Roberts Dairy is a popular name for William H. Roberts and Sons, a dairy and home delivery business. William H. Roberts (1860-1922) formed a business partnership, Tyner-Roberts, with brother-in-law Silas Tyner in 1877. They sold fresh milk from a mule-drawn vehicle.
Roberts bought out Tyner, and sons Ralph and Guy Roberts joined him in business around 1910. The enterprise became a corporation—William H. Roberts and Sons—in 1919 when sons J. Benjamin and W. Henry also joined. During its 110 years of operation, Roberts remained a family-run concern.
Early milk customers supplied their own containers. Route drivers filled the vessels from a large can. Around 1900, the year in which the company purchased property at 4201 Millersville Road, Roberts became the area’s first dairy company to use glass milk bottles. Besides delivering Roberts products, company drivers carried bread, eggs, orange juice, butter, bacon, sausage, and ice cream.
Accounts with stores, schools, and hospitals began in 1935, though home deliveries remained the bigger part of the business. Roberts used horse-drawn vehicles for home delivery until 1946. Motor deliveries continued until March 1987.
Roberts bought Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa milk to process into various dairy products. Roberts also bought other dairies. For instance, Indianapolis-based Hornaday was a 1963 acquisition. In 1982, Roberts purchasedCenters, raising the number of Roberts employees from 350 to 700.
However, Roberts declared bankruptcy in June 1987. Routes had declined from 150 to 10. Changing milk-buying habits were a growing problem, but a local milk price war was the immediate cause of the company’s demise. Another local dairy, Maplehurst Farms, acquired the right to use the firm’s name and logo, although Dean Foods shuttered its Indianapolis location in 1999.