Isaly’s cured ham, the Klondikes celebrated in a new historical book


Is there a West Pennsylvanian who hasn’t eaten Isaly’s chopped ham or who hasn’t sung the publicity jingle “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” ”

Now they can learn how Isaly’s went from horse-drawn milk wagons to become the world’s largest dairy chain in the world. Senator John Heinz History Centerthe most recent book from “,” Isaly’s Chipped Ham, Klondikes, and Other Tales from Behind the Counter “.

The 148-page book, by award-winning author Brian Butko, contains over 400 historical images and illustrations and is now available in the History Center Museum Shop and Online Store.

To celebrate its launch, the first 500 people to purchase the new book will automatically be entered to win one year of free ice cream, courtesy of Isaly’s. The winner of the contest, to be announced on December 3, will receive coupons valid for 24 pints of Isaly ice cream.

“Isaly’s stores were once ubiquitous in our area, so I always wondered how the business got so popular,” said Butko. “Most of all I wanted to capture the stories of the people who made Isaly so successful.”

Art deco fronts

The company was founded by William Isaly, the grandson of Swiss immigrants who settled in Monroe County, Ohio in 1833.

“Generations of Isalys have carried on the family business, moving from making cheese to dairy farming, and delivering bottled milk from house to house in horse-drawn carts,” the company statement said. website. “Eventually, they formed Isaly’s Dairy Companies to sell farm-fresh dairy products and a wide variety of cold cuts and fresh cheeses through Isaly’s own chain of retail stores in Ohio, Virginia. -Western and western Pennsylvania.

“When the company moved to western Pennsylvania in 1931, the shiny white art deco-style storefronts of Isaly became synonymous with quality dairy and deli products,” according to a statement from the History Center. . “One of the keys to Isaly’s success was to operate both dairy factories and their own retail stores that sold everything from ice cream and milk to bread and deli meats.

“The people of Pittsburgh have fallen in love with Isaly’s skyscraper cones, thin-sliced ​​cured ham and (of course) the famous Klondike bar,” the statement read.

“Isaly had hundreds of stores in the tri-state area, so they were in almost every city or neighborhood. When you traveled and saw one you knew they would have Klondikes and Chipped Ham and Skyscraper cones, ”Butko said. “They looked alike, but unlike today’s restaurant chains, each mirrored their city or neighborhood, from the lunch recipes the cook knew to photos of high school athletes working there.”

In addition to his latest work, Butko has researched and written books on the history of Kennywood, Luna Park, and the Lincoln Highway, as well as other popular stories that chronicle Pittsburgh and beyond. Butko is the Publishing Director of the History Center and the Editor-in-Chief of its Western Pennsylvania History magazine.

The book on Isaly’s can be purchased for $ 19.95 plus tax inside the History Center Museum Shop or online at

Shirley McMarlin is a writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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