Land O’Lakes decided to eliminate “Mia”, the indigenous maiden, from the packaging of its butter products.
Founded July 8, 1921 as the Minnesota Cooperative Creameries Association, the company held a contest in 1924 to name its butter product. The winning “Land O’Lakes” entry was so successful that it became synonymous with the company, which adopted the name in 1926.
In 1928, illustrator Arthur C. Hanson was tasked with creating a logo for the popular butter product. The result was Mia, a Native American maiden kneeling in a natural setting and holding a Land O’Lakes butter box in a Droste (infinite-loop) effect. (Mia is shown holding a butter box depicting herself holding a butter box with herself holding – well, you get the idea.)
Over the ensuing decades, the logo experienced a number of alterations – one, in 1939, by Jess Betlach “simplified and modernized” Mia’s image – but the most important changes occurred in the 1950s when Red Lake Ojibwe artist Patrick DesJarlait decided to portray Mia in a more authentic Ojibwe costume and altered the background to depict Red Lake in Minnesota. One other major change occurred in 2018 when Mia’s upper body only was shown.
Land O’Lakes has now announced that Mia will no longer appear on their butter products. The company plans, instead, to promote the farmer-owned cooperatives that are the basis of the company, and the words “Farmer-Owned” will be given prominent display on the packaging, which has already appeared on grocers’ shelves in many places.
(Note: For the time being, Mia will still appear on Land O’Lakes egg cartons.)
So, what has all this to do with collectibles? Well, if you happen to have an empty, flattened butter box or two depicting (a preferably pre-2018) Mia, you might be able to sell your items for up to $10+ at some secondary markets.
You would do even better if you happened to have one of the numerous officially licensed items depicting the indigenous maiden. Throughout her 90+ years, Mia has appeared on watches, trays, mugs, crocks, books, signs, glassware, feed sacks, and thermometers.
Since the announcement of her retirement, prices in the secondary markets have shown quite an uptick. A recent perusal of the online auction market has found that, depending on condition, thermometers are fetching up to $150, vintage trays are selling for up to $250, and 3×5 metal recipe boxes from the 1970s are garnering multiple bids up to $300!
As more material hits the secondary markets, prices may moderate, but it wouldn’t hurt to check through all those bins and boxes in your cellars, attics, and garages to see if you might have a hidden Land O’Lakes treasure.
“Farmer-owned cooperative Land O’Lakes, Inc. unveils new packaging celebrating farmers ahead of 100th anniversary” (Land O’Lakes website) – February 6, 2020 press release.
Land O’Lakes Makes Changes to Its Iconic Butter Package – Dairy Herd Management (Dairy Herd website) – Provides a brief synopsis.
“My Native American father drew the Land O’Lakes maiden. She was never a stereotype” (Washington Post) – Op-ed by Robert DesJarlait.
“There’s another story behind that Land O’Lakes butter box” (Indian Country Today) – Another perspective on the change.