History of National Dairy Shrine

The mid 1940’s were the dawn of a tremendously interesting and exciting 50 years for the U.S. dairy industry. World War II had just ended. Dairy farming had been quite prosperous during the war years, and dairymen generally were optimistic about the future. It was in this atmosphere that the idea of the National Dairy Shrine was germinated. There was considerable discussion about establishing a Shrine at the Dairy Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa. That is where the National breed shows were held, numerous commercial dairy exhibits could be seen and most of the dairy cattle judging teams from throughout the United States and Canada held their national contests.

Karl Musser, secretary of the American Guernsey Cattle Club, is credited for being most responsible for the National Dairy Shrine’s beginning. He thought a place was needed to honor the men who not only had contributed to the dairy industry, but, in doing so, dignified a way of life not recognized anywhere in the United States. Musser made a proposal to the Dairy Cattle Congress directors in a letter that included the following:

"Nowhere in America has there been built anything that would approach a Shrine for the purebred dairy cattle breeders. Nowhere is there a Hall of Fame into which can be built for posterity constant reminders to future generations of what great cattle have left to the industry."

A special session held in connection with the annual meeting of the Purebred Dairy Cattle Association in Cleveland, Ohio was held in January 1947 where Musser again outlined his plans. That led to the formation of a “Shrine Committee,” made up of members appointed by each breed.

With the assistance of Fred Idtse, Secretary of the Brown Swiss Cattle Breeders’ Association and Joe Eves, Meredith Publishing Company Executive, a letter was sent to a limited arbitrary list of men about the creation of the “Shrine”. A favorable response then prompted a meeting held on June 20, 1948 at the American Dairy Science Association meetings to find a location for creation of the “Shrine.” It was decided to draw up articles of incorporation and that the Club be governed by a board of 15 directors with at least one representing each of the five dairy breeds. Lifetime membership fee was to be $25, with extra contributions receivable for what was to be known as the Kildee Scholarship Fund. Nine of the founders of the Dairy Shrine are pictured.

June 20, 1949. This group met in Minneapolis, MN, to organize the Dairy Shrine Club. Front, left to right: Earl Weaver, Michigan State; E.S. Estel, Dairy Cattle Congress; H.R. Searles, University of Minnesota; L.V. Wilson, Boulder Bridge Farm; Floyd Johnston, The American Jersey Cattle Club. Rear: Joe P. Eves, Meredith Publishing Co.; Fred S. Idtse, Brown Swiss Assn,. H.W. Norton, Jr., Hostein-Fresian Assn.; Karl Musser, American Guernsey Cattle Club.

Early meetings were broadcast on radio for everyone to hear.

The National Dairy Shrine board now consists of 21 members that usually meet prior to the annual meeting to conduct their business. Board members represent all segments of the dairy industry and are from all parts of the United States. The 1981 board is pictured during their board meeting.

Front, left to right: A. Nesbitt, W. Etgen, H. Tateyama, K. King, E. Meyer, J. Leuenberger, W. Lindskoog, M. McCarry. Rear: R. Cain, C. Norton, D. Voelker, W. Waters, D. Dodds, L. Mix, R. Chichester.

The Dairy Shrine has always had an Executive Secretary that did the day to day work of the organization. Joe Eves “Mr. Dairy Shrine” served from 1949- 1968. He was followed by Arthur Nesbit, Miles McCarry, James Leuenberger, Liz Henry, Maurice Core, and David Selner.

Left to Right: James Leuenberger, Arthur Nesbitt, Maurice Core, David Selner. 2008

Left to Right: Miles McCarry, Art Nesbitt, and Joe Eves. 1997

In 1949 the Dairy Shrine’s permanent headquarters was stationed adjacent to the Dairy Cattle Congress grounds. Ownership of the building was to be retained by the National Dairy Cattle Congress for its office, but it also was to be the home of the newly established Dairy Shrine Club.

First Dairy Shrine Headquarters, 1949

Interior view of Dairy Shrine Club, 1956.

