Bidding for a piece of Purdue history
By Steve Leer
When Jack Albright auctioned off his dairy memorabilia, the sale went on until, well, the cows came home.
For about six hours on a Saturday last November, Purdue alumni, staff, family and friends engaged in a spirited but genial bidding war for some 1,600 items that Albright collected in his more than three decades as a Purdue animal sciences professor and dairy cattle judging team coach.
About 400 people attended the once-in-a-lifetime auction at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds, which raised about $25,000 for a judging team endowment.
"We had people attending from all over. I saw former students from Indiana, Washington, Texas, Michigan, Ohio and Washington, D.C.," says Albright, whose Purdue career spanned 33 years, from 1963-1996. "It's much more fun doing this while alive than when one is horizontal."
On the auction block were dairy pictures, cow models, dairy judging awards, bovine T-shirts, Beanie Baby cows and bulls, goat's milk soap, ice cream molds, milk bottle caps, dairy-related music and hundreds of other unique collectibles. John Finke, a 1974 judging team member who currently lives in Columbus, Ind., served as auctioneer.
Among the rarest pieces were a wooden cheese rake from the Purdue University Creamery, which was used to separate curds from whey; an indented glass for eating ice cream that predated the ice cream cone; a neon Borden sign; and creamery milk cans, butter cartons and cottage cheese containers. The Purdue creamery closed in 1969.
The highest bid went for a 1923 cast iron Holstein-Friesian bull. The $3,000 offer was phoned in from Germany by a bidder representing a Wisconsin-based animal genetics company.
A Purdue milk bottle fetched $675. The Borden sign drew a $400 bid. An aerial photo of the old Purdue dairy research farm on Cherry Lane sold for $210. A creamery butter carton and cottage cheese container were snatched up for $75 and $60, respectively.
"A former dairy judging team member from Washington, D.C., who's a milk lobbyist, bought two ice cream molds. One was an elephant and the other a donkey," Albright says. "I thought that was perfect for him."
Albright stood in for a few alumni who were unable to attend the auction. He outbid the competition on two 1930s-era dairy judging trophies. Albright later presented the trophies to Bob Bratton of Crawfordsville, Ind., a retired Cornell University professor who was part of Purdue's 1935 winning judging team. "It was really heartwarming to see him get those trophies," Albright says.
Before the auction, Albright stored his dairy memorabilia in his basement and office. "I had a pingpong table that collapsed from the weight of it," he says.
Albright's wife Lorraine was happy to see her husband empty the basement. "She's got lots of room now," he says. "It's an incentive for her to do some clearing out, too."
Albright says he'll remember the auction for a long time. His family saw to that. "My daughter, son-in-law and three grandsons were there, and they bought some things," Albright says. "I got a few of them back at Christmas."