Foot-Powered Milking Machine

The Mehring Company began developing mechanized milkers in 1892 as a way to improve the speed and sanitation of cow milking. The machines continued to be manufactured through the early 1920s, and more than 3000 were sold. Although William Mehring was from Maryland, most of the milkers he manufactured were sold in New Zealand and South America. The foot-powered milker was designed as an improvement to the earlier hand-powered model, and could milk two cows at once with less exertion from the operator.
The machine consists of a foot treadle connected to several hoses that could be attached to a cow’s udders. When the foot treadle was rocked forward and backward, it produced a suction in the hoses, which would squeeze milk out of the udders and deposit it into a bucket that hung on the milker. The hoses were valve-controlled, so that the operator could stop suction on an individual teat without disconnecting the machine. An 1896 pamphlet advertises that the milker allows one man to milk up to twenty cows per hour, and since physical exertion was minimal, women and children could also help with the milking, making the chore even less time-consuming.
In addition to improved efficiency, Mehring advertised the sanitation of his machines. The milk can no longer sat on a dirty stable floor, and air exposure was minimal since the milk went from cow to bucket through a sanitary hose. Thus, the milk was not contaminated with the dirt, hair, and germs that plagued milk from traditionally-milked cows.
Currently not on view
Object Name
milking machine, foot-powered
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Family & Social Life
See more items in
Work and Industry: Agriculture and Natural Resources
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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