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Wood Butter Churns Page 2 - Barrels, Buckets & Cylinders with Dashers

These butter churns were all basically wood cylinders with some type of dasher or paddles inside to agitate the cream.  The barrels were usually horizontal while the bucket and dash type churns sat vertical.  They generally were all of wood stave construction with bands, typically metal, to hold the staves in place.  Some of the earliest butter churns were of this style probably because barrel making was a occupation carried out in most towns.  The round cross section of these churns made churning very efficient and left no areas were the cream was not churned.
This is a 3 gallon New Style White Cedar Cylinder churn.  This style of cylinder churn was one of the earlier churns.  We have seen it advertised as early as 1844.  At that time it was referred to as Kendall's Churn or Kendall's Patented Churn.  We have been unable to locate a patent if one was granted.  Around that time they were advertised in five sizes, starting at 3 gallons and ranging in price from $2.00 to $4.50. 

Sears, Roebuck and Company also sold this butter churn for many years.  In 1896 this style of butter churn in the 3 gallon size cost $1.50 in the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog.  By 1908 the price had risen to $1.98 and in the 1920's and 30's it was priced between three and four dollars.  They were still sold in the 1946 Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog with a Farm Master label for $4.98.  They did not appear in the 1946-47 Sears catalog.  They were available from Sears in 3, 4, 7 and 10 gallon sizes in the early years but in 1941 Sears dropped the 7 and 10 gallon size.  In the 1945-46 Sears catalog the four gallon size was also dropped and only the three gallon churn was sold.  The three gallon size was the most common size sold over the years.

Montgomery Ward also sold Cedar Cylinder churns.  The 3, 4, 7 and 10 gallon sizes appeared in the 1894-95 catalog with the 3 gallon selling for $1.50.  They still were sold in the 1947 catalog but only in the 3 gallon size priced at $6.45.

This was a very popular style of butter churn in the last half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century as proven by 100 years of sales.

here to go to the page with metal cylinder butter churns.

O. R. Fyler Churn

Although this churn looks very similar to the previous churn except for the legs, it has some other differences.  It was known as O. R. Fyler's Patent Butter Working Churn and was stenciled with a July 27, 1852 patent date.  This patent was issued to Orsamus Fyler of Brattleboro, Vermont.  In this churn there were fixed posts (fixed during churning, but removable to clean) attached inside the barrel that the dasher paddles passed through with each revolution as opposed to the Cylinder Churn pictured previously that had a barrel with nothing fixed inside.  The purpose of these fixed posts was to speed up and improve the churning of the cream and working of the butter.

We have seen this churn stenciled "Made by Sanborn & Weeks  Littleton, N.H." and also have seen an advertisement stating that Sidney Holmes of Grafton, Vermont was the sole manufacturer.
They came in four sizes, a No. 2 that held 4 1/2 gallons, a No. 3 that held 7 gallons, a No. 4 that held 11 gallons and a No. 5 that held 16 gallons.  The prices were $5.50, $6.75, $8.00 and $9.50.  The No 5 model could be purchased with a double crank for one dollar more.
These two churns are common dash butter churns.  The churn on the left is a three gallon size.  In 1896 a butter churn like this sold for 56 cents in the Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog.  By 1900 the price was even better, only 53 cents but by 1908 they no longer appeared in the catalog.  Sears, Roebuck and Company also sold them in 4, 5 and 6 gallon sizes. 

Most towns had a cooper or barrel maker that made this style of butter churn.  The better quality butter churns would have the staves tongue and grooved to prevent leakage.  The lids were often sunken below the upper ends of the staves so if cream splashed out on top of the lid it could not run down the side of the butter churn.  The bands could be flat steel or brass, round wire or even reeds.  Ash and cedar were common woods used for these butter churns. 

The Standard Churn Company of Wapakoneta, Ohio manufactured this style of butter churn in 3, 5, 7, 9 and 12 gallon sizes.  The butter churn on the right is an example of one of their 5 gallon dash churns.  The M. Brown & Company, also of Wapakoneta, Ohio and the Buckeye Churn Company of Sidney, Ohio also manufactured wooden dash churns.  All these companies advertised that they made there dash churns out of white ash.  The W. W. Babcock Company (which succeeded the Jackson Manufacturing Company) of Bath, New York offered their Jackson Dash Churn in 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 16, 19, 24, 31, 39 and 47 gallon sizes.  They advertised that their churns were made of white oak and claimed the 7 gallon size be used for one cow and the large, 47 gallon size was sufficient for a dairy with 20 cows.

This style of churn was very popular on small dairies with a few cows as well as in larger creameries.  They could be banked together so that many churns could be operated at once by an external power source like a gas or steam engine or even a water wheel (

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

Early Barrel Churn

This is an early horizontal barrel churn.  Unlike the Spain's churn which follows, this one had paddles that were not removable and it would have been difficult to clean.  Even the hole in the top is very small and removing the butter would have not been easy.  The churn is very early as all the metal hardware is forged rather than cast.  We see these churns fairly often but are unsure if they were made by a common manufacturer or a product of local wood workers.  We have seen references from the first half of the 1800's about this style of churn.

