Cokato Museum Staff, "Butter Bandits Escape By A Thin "Margarine"." In The Midst Of, Cokato Historical Society (April, 2022) vol. 42 no. 1.
What thief doesn’t get twitchy fingers when they come across golden bars...of butter that is. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, gangs of butter thieves robbed Minnesota and Iowa creameries and stole their transport vehicles. Creameries that provided butter for companies, such as Land O’ Lakes, had the leverage of the companies offering large rewards for catching the thieves. The Cokato Enterprise reported in a January 19, 1928, article that “Land O’ Lakes Creameries, Inc has been instrumental in securing the conviction of three different gangs of butter thieves, all of whom are now serving time in the Stillwater penitentiary.”
What started as a sleepy morning at the Lamson creamery on Monday, November 13, 1922, resulted in the theft of 500 pounds of butter, a high speed chase, and a clean getaway. In a front page spread, the Cokato Enterprise’s article, “Butter Burglars Steal Nine Boxes of Butter,” proclaimed the theft was discovered by general store managers Carlson and Peterson, whose store was housed on the upper level of the creamery building. According to the article, Carlson and Peterson shot at the burglars through the window of the general store as the thieves “were loading the loot into the car.” Uninjured, the bandits sped away. They were traced as far as Dassel, leaving behind a coat containing the creamery lock in its pocket.
The Cokato Creamery did not remain unscathed by butter bandits. February of 1923, highwaymen stole a truck with $700 worth of butter in Chicago. Of the 176 tubs of butter that were stolen, 21 were from the Cokato Creamery. The Cokato Enterprise reported that it was “one of the most puzzling robberies of recent date” and that neither the butter or the truck had been located. This would not be the only time Cokato butter was stolen.
On the night of Monday, January 16, 1928, a gang of butter bandits forced their way through the back door of the Cokato Creamery and broke the refrigerator lock. According to the January 19, Cokato Enterprise, the thieves stole $622.24 worth of butter, cheese, and prints that weighed over 1,256 pounds combined. In the opinion of Cokato Buttermaker Kristensen, who discovered the theft Tuesday morning, it would take at least two automobiles to carry the load. According to the article, Land O’ Lakes was offering a substantial reward for the capture of the bandits and their accomplices. Museum staff have not found any newspapers that mention if an arrest was made.
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