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Stoneware Butter Churns

These are all three gallon stoneware butter churns.  The butter churn in the middle is a Red Wing, Minnesota salt glaze churn with a lazy 8 cobalt decoration.  Salt glaze was used in the late 1800's.  These butter churns have albany slip interiors since when the salt was thrown in the kiln it could not reach the inside of the churn because of the way they were stacked.  When the salt melted at the high temperatures inside the kiln it would form a glassy, glazed finish on the outside of the stoneware.  Hand drawn cobalt decorations were common during the period of salt glazing. 

Stamped decorations became the norm as zinc glazing took over.  Zinc glaze was painted on the inside and outside of the stoneware before it was put in the kiln so the interior and exterior have the same glaze.  The butter churn on the lower right is also a Red Wing churn with the newer zinc glaze.  This churn has birch leaves and was made prior to 1909.  The butter churn on the upper left is the more familiar Red Wing churn with the red wing.  This churn probably dates to 1917-18.  The butter churn in the upper right is also a Red Wing churn that has a mold seam in the center.  This churn probably dates to the 1930's.  In latter years the size of the wing decreased as the uranium oxide used to make the red color became more expensive.  The material is radioactive but at very low levels. 

Some Red Wing butter churns will be found stamped with a December 21, 1915 patent date.  This patent was issued to Elmore S. Hoyt of Red Wing, Minnesota for bailed side handles applied to the churn (
picture).  E. S. Hoyt was the president of the Red Wing Union Stoneware Company.  The handles had a wire bail and wood handle and attached to the churn with a bolt through a lug molded in churn.  These handles swung up over the lip of the churn when in use and dropped out of the way when not in use.  They were an improvement over the older handles molded in the clay which only could be grasped with ones fingertips.

Sears, Roebuck and Company pictured stoneware churns with birch leaves in their catalogs.  We believe they sold Red Wing stoneware although they did not describe it by name.  In the 1912 Sears catalog a three gallon stoneware churn with lid and maple dasher cost 78 cents.  By 1924 the price had risen to $2.48 and none were listed in the 1924-25 Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog.  There were many stoneware factories competing with Red Wing Stoneware although none achieved their distinction.  The butter churn in the lower left is an example of a 3 gallon churn made by the Pittsburg Pottery Company under the name Diamond Brand.

here to go to the page with wooden dash butter churns.
here to go to the page with tin dash butter churns.

Pump Butter Churn

This would be best described as a pump butter churn.  As the handle is lifted, a belt causes the dasher to rotate in one direction and on the down stroke it reverses and rotates in the opposite direction.  It was designed to be used with a stoneware crock.  The handle is embossed CAMP BRO. PAT. Aug. 5, 84 (1884) and the gear rack is embossed NF Co.   MFG.  The upright spells out NOVELTY POWER.  The August 5, 1884 patent was granted to David and Henry Camp of Athens, Georgia specifically for the churn motor.  In the patent papers they mention that a fan can be attached to the top of the dasher shaft to keep flies and insects away from the cream and to cool the operator while they work.  The top of the wood dasher has a hole drilled in it for that purpose.

The Camp brothers also patented another, similar style of churn motor except that instead of the up and down pump motion of the churn pictured above it was driven by a rotary gear and crank.  The dasher still rotated one direction and then the other as the crank was turned.  Those patents were dated March 11, 1884 and December 29, 1885.

Push Pull Butter Churn

This butter churn was also driven by a leather belt.  As the levers were pulled in one direction, the belt would cause the dasher to spin.  When the levers were pushed back in the opposite direction the dasher would reverse and spin in the other direction.  Looking at the design it would seem that this churn would be easier for two people to operate rather than one person working alone.  It would work similar to a two man buck saw.  As one person pushed the other would be pulling.  We have been unable to locate a patent for this style of butter churn if one exists. 

The stoneware crock shown here is a modern replacement.

here for a picture of a push-pull style churn that was designed to be operated by one person.
The butter churn mechanism pictured above used a half gear to spin the dasher.  Pushing the crank to one side spun the dasher 4 1/2 times.  Pushing the crank back to the other side spun the dasher in the opposite direction.  This butter churn was the first churn patent granted to Alpheus Fay on February 2, 1892.  In his patent drawing he did not show a handle on the half gear but rather connected the half gear to a rocking chair with a rod.  Rocking the chair back and forth would move the half gear and spin the dasher.  In fact there is a hole, just behind the handle, to connect a rod just like the patent drawing showed.

