The giant cheese of Perth

Perth is a cute little village, located at about forty minutes west of Ottawa. There is a pretty main street with many small shops, beautiful stone houses and lots of heritage buildings. In short, it’s a lovely place to visit. But forget about architecture and history. What has really made Perth famous around the world is rather a giant cheese …

Perth in winter

For the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, the Canadian cheese industry had an original idea: to make a giant cheese to promote Canadian cheddar cheese. Twelve farmers in the Perth area gave up a day of their milk production to make this cheese, which was carefully watched by experts and flipped upside-down once in a while to make sure it kept its shape.

Once ready to go to Chicago, the cheese weighed 22,000 pounds (11 tons!) and was almost two metres high. At the time, it was the biggest cheese ever produced. After a local celebration, the cheese left Perth and traveled to Chicago by train. Crowds massed along the railroad to see what was then called the “Mammoth Cheese”.

The Mammoth Cheese of Perth
A replica of the Mammoth Cheese

Once in Chicago, the cheese stole the show and newspapers from all over the world wrote about it (mostly because it smashed the floor of the room in which it was because it was too heavy). After the exhibition, Sir Thomas Lipton (yes, the one who created the Lipton tea) bought the cheese and shipped it to England. Apparently, the English tycoon was rather disappointed when the cheese arrived, since he found that its taste had been altered by its crossing of the Atlantic … Nevertheless, the cheese was sold again and cut into pieces, and 80 pounds were sent back to Canada so that members of the House of Commons and the Senate could taste it.

Two replicas were built in Perth to pay homage to this part of the village’s history. The first, built in 1943, was erected near the railroad, where the Perth station was located. A newer replica was installed a few years ago closer to the main street.

There would also be a real piece of the Mammoth Cheese at the Perth Museum … It’s hard to imagine that this 100-year-old piece went to Chicago, England and Ottawa, and crossed the Atlantic twice, before returning to Perth.

It’s a small world … but it was a big cheese!


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