By Robert Cohen Executive Director Text Only

1st USA Notmilk Protest

"I did not use tea, nor coffee, nor butter, nor milk, nor
fresh meat, and so did not have to work to get them..."

Henry David Thoreau, Walden 1845

The great American butter protest occurred 236 years ago.

In 1766, at the age of 21, Asa Dunbar led a student
demonstration at Harvard University.

Harvard is America's oldest university, founded just 16
years after the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. The ivy
was just beginning to grow upon those hallowed halls, when
Dunbar set the pattern for future student unrest by leading
a revolt that nearly led to his expulsion. After the faculty
condemned Dunbar for the  "sin of insubordination," Dunbar
led the student body off campus. Their slogan:

"Behold, our butter stinketh."

Fifty-one years after his revolt against rancid butter,
Dunbar became a grandfather. His grandson's name:

Henry David Thoreau

In March of 1624, America's dairy industry began in Plymouth
Rock, Massachusetts, when the good ship Charity delivered
three cows and a bull to the grateful Pilgrims. Within a
generation, every family in America had a dairy cow.

Pilgrim diaries reveal that the favorite food of the native
Americans soon became "rancid butter."

One can only imagine the salmonella, E. coli, bovine
leukemia, clostridium, and colonies of paratuberculosis
thriving in that rancid butter. Indians fell in love with
the creamy taste of the Pilgrim's butter. They traded furs
and fish, meat and land for this much desired commodity.
Were flu-stricken Pilgrims sneezing behind trees in the
woods responsible for the deaths of one million Abenaki and
Wampaunoag? Was it perhaps the Native American's love for
the rancid butter, the gift of the bovines? Our day of
giving thanks might very well have been their eve of

Robert Cohen, author of:   MILK A-Z
Executive Director (
Dairy Education Board

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