The Story of the Mammoth Cheese

Susan McNichol: from the Archives of the Perth Museum

Finally, on April 17, 1893, the cheese left Perth for Chicago on a special railway flat car provided by the Canadian Pacific Railway. As the train left the station the Perth Citizens Band played "The Maple Leaf Forever" and several hundred onlookers gave three hearty cheers. A large poster giving some particulars of the cheese and a complete time-table for the run from Perth to Windsor, was sent to all stations on the route and many people turned out to see the cheese pass by. The outside of the cheese container had to be repainted when it reached Chicago because, during the trip over 10,000 people had signed the outside of the container.

When unloaded and placed on exhibit with the Canadian display at the World’s Fair in Chicago, the Mammoth Cheese promptly crashed through the floor and had to be placed on reinforced concrete in the Agricultural Building. "The Mammoth Cheese" was more talked about and written about than any other single exhibit at the fair. When judged, the cheese received 95 points out of a possible score of 100 points. It received a diploma and a bronze medal.

The cheese was purchased by Jubal Webb and sent to London, England. The cheese was carved up in a ceremony presided over by Sir Charles Tupper, the Canadian High Commissioner. Samples were sent back to Canada in the spring of 1894 to be distributed to members of the Senate, Commons and Press Gallery. All agreed that in spite of it being almost two years old it had retained its excellent flavour.

Perth’s monument to the largest cheese ever made was unveiled on October 23, 1943. This exact replica stands near the CPR tracks at Perth and marked the 50th anniversary of the cheese. In October of 1993 local cheese makers and other groups organized a week long celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the worldÂ’s largest cheese.

The Mammoth Cheese Monument - a full sized replica of the Mammoth Cheese can be found by the railway tracks on the former site of the Perth Railway station.You can get there from Gore Street in the downtown area by travelling northwardly up Herriott Street until you hit a dead end at the parking lot. The monument should be visible on the left.

A small portion of the "Mammoth Cheese" which created such a stir in North America and Europe, is on permanent display at the Perth Museum along with the bronze medal it won.

Slideshow of photos for Construction of the Perth Weigh Scale Station


See also:

  1. The Lanark County Genealogical Society - The Mammoth Cheese - A letter and manuscript in the Perth Museum research files. Transcribed by Charles Dobie.

  2. Illinois Institute of Technology- World's Columbian Exposition of 1893

  3. The Mammoth Cheese From Space. The white object with a cylindrical shadow at the centre of the picture.

  4. Journal of Dairy Sciences, Vol. 43 No. 12 pp.1871-1877: (PDF) Mammoth Cheese - G. M. Trout- U of Michigan


It’s been 109 years since the Mammoth Cheese was produced here in Perth. The idea of producing the cheese originated with the Dominion Dairy Commissioner and the work of manufacturing it took place at the experimental dairy station in Perth. The production of the cheese was an attempt by the Canadian cheese industry to publicize Canadian Cheddar and increase its popularity abroad.

Twelve Lanark cheese makers were invited to participate in making a giant cheese to be exhibited at the Chicago Fair of 1893. Each donated a day’s intake to the project. The cheese, which was made from one day’s milk from 10,000 cows and was called the "Canadian Mite", weighed 22,000 pounds, was six feet high and 28 feet in circumference. It was housed in a freight shed in Perth throughout the winter of 1892-3 and during that time it was visited by dignitaries, including Cabinet Ministers and the Governor General. To keep it in shape, a team of experts turned the cheese end-over-end every two weeks.


Mammoth cheese on its way to the World’s Fair in Chicago (on rail car to left).  The tower structure on the car to the right is part of the floor display for the cheese.  The Perth Citizens band was on hand for the               send-off

In 2009, a new monument of the Mammoth cheese was constructed and is now on display in the Tay Basin beside the Crystal Palace.  The Heritage Carpentry program at Algonquin College in Perth constructed the weigh scale station on the original site of the weigh station beside the Tay Canal to house the new Mammoth Cheese monument.

Notes by Hugh Chatfield: An interesting side note to the Mammoth Cheese is the claim it was the most talked about exhibit at the fair.  If so, it is an interesting commentary since Nikola Tesla backed by Westinghouse first introduced the public to electrical power by illuminating the exhibition with Tesla’s alternating current (AC) apparatus.  Tesla was in competition at the time with Thomas Edison who was backing direct current (DC) power.  Edison was also exhibiting at this fair.

Tesla also exhibited neon lighting and phosphorescent lighting (illuminating wirelessly).'s_Columbian_Exposition

The Tesla story is very fascinating since although he is responsible for much of today’s technology - he is almost a complete unknown.  And why was the FBI so interested in him - seizing all his notes upon his death?  Anything to do with his death ray work?  or free electricity to the world - wirelessly?  We may never know.  If you get to see the stage play based on Tesla’s work - it is recommended.

Brilliant!  The Blinding Enlightenment of Nikola Tesla

If you do a Google search on”Mammoth Cheese” - you get hundreds of hits.  Perth wasn’t the only place on earth producing mammoth cheeses.  It was the biggest of its time period though.  Lets tour through some of these mammoth cheese references.

Certainly there are songs and poetry about "the Mammoth Cheese".  Here is a reference to such a poem in the U of Toronto library:

You see this particular "mammoth cheese" was a measly 7000 pounds.

Then there was the Mammoth Cheese made as a present to Thomas Jefferson

A mere 1600 pounds.

There was even a novel entitled the mammoth cheese that seems to be about the above cheese:

Mentions of 'the" Mammoth Cheese show up everywhere:

The Journal Of Dairy Sciences carried an excellent short history of Mammoth Cheeses by G. M. Trout of U of Michigan. [Journal of Dairy Sciences; Vol.43 No.12 pp1871-1877]

Another interesting sideline is that I was contacted by an author in NYC who was doing a biography of Lipton (of the tea company)

As Trout's journal article says - "Lipton of England and of tea fame evidently saw advertising possibilities in this cheese and contracted for it."

So the famous Mammoth Cheese of Perth is still being written about.

Now even the Perth version has had many variations for a permanent display:

Other links for the Perth Mammoth Cheese:

[Old Lantern Slide]

Of course the Perth cheese is still the largest on record.... or is it?

Wikipedia reports an even larger cheese being produced in Wisconsin:

"A still larger Wisconsin Cheddar cheese of 34,951 lb (15,853 kg) was produced for the 1964 New York World's Fair. It required the equivalent of the daily milk production of 16,000 cows."

Ok- I think the Perth Mammoth Cheese is still the largest from Canada.