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Milk for Suez

Margaret Peacock

In the midst of the Suez Canal crisis, an American plan to help an Egyptian village refrigerate its milk.

Steinhorst Milk Cooling Tank Advertisement, circa 1956
An American advertisement for a milk refrigeration system that was delivered to the village of Barada, Egypt, in 1956, as part of the CARE program.

On July 27, 1956, Gordon Ward, a CARE worker stationed in Cairo wrote a letter to CARE’s Cairo director, Fred Devine. In it, he wrote, “for some time, we have been considering how we could develop a program for sanitary milk production and handling in the village of Barada where the average family has 2-3 gamoosa (cows) compared with 1 in other villages.” 

Barada, a village to the south of Cairo and nestled along the banks of the Nile, had ample cattle. Its population had for decades carried its extra milk to Cairo to sell at market. “I am not sure whether they are sending milk to Cairo,” Ward wrote, “or whether it is another dealer who buys direct from farmers. I see 8 to 10 cans of milk standing in the irrigation ditch at the edge of Barada when I drive there each morning. I also have seen these cans of milk going to Cairo in a motorcycle side car. It seems evident that with no mechanical means of cooling the milk, it does not get very cold standing in ditch water.” 

Ward sent this letter six hours before Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. Surprisingly, the plan to refrigerate Barada’s milk didn’t stop when the hostilities over the canal began.

By August 8, Fred Devine and the CARE Division of Procurement were writing to milk refrigeration companies in the US for quotes. 

The image featured above is of the milk refrigeration system that was eventually brought to Barada’s center. Ward and Devine excitedly sent this ad to Barada’s village leaders. One can only imagine the effort they would have made in explaining the slogan, “Our Curves Keep their Shape,” alongside an image of a well-preserved, white, middle-aged woman in a strapless dress and a string of pearls.

CARE ended up signing a contract with the Hydro-Chill Bulk Milk Cooling Tank from the Steinhorst company out of Ohio for $3,137.00, on October 16, 1956, in the middle of the Suez crisis.

About the Author

Margaret Peacock

Margaret E. Peacock

Global Fellow;
Associate Professor, Department of History, The University of Alabama

Margaret Peacock is a Global Fellow with the Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program and an Associate Professor in the Department of History, The University of Alabama.

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History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more