“From 1864 to 1870, Little Falls was the largest cheese market in the world.“
The amount of cheese produced in the Little Falls, Poland, and Dolgeville area was at one time three times as great as in any other county in New York State. In fact, Little Falls was known as the Cheese Market Capital of the nation. It was through this market that “Herkimer County Cheese” became world-famous. Prices paid for cheese were those established at the Little Falls market. The quotes were flashed via Morse code over telegraph wires to all parts of the country. (source: NYSAC/New York State Assoc. of Counties)
Left: an old print showing the street scene at the corner of Ann and Albany Streets in Little Falls, depicting the activities of the Cheese Market in bygone days. A portion of the building which today is the Little Falls Historical Society is visible at the left side of the picture. Above: An old advertisement for supplies sold in this area to butter and cheese producers.
HERKIMER COUNTY CHEESE HISTORY, researched and written by Nan Ressue of Preserve Our Past, Little Falls
a colorful story of enterprise, innovation, boom…and bust
Herkimer County’s claim to 19th-century fame centered on the cheese business. Weekly open-air markets were held in Little Falls. Farm wagons were lined up along the curb at the Ann and Albany Street intersection to haggle over prices, with many dealers present. These seasonal Monday markets set the national and international cheese prices in the third quarter of the 19th century… [click here to continue]
[this short article is based on a fascinating, comprehensive, scholarly history–if interested, you may access the original research paper here]
Want to know more? We recommend this book and this New York State history blog.
“This is the story of the era when the premier cheesemaking region of the United States was in Central New York, chiefly in the Mohawk Valley. Here it was that Jesse Williams set up the first cheese factory in 1851…here too, Prof. Xerxes A. Willard championed the cause of higher standards in cheesemaking and became the nation’s most respected spokesman for the ‘associated dairies’ concept. This book includes reproductions of three rare primary documents about the history of cheesemaking in New York State in the 19th century.”
Here’s the amazon link for the book.
The following article was written for the Little Falls Historical Society and goes into more detail about the history and incredible output of local cheese makers. Note highlighted areas–amazing information!
“Herkimer County was once the cheese-making center of the United States”
by Pauline Klimacke Walker, printed in the Little Falls Evening Times, December 24, 2009 (click here to view the original newspaper clipping)
In the 1800s, Herkimer County was the cheese-making center of the United States. The art of cheese-making was brought to this country by the Palatine Germans, many of whom settled in Newville and the town of Danube. One of the Newville Palatines was Phillip Baum, whose father had come to America in 1748.
Henry Baum was the son of Phillip Baum. Henry purchased land in the town of Schuyler. His farm grew and he had a herd of 30 cows and also a flock of sheep. Baum made cheese and sold it to distributors in Herkimer and Utica. In 1851, one of his buyers asked Henry if he could enter some of his cheeses in the Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, England. He gave his permission and in a few weeks, word came back that Baum’s cheese had won first place! My husband’s grandfather Baum was born and brought up on the Schuyler farm, as was the grandfather of Louis Baum Sr., Neil Baum Sr. and Ruamy Spraker.
Everywhere the Palatines settled, cheese factors are recorded on the old maps. I have a copy of an old map, of what was then called Minden, in Herkimer County. Among the cheese factories recorded on this map, the largest was managed by Andrew G. Weatherwax. The statistics show that, from 1870 to 1877, 2,001,131 pounds of cheese was produced in his factory.
In 1865, the Danube Spring Cheese Co. was started in the vicinity of the Stafford neighborhood in Newville. In 1871, the Elm Grove Cheese Co. was erected on the farm of Henry Mesick. Other factories were the Valley Cheese Co. on the farm of Mrs. Van Allen and the Finks Basin Cheese factory on the canal. Each factory produced upwards of 50,000 pounds of cheese a year.
This was to name only a few of the many cheese factories located in the Herkimer County area. The cheese was made manually. In 1891, according to the Little Falls Historical Society, David Burrell began making cheese by machine. The Burrells, a resourceful family, shipped 10,000 pounds of cheese to England.
From 1864 to 1870, Little Falls was the largest cheese market in the world. The National Dairy Board of Trade was established here. Buyers came from all over on market day. The cheese makers would bring their products and assemble at the corner of Albany and Ann Streets, the present site of the Little Falls Historical Society Museum. Once sold, the cheese was delivered to the Little Falls Railroad Station for shipment. In an average season, 25 to 30 million pounds of cheese was sold in Little Falls, and then shipped all over the world. The practice continued into the 1900s. My mother’s uncle, John Brmdjar, owned and operated the old hotel behind the railroad depot. He did a thriving business until 1915.
An early Baum historian, Pauline Klimacek Walker was born and raised in Little Falls and graduated from Little Falls High School in 1945. She has resided in Skaneateles for the past 40 years.