Created in what has been called an “experimental dairy station” in the city of Perth, the original Mammoth Cheese was created to show the world Canada’s fermenting prowess, and now a replica of the big cheese makes sure that the feat will not be forgotten.
The work of 12 cheese-makers and the milk of 10,000 cows, the “Canadian Mite,” as it was also known, weighed 22,000 pounds and stood six feet high. Each of the dairymen spent one day working on the solid block until it was ready to be wrapped up and put on a freight train to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Shockingly, it fell through the bottom of the wooden railcar it was initially placed on, thus a special metal-reinforced railway flatcar was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It may have even been the first metal-reinforced railcar, meaning that the sheer size of the Mammoth Cheese may have led to innovation that changed the world’s shipping.
The cheese was a huge hit and gained notoriety immediately upon its arrival when it crashed through its first wooden stage. The cheese block was restaged and it managed to gain top medals and even a diploma! After its moment in the sun, the cheese was purchased by tea magnate Thomas Lipton, who decided it was not to his taste after he shipped it to England. However, a cheese-loving caterer then repurchased the cheese and divided it during a lavish ceremony. A piece of the original cheese is still preserved in the Perth Museum/Matheson House a short walk from the replica, but the cheese is not currently on display due to its delicate condition and shrinking.
In 1943, on the 50th anniversary of the cheese, a concrete replica of the Mammoth Cheese was installed near the site of old Perth Station. A simple concrete cylinder is meant to simply evoke the shape of the thing. Then in 2009, yet another monument was made, this one a bit nicer and set on a replica of the cart which held it at its original weigh station. This may be the cheesiest landmark in all of Canada.