It was impossible to avoid dripping. Could these containers have been for EVAPORATED milk, rather than sweetened condensed milk?