Geek Trivia

Highlighting Missing Children On Milk Cartons Gained Traction After The Abduction Of Two?

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Answer: Paper Boys

The idea of printing the photographs of missing children on milk cartons started with the disappearance of six year old Etan Patz in NYC in 1979. Photos of the boy were printed on milk cartons in the region, but beyond the area, the practice didn’t catch on.

A few years later, however, a pair of suspiciously similar (but to-date unlinked) abductions of paper boys in Iowa launched a nationwide campaign. The first boy, Johnny Gosch, was abducted in 1982 while out delivering Sunday papers on his paper route. The second paper boy, Eugene Martin, was abducted in a nearby neighborhood two years later. A relative of Martin’s who worked at the local dairy, Anderson & Erickson Dairy, enlisted the help of his employer and photos of the boys were printed on the side of milk cartons produced at the facility. Other dairies in nearby cities got on board with the project and within a short time, the practice of printing photos of missing children on milk cartons had spread to hundreds of dairies with the help of the National Child Safety Council.

Ultimately, very few children were located using the photos on milk cartons (perhaps the most notable case, however, is that of Bonnie Lohman, who saw her own face on a milk carton in a grocery store), but the program is still considered a success because of the children it has helped and the conversations about safety and abduction risks it caused around countless breakfast tables in the late 20th century.

Image courtesy of Anderson & Erickson.