Sunday, June 18, 2017
Elmer B. Otto, Pioneer in the Dairy Business
Elmer B. Otto, seen above in a portrait which appears in Hewson Peeke’s A Standard History of Erie County (Lewis Publishing Co., 1916), was a pioneer in the dairy industry in Erie County. He was born in 1885 to Herman and Frances (Oswald) Otto, who owned a farm in Perkins Township. Elmer began selling milk from his father’s farm with just one horse and wagon. Soon he purchased a large milk cooler and a cream separator. In 1907, he bought the former Pitt Cooke residence at what is now 515 West Washington Street. He lived with his family in the front portion of the large stone home and in the rear part of the building, he operated the dairy.
An article in the August 16, 1958 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that a Mr. Whitney had operated a restaurant at 515 West Washington Street, and he named the house the “Esmond House,” after his son. Elmer Otto decided to call his business the Esmond Dairy, in honor of Mr. Whitney’s son. In 1916, the business had eight delivery wagons that took milk, butter and other dairy products to customers all over the city of Sandusky.
A new building for the Esmond Dairy opened at 1610 Campbell Street in 1919.
A special feature article about Esmond Dairy appeared in the May 1, 1919 Sandusky Register.
The Esmond Dairy used the Milwaukee filler and capper machine to ensure that dairy products were bottled and sealed in the most sanitary conditions. George Feick and Sons had built the modern building, which was three stories high and constructed from brick, steel and concrete. The new Esmond Dairy building and plant was considered “a model of perfection.” The public was invited to the grand opening on May 2, 1919, and Esmond ice cream was served to all visitors.
On June 7, 1921, it was announced that Don Lightner would take over as president of the Esmond Dairy Company, with Elmer B. Otto still retaining part of his holdings in the company, and remaining on the board of directors of Esmond Dairy for a time. Elmer Otto branched out into the cold storage business and a new dairy business known as Otto’s. A listing in the 1925 Sandusky City Directory stated that Elmer B. Otto was the proprietor and manufacturer of milk products. The main plant was located at 305-307 East Water Street, with substations on Monroe Street, the corner of Adams and Lawrence Streets, and in Venice. Otto’s products carried the name Otto’s which was always slightly angled in an upwards direction.
This Otto’s syrup bottle is now housed in the historic collections of the Follett House Museum.
A later popular location operated by Otto’s was at 2434 West Monroe Street, which was eventually purchased by Toft’s. Otto’s had a variety of locations throughout its many years of operation. Visit the Sandusky Library to view historic Sandusky City Directories for the exact years and locations.
Elmer B. Otto died in 1973. His obituary in the July 20, 1973 issue of the Sandusky Register indicated that Mr. Otto had been a pioneer in the practices of pasteurization and homogenization of milk, and he was innovative in his use of paper and milk bottles for milk. Elmer B. Otto was survived by two sons, a daughter, and several grandchildren and great grandchildren. His wife had died in 1957. Elmer B. Otto was laid to rest at Oakland Cemetery. His years of innovations and good business practices were recalled by hundreds of area residents.