The secretary reported that in 1949, there were 150 members. Membership encompassed all segments of the dairy industry… dairy farmers, educators, researchers, feed manufacturers, sales managers, veterinarians, and many others allied with the dairy industry. The Dairy Shrine building was designed for all of its members from across the country to network and discuss the industry. Industry leaders from breed associations, milk cooperatives, feed companies, breeding associations, cattle exhibitors, and dairymen met to converse about pressing issues within the industry. The lounge, pictured to the right, was an area where the whole dairy industry could meet these leaders plus educators, students, guests, and friends. You were sure to meet someone on any given day during the week long Dairy Cattle Congress from long time friends, to new acquaintances, and even future business partners. One of the benefits of the Dairy Shrine was the networking opportunities. By stopping at the Dairy Shrine home, young and old across the entire country were able to interact with one another. The main lounge was to be reserved for pictures of the Guests of Honor, while one of the smaller rooms was to be used for hanging pictures of men of the past, known as the Pioneer Room.

Arkansas Intercollegiate Judging Contest Team, winner Intercollegiate Judging Contest, receiving McDonald Trophy from the donor J.M. McDonald at left. Left to right: Gordon L. Ford, Doyne F. Potts, Burrell J. Smittle, Fred E. Reed, Lantis Ratcliff, coach. 1954.

The first project of the non-profit corporation was the creation of the Kildee Scholarship to honor H. H. Kildee (pictured to the right), Dean of Agriculture at Iowa State College, and internationally-known livestock judge. The $500 scholarship was designated for someone who would attend graduate school in dairy and was awarded to the winner of the National Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest. This graduate scholarship is still being awarded today and is now open to students who excel at the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge or the National Intercollegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest.

H. H. Kildee. First Guest of Honor.

National Dairy Shrine, Waterloo, Iowa. Shown is Dean H.H. Kildee congratulating the 1964 Guest of Honor, W.D. Hoard, Jr.

Another new recognition created was the Guest of Honor. This would be an individual who would be considered the best active leader in the industry for that year. Originally, the Guest of Honor was chosen by the executive committee. It was soon learned however, that a project of such magnitude merited considerable study, which led to the appointment of an anonymous committee to make the choice. In addition, another category of honorees were Pioneers, deceased innovators that made significant contributions to the dairy industry. It was agreed that a book be prepared giving a full history of the individual achievement of those whose pictures were hung.

In addition to the documentation of the Guests of Honor and Pioneers, the following were recorded: pictures of grand champions of each breed at the National Shows; pictures of each team winning the National Collegiate Dairy Cattle Judging Contest; pictures of the high individual in all breeds; pictures of the winning 4-H judging teams at the national contest. One of the first projects of the National Dairy Shrine was providing a luncheon for coaches and college judging teams.

Schnering Trophy awarded to the winning Collegiate Dairy judging team.

Early in its history, Dairy Shrine started to assemble books for libraries across the nation. Today, the National Dairy Shrine has one of the most extensive collections of dairy literature in its Joe Eves Library. Joe Eves is pictured to the right.

J.P. Eves. secretary-treasurer in 1949. Nicknamed “Mr. Dairy Shrine” for his continued promotion of the organization

In the late 1970’s, the growth and development of numerous national dairy cattle shows prompted a search for a new permanent home for a Dairy Shrine building. The National Dairy Shrine searched for several years for a new home and decided on the Hoard Historical Museum in Fort Atkinson, Wis. In February of 1974 Dairy Shrine’s Permanent Home Committee discussed plans to build in Fort Atkinson. It was to be built adjacent to the Hoard Historical Museum, and a goal of $250,000 was set to raise funds for the building. In April of 1980 ground was broke for the site of the New National Dairy Shrine location. With the dedication of its many members the building was paid for without the need to borrow money. The formal dedication of the new site was held September 29, 1981.

The National Dairy Shrine Headquarters as it stands today.

Formal dedication party. 1981

The new building allowed the National Dairy Shrine to create a more impressive display of honoree’s portraits in the National Dairy Hall of Fame. Additionally, an extensive video interview collection of notable dairy leaders and events has been created for everyone to enjoy. This is a chance to listen to dairy leaders explain the development of the dairy industry in their own words. The video archives will be an irreplaceable resource for future generations.

As of 2018, the National Dairy Shrine has over 19,500+ members from all facets of the dairy industry. There is an awards and recognition banquet held every year to induct members of the dairy industry into the National Dairy Hall of Fame, to also recognize current dairy leaders, and provide scholarships to future dairy leaders. The Founders would be proud to know that the original mission of the organization is still alive today and growing a real testament to their foresight.

DMI Scholarship Recipients 2016