Alpheus Fay was granted at least 27 patents for butter churns, butter separators, butter making methods and "apparatus for operating on composite substances" as he called it.  He was especially active in his patent writing between 1911 and early 1917.  He most likely was associated with the Fayway Butter Separator that come out around 1913.

J. M. Hughes Vibratory Churn

This butter churn was patented by John M. Hughes of Knoxville, Tennessee on May 29, 1894.  In the patent papers he described it as belonging to the class of butter churns known as vibratory churns.  The dasher shaft has a spiral thread that is turned when the burr or nut on the lever arm is moved up and down.  The churn blades turn in one direction on the upstroke and in the opposite direction on the down stroke.  The motion is not smooth and thus came the name vibratory churn.  Whether the vibration made the cream churn faster we are not certain.  John Hughes persisted with the idea behind this churn and he received a second patent for an improved power mechanism twenty-seven years later on November 1, 1921.

Photo courtesy of Brunk Auctions, Asheville, North Carolina.
This butter churn is called The Reliable Churn.  It was patented January 4, 1910 by John and Thomas Taylor and was made by the Taylor Bros. Churn Company of St. Louis, Missouri.  It used a stoneware crock but instead of the up and down motion of a dasher one turned the crank to move the dasher up and down.  This butter churn came in three models.  The No. 2 had a fixed 6 inch stroke and was designed for a 3 or 4 gallon crock.  The No. 3, like the churn pictured above, had an adjustable stroke and handle length to accommodate larger sized crocks.  The No. 5 was the No. 3 model with an attachment for a 1/10 horsepower electric motor.  One of these churns new cost $6.50 including the crock. 

We believe the crock that came with this butter churn was similar to the one pictured above and was made by the White Hall Sewer Pipe and Stoneware Co. of White Hall, Illinois.  This seems like an odd combination but it was common to use lower grade clay for the manufacture of sewer pipe while the high quality clay went into stoneware production.  Taylor Bros. literature did not show a makers mark on the crock, only the number for the gallon size, but we have seen an original crock with the White Hall mark.  The cobalt logo on these crocks is in the shape of the state of Illinois with the letters WH SP&S Co.  Also the shape of the White Hall crock and the number for the gallon size is the same as in the Taylor Bros. literature.  The lid would have been made of wood and had a very small hole for the dasher rod and a wood knob off to the side.

We have also seen a Canadian version of this butter churn.  It was also embossed as "The Reliable Churn" and had the January 4, 1910 patent date.  However the manufacturer was embossed on the churn as Globe Engineering Co. LT'D. of Hamilton, Canada.

In 1913 the name of the company was changed to Taylor Bros. Churn & Manufacturing Company.  This company in later years made a more modern, electric version of this churn called the Reliable Deluxe butter churn (
picture) as well as the manual Dandy and Dandy Deluxe churns.

We have also seen a similar style of butter churn, except with three legs rather than two that is simply embossed WESTERN (picture).  It is also embossed with a patent number for a patent that was granted to John Gilda of St. Louis, Missouri on April 9, 1912.  We have never seen an advertisement for this butter churn.

here to go to the page that has Dandy glass jar butter churns also made by the Taylor Bros. Churn & Mfg. Co.
Shown above is an 8 gallon Superior Sanitary Churn.  These butter churns were made by the Superior Churn and Manufacturing Company located in Northville, Michigan.  They were a barrel type churn but instead of a wood barrel they had a stoneware vessel.  There are no paddles in this stoneware churn.  The end over end motion was enough to churn the cream into butter.  They were sold in 8, 10, 12, 15 and 20 gallon sizes in the hand powered model and the power models with a drive pulley were made in these same five sizes plus a 25 gallon capacity.  The various models were:

    No. 0 - The churn pictured above, designed for hand use only.
    No. 1 - A churn designed for power with only a pulley and no lever mechanism.
    No. 2 - A churn designed for hand and power use with a pulley and a lever
    No. 3 - A churn designed for power with a countershaft to reduce the speed.  This 
               churn was also available with an electric motor.

