Thursday, September 9, 2010

Pauline Wayne, the Last White House Dairy Cow

So did you know that President William Howard Taft kept a Holstein dairy cow named Pauline Wayne on the White House lawn? For two years, Pauline dutifully supplied President Taft and his family with fresh milk every day.

Shortly before Taft left office in 1913, Pauline was shipped back to her former owner in Wisconsin. After that, pasteurized milk replaced raw milk at the White House. A New York Times article dated February 2, 1913 announced the departure of Taft's beloved cow:

Pauline Wayne, President Taft’s famous Holstein cow, will follow him into retirement March 4. The president today called in Senator Walter Stephenson of Wisconsin, who two years ago took Pauline to the White House, and gave her back to her former owner. Pauline has not been in the best of health in several months.

President Taft believes that if she is taken back to Wisconsin and put on Senator Stephenson’s farm again, her youthful vigor will revive. The Senator was glad to recover Pauline, as she had supplied milk to the family of the President for two years, and he thought she would add dignity to his herd.

After leaving office, Taft served as a professor at Yale Law School until President Warren Harding appointed him Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. To Taft, the appointment was his greatest honor. So much so that, years later, he wrote, “I don't remember that I ever was President.”

FOOD FACT: A French scientist named Louis Pasteur discovered pasteurization in the 1860s. During his many experiments, Pasteur discovered that when you heat a food to a high enough temperature, the heat will kill certain (but not all) bacteria. Raw milk can be pasteurized by heating it to 145 degrees F for about thirty minutes. In the years prior to pasteurization, many lethal diseases were transmitted through raw or contaminated milk. One particularly sad example is that of Abraham Lincoln, whose mother died when he was "in his tenth year" after she drank milk from a dairy cow that had grazed on White Snakeroot, a very poisonous plant.


  1. Great bit of history, thanks! The White House lawn likely was pesticide-free back then, but it would not have had anywhere near the diversity of a pasture, so it would make sense that Pauline would do better back home.

    By the way, the toxin contained in white snakeroot is heat stable, so pasteurization would not have helped Ma Lincoln.

    On that note, I highly recommend Ron Schmidt's "The Untold Story of Milk" for a revealing perspective on the science, history, and politics behind milk pasteurization. It may surprise you.

  2. Great information, Tom, and thanks for stopping by THE HISTORY CHEF!

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