Mildred Dalton was a strong Southern gal who had a knack for baking. On a quiet road in her small rock home in Mansfield, Mildred created pastries and pies while her husband, Jessie Otis Dalton, operated a one-room grocery store in Fort Worth during the mid-1920s.
With three small children, money was tight for the Texas couple. As a source of additional income, Jessie would tote his wife’s baked treats to his store to sell to local customers.
Mildred noticed while producing pastry meringues that she hardly used any of the leftover egg yolks. She found that the yolks could be used to make her homemade mayonnaise, which quickly became a best seller at the family store. Customers would call in orders ahead of time to ensure the product was available.
Always the opportunist, Mildred decided her popular mayonnaise could be enhanced with the addition of a few ingredients. With pickle relish as the main item included in her new homemade sandwich spread, Mildred secured a supplier. When the relish supplier suddenly raised his prices, Jessie and Mildred decided to plant a cucumber patch in their home garden.
The harvest was more abundant than the family had expected, leading Jessie and Mildred to begin packing pickles and setting into motion what would become their pickle empire, Best Maid.
In 1925 Mildred and Jessie opened a small production factory on Evans Avenue in Fort Worth and made direct sales door-to-door and to small grocery stores, selling single jars of pickles and condiments from Best Maid delivery trucks.
Two years later, the Dalton’s son, Garland, started making deliveries after school at the age of 10. Twenty years later, business picked up, and manufacturing facilities were relocated to Riverside Drive, which allowed new distribution outlets through Texas. Jessie and Mildred’s grandchildren continued the tradition, and Best Maid Pickles celebrates its 90th birthday this year.
Behind That Smile
What’s the story behind that cute caricature on the front of all Best Maid products? The legend goes that the lovable character, Smiley, is a caricature of Mildred and Jessie’s granddaughter drawn by a company employee. The family pickle operation says the logo embodies its belief: “It’s the taste that makes you smile!”