Some of these churns have a wood frame made of yellow pine like the one pictured above and others will have a metal frame that the stoneware sets in (
picture).  The wood frame probably predates the metal frame since a 1911 and 1915 advertisement as well as the patent drawing showed the wood frame but in a 1924 advertisement the frame was metal.  They have wheels built into the frame to make it easy to move the churn and the entire lid is heavy glass to make it easy to view the contents of the churn.  These lids are often found with large chips due to the clamping mechanism stressing the glass.  On the hand powered models, rather than a crank to rotate the churn the handle is moved back and forth to get the churn spinning.

These butter churns were patented on December 13, 1910.  Most of these churns will have this patent date stamped under the glaze although a few of the earlier ones will say Patent Pending.  The patent was granted to Charles Choate of Woodstock, Ontario, Canada and was assigned to Fred Van Atta of Pontiac, Michigan.  Fred Van Atta was the secretary, treasurer and general manager of the Superior Churn and Manufacturing Company.  The company started out small as a 1913 Department of Labor report listed the company as having only 2 employees.  A 1915 brochure listed the price of an 8 gallon butter churn like this at $10.50.  A similar size wood barrel churn would have been around 3 dollars at that time.  This was definitely an expensive butter churn for its time.  Compared to a wood barrel churn it would have had the advantage of being less prone to leaks and easier to clean but possible breakage would have been a disadvantage.  The companies selling feature was that neither the churn nor the lid could absorb any moisture making them absolutely sanitary.

We have seen an identical, Canadian version of this butter churn.  It was stenciled Eureka Sanitary Churn    Manufactured by The Eureka Planter Co. Limited    Woodstock, Ontario.  Since Woodstock, Ontario was the home town of the inventor, Charles Choate; this is undoubtedly the same churn.

It would seem that shipping these stoneware churns long distances would be very difficult but these butter churns were actually distributed in California by the Warr Supply Company of Los Angeles, California.

here to go to the page with wood barrel butter churns.
here to go to the page with metal barrel butter churns.

Simplest Churn

The butter churn pictured above was called the Simplest Churn.  The directions refer to J. L. Saxe as the manager and list the town as Waterbury, Connecticut.  This churn was designed to be used on a one gallon stoneware crock (or cream pot as the directions called it) that the user supplied.  There were three thumb screws on the arms of the frame that could be tightened to hold the churn on the crock.  The directions say that the top is open which allows the user to easily see inside but then warns that it is needless to churn so fast that the cream comes over the top of the crock.  The paddles consisted of two metal blades at right angles, one above the other.  The directions discuss using the churn to merge one pound of butter and one quart of whole milk but say that it will also churn butter from cream.  The frame is embossed PAT. APLD. and a patent was granted to John Saxe on May 1, 1917.  In the patent papers he states that the bottom paddle blade would force the cream upwards and the top blade would force it down.  He says this agitation is better than the rotary motion of most butter churns.  In reality it just splashes the cream around.  In fact, in his instructions he warns not to crank so fast as to splash the cream out of the top.  Probably the saddest part about this churn is that when J. L. Saxe had the directions printed, the printer must have misunderstood and referred to the churn as the Simplex Churn.  Poor Mr. Saxe must have been so strapped for cash that he could not afford to reprint the directions but rather had a stamp made that said SIMPLEST NOT SIMPLEX and stamped the directions to correct the mistake (picture).  J. L. Saxe was listed as selling the Simplest Churn as late as 1927-28 in an American Wholesale Hardware Directory.

Marvel Butter Merger

Pictured above is the Marvel Butter Merger.  Butter Mergers were designed to merge one pound of butter and one pound of milk (about a pint) into two pounds of merged butter.  This was a small stoneware device deigned for home use.  It was a little over 6 inches in diameter and a little under 6 inches tall.  The manufacturer was Reed & Tyerman Company of Chicago, Illinois.  The crock as well as the dasher are marked Patent Pending but we have never been able to locate the patent.  We have also seen them with red writing.  They were advertised in 1917 at a cost of $1.50.

We have also seen a version that is marked Hersh Sales Company Fort Wayne, Ind. in addition to Reed & Tyerman Co.   Marvel Butter Merger.