This image is in the archives at The Chester County Historical Society in West Chester. It’s the only one they have related to The Guernsey Cow in their archives.
[They have a nice service there where you can pay them to research a topic or multiple topics and determine what information and photos they have on record. Or you can go in yourself and dig around in the library reading room. Someday I'll spend afternoons there mining their collection for various historical tidbits.]
The Guernsey Cow was famous for its ice cream and for its hand-made cream caramels. The caramels were cooked up in huge copper kettles with big wooden paddles. The caramels were wrapped in branded wax paper and then stuffed into the tubs like those shown. The lid had a die-cut guernsey cow head in it that popped out and made a nice way of pulling caramels out as you needed.
“Famous Cream Caramels from the World’s Largest Guernsey Cow” is the slogan on the side of the tub and as referenced in a previous post they were also famous among the famous. For the long-distance traveler they were the perfect take-home product when you couldn’t take the ice cream with you.
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Polite daughters in front of Guernsey Cow sign
This is another nice photo from my grandmother’s photo albums taken in the Fall of 1941. My Aunt Saundra and mother, Wanda, stand out along the Lincoln Highway (Rte 30).
In 1941, the business was called The Exton Dairy Grille. It was these smaller cow signs advertising “Golden Guernsey” products that would prompt customers to tell friends, “I’ll meet you at the sign of the cow.” And later during World War II, patrons would tell my grandfather, Larry Polite, that he should change the name to “The Cow.” He changed it to The Guernsey Cow and when World War II ended, he built the now-famous sign.
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The West Chester Guerilla Drive-In has teamed up with West Chester Dish to create a unique ice cream adventure in West Chester next Thursday evening. On June 26 at 6:30 PM, gather in front of the Chester County Courthouse The Lincoln Room around the corner from the Chester County Courthouse at 28 W. Market Street and receive an air-brushed ice cream tattoo and a scorecard.
Walk West Chester borough with friends, family or complete strangers to evaluate 5 different ice cream locations. Return to the Courthouse Lincoln Room when you are done (and had your fill of ice cream), hand in your completed scorecards and receive a flame tattoo to top off your ice cream tattoo. Your flaming cone will be the envy of all as you stroll the streets, beaches, and malls for days and show that you were able to eat ice cream in 5 locations in one evening AND rate them all.
Look for the vintage motorcycle with sidecar flying a banner resembling the flaming ice cream cone. For more details than you can shake a stick at, visit The Guerilla Drive-In Ice Cream Tattoo Quest page.
Chester County’s ice cream legacy is alive and well and having fun.
[update: I hope to be wearing my new Guernsey Cow Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream t-shirt, hot off the presses, for the quest. Get yours!]
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from L to R: Gladys Polite, Millie “Dolly” Polite (Ilario’s sister), Elmer Polite (Ilario’s brother), Ilario “Larry” Polite
A few posts (and months) back I mentioned an upcoming visit with my grandmother, Gladys Polite. On that visit we spent several hours going over the photos, documents, menus and material she still had from her various collections over the years. I don’t know where she’s kept it all.
This photo is one that I don’t ever recall seeing before. It is The Guernsey Cow The Exton Dairy Grille, around 1931, before it was The Cow.
Before my grandfather, Ilario Polite, owned the business, it was known as Montcalm Farms. He worked there in 1927 busing tables, washing dishes, whatever was needed. At that time, around 1927, it was known as Montcalm Farms.
The following excerpt is from the “Statement of Significance” prepared by Estelle Cremers, Historical Land Research, when there was an effort to get The Guernsey Cow placed on the National Register of Historic Places:
…begun in 1927 by Fank B. Foster, president of the Congoleum Company in Philadelphia and a resident farmer in neighboring Charlestown Township, Chester County. Foster needed a retail outlet for milk from his several Guernsey dairy farms when summer quotas were instituted by Harbison Dairies, a bottling company in Philadelphia to whom many local farmers sold their product in bulk. To process his overflow. Mr. Foster set up a raw milk bottling operation in a small frame building on the farm he owned at Exton crossroads. Under his name of Montcalm Farms, it was essentially a retail outlet for his own bottled milk, but quickly branched into the sale of eggs and other farm products. Featured was made-on-the-spot ice cream, and cream caramels prepared by a German storekeeper nearby.
Later when my grandfather took on the business around 1931 it was known as the Exton Dairy Grille. Later, it became famous as The Guernsey Cow.
There’s plenty more history to be shared and we’ll get to that over time.
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