Gustafson Bros. Dairy Co. was established in 1920 and was one of several dairies that existed in Burlington. The dairy was founded by brothers Paul, Richard and Melvin Gustafson in 1920. It first operated at 1101 Vine St. and was at that location for about eight years.

Throughout the years, Gustafson touted the health benefits of milk in much of its advertising. In 1924, it took out an ad with the Sanitary Milk Co. and several area bakeries. The ad stated that milk and bread were the cheapest form of food that could be bought in Burlington, especially when you compared foods for their nutritional and calorie content and has several lists comparing the nutritional content and cost of a variety foods.

In 1928, the dairy opened a new location in downtown Burlington. On Saturday, June 30 they opened the new dairy to public tours to show off what was described as the “most modern and up-to-date dairy in southeast Iowa.” Visitors would be led through the facility by an attendant who would explain the various steps in the sanitary handling and bottling of milk. They also offered visitors “all the milk they could drink.” The new facility used 16,000 pounds of imported Spanish cork to insulate its refrigerators.

The 1963 calendar pictured here was handed out by Gustafson Bros. Dairy. On the top of the January page it stated it was a “dairy household hints calendar.” It was meant to be handed out by Gustafson’s delivery men, who were to place check marks on milk delivery days. The calendar provided general information such as when each phase of the moon would begin, major holidays, and birthdays of important figures.

It also provided plenty of hints on the benefits or uses of dairy. Each calendar page had a picture, a banner with the Gustafson’s name, logo, and slogan, and a full month calendar. The 12 pictures included images of children playing, mothers with their babies, and families eating dinner.

Each image also had a phrase such as “for the picture of health, drink milk” or “ice cream…always the flavor-favorite.” On the back of each page were several recipes that used milk or dairy products. These included desserts, salads, sandwiches and even fish.

Ten years after this calendar came out, Gustafson Bros. merged with Sunshine Dairy. Sunshine was another long-time Burlington dairy. It had started on a farm near Middletown and was originally known as Gueldenhaar Dairy.

Warren Gustafson facilitated the purchase of Sunshine and also bought out his business partners. They included his father Paul and his uncles Melvin and Richard. After the merger, operations would move into the Sunshine Dairy facilities located on Roosevelt Avenue.

Later in 1973, Warren further expanded operations by purchasing the All-Star Dairy out of Mount Pleasant. This dairy operated in 6 counties and expanded Gustafson’s distribution network. Hawkeye Motors eventually purchased the old Gustafson building on Jefferson Street. In February 1977, Hawkeye Motors tore down the old dairy for a parking lot. Within a year or two of its old building being demolished, Gustafson also closed its doors.

“Out of the Attic” features artifacts from the collection of the Des Moines County Historical Society. For more information, to ask questions or to offer comments or suggestions, call (319) 752-7449 or email