A cool La Crosse treat

The Dolly Madison Dairy of La Crosse made and distributed ice cream throughout the Upper Midwest from the 1930s to the 1979s.

As we enter the dog days of August, with its heat and humidity, our thoughts frequently turn to a favorite summer refreshment: ice cream.

Serving ice cream brings people together, makes friends of strangers and helps us forget our troubles for a few moments. Nearly everyone loves ice cream.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, the Dolly Madison Dairy of La Crosse made ice cream in many flavors and distributed it all over the area.

This package once held a half gallon of ice cream that was made and packaged by the local dairy about 1960. Round and made of cardboard, it is imprinted with a brown woodgrain background with the iconic red “Quality Chekd” symbol.

Located at Front and Main streets in downtown La Crosse, the Dolly Madison Dairy began in 1919 as the Tri-State Ice Cream Corp., a company formed from two earlier companies.

In 1939, the company’s name became Dolly Madison, in honor of President James Madison’s wife, Dolley, who was the first person to serve ice cream in the White House.

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In 1944, Dolly Madison Dairy joined the Quality Chekd group, a cooperative of 26 Midwestern dairies that was organized to assist those companies as they competed against larger national brands of ice cream.

By 1964, Dolly Madison employed 90 workers who processed and provided home delivery of milk and other dairy products. The company shipped its line through much of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois and operated branches in Eau Claire and Reedsburg.

The company’s plant on Front Street remained active during the record flood of 1965, but shortly after that the operations were moved to Gateway Industrial Court.

The company soon became a part of Marigold Foods and later was absorbed by Kemp’s. Dolly Madison Dairy is last listed in the 1979 directory.

It’s August, and even though you can’t buy your favorite Dolly Madison flavor anymore, enjoy a scoop of this frozen treat.

Then you can view this carton online, along with many other items from the region’s past, by visiting the La Crosse County Historical Society’s online collections.

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(1) comment


Dolly Madison trucks and products were ubiquitous in La Crosse when I was growing up, so I always assumed it was a local branch of a national company like Borden's. I never realized until now that it was a La Crosse company. Interesting. Having been swallowed up by the unfortunate but familiar process of corporate mergers, I imagine nothing remains of it locally.

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