Spains Improved Churn

The butter churn pictured above is stamped SPAIN’S IMPROVED.  It is a size 1 which measures out to around 4 gallons.  This probably was one of the smaller sizes.  An 1883 advertisement mentioned seven sizes.  The churn consists of a small barrel or keg that sits on its side resting in a sawbuck type stand.  There are paddles inside of the churn and a square, metal lined opening at the top.  One of the unique things about this churn is that the paddles were designed so that they could be removed through the opening at the top without having to break them down into pieces.  This made cleaning very easy.  This was important since one of the main competing butter churns of the time was the revolving barrel churn which had a large opening and no paddles making it very simple to clean.

The history of Spain’s churn goes back very early.  An E. Spain was granted one of the earliest butter churn patents on April 23, 1828.  Remember patents only first started in 1790 and this was probably one of the first ten butter churn patents.  The design was for a similar barrel type churn with paddles and a hinged lid.  The barrel in the drawings was more of an oval shape rather than round however.  Unfortunately only the drawing exists for this patent and the specifications were lost so we don’t know for sure where this E. Spain was from or what his first name was.

 On May 16, 1848 an Edward Spain of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania patented a butter churn that was externally identical to the churn pictured above, just the paddle design was different.  In the patent Spain claims that the dashers can be removed from and replaced in the churn through the square opening in one whole piece.  This was a great improvement over previous stationary barrel churns since it made it much easier to clean the churn.  Spain actually received an extension on this patent on April 30, 1862.  Edward Spain was granted a second patent for improvements to this churn on September 29, 1868.  In that patent he describes dasher paddles that are inclined and have perforations in them to better agitate the cream.  These patents also showed a tube in the center of the lid that allowed the gases to escape during churning and for fresh air to enter the churn.  Because of this, these churns were often referred to as Spain's Atmospheric Churn.  This feature was abandoned in later churns since it probably had no effect on the churning.  The lid did not seal tight enough for pressure to build up any way.

At some point the company of Clement & Dunbar of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania took over the manufacture of these churns.  Clement & Dunbar was a large cedar ware manufacturer and in addition to butter churns also made ice cream freezers.  These churns were advertised as being made of white cedar with galvanized hoops.  The churn pictured above was stamped with two patent dates, both of which were assigned to Clement & Dunbar.  The first was issued to Watson Twining, also from Philadelphia, for the design of metal journals mounted to the ends of the churn to ease replacing the paddles in the churn.  That patent was dated February 27, 1872.  The second patent was granted on October 17, 1882 and the inventor was John Dunbar of Philadelphia.  This patent dealt with improvements in the dasher design.  The dasher had four paddles but two were placed near the outside edge of the churn and inclined forward and the other two were near the center of the churn and inclined backwards.  In addition one of the paddles had a concave curve on the edge while the opposite paddle had a convex curve.  This dasher was designed to churn the cream more completely while at the same time still being able to be removed in whole from as small an opening in the churn as possible.

In addition to the churn John Dunbar also patented the sawbuck stand.  That patent was granted on June 15, 1875.

Spain’s Churn was sold for many years.  We have seen advertisements as early as 1855 for this butter churn.  An 1878 advertisement from Clement & Dunbar mentioned that this churn had been in use for over 25 years.  We have seen advertisements as late as 1905 still advertising the churn for sale.  At that time they were sold by the Dairymen’s Supply Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania under the Bestov trademark.  This churn was also sold in England.

Star Butter Churn

Clement & Dunbar also sold a round shaped bucket churn with vertical staves called the Star churn.  It was advertised in 5 sizes and was also made of white cedar with galvanized hoops.  The churn pictured here is around three gallons in capacity.  This churn, like the Spain churn pictured prior, also was imprinted with a February, 27, 1872 patent date that was granted to Watson Twining for the metal journals that held the dasher in the churn.  The design of this churn had been around for a while however.  A patent was granted on June 6, 1822 to B. Hayden Jr.  for a butter churn of this basic style.  This patent was one of the first issued for a butter churn.

Clement & Dunbar advertised this butter churn in the early 1880's but the churn shown above is stamped with the Bestov trademark so it too was possibly sold by the Dairyman's Supply Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  We have seen a butter churn very similar to this one called a Monumental Churn.

Oval Churn

The butter churn shown above was called an Oval Churn.  It was originally sold by The Oval Churn Company of Goshen, Indiana.  This one is a 6 gallon size but they were also sold in a 4, 8, 10 and 12 gallon size.  A six gallon size sold for 4 dollars in the late 1800's.  An advertisement stated that in 1880 only 870 of these churns were sold but in 1881 the number sold increased to upwards of 12,000.  Obviously the name comes from the oval shape of the wood staved bucket that forms the churn tub.  The Oval Churn Company advertised these as the best, cheapest, simplest and most durable churn on the market.  They claimed that it would churn easier and quicker than any churn on the market as well as produce more butter of unsurpassed quality from the same quantity of cream in less time than any other churn.  The type of wood specified in the ads was ash.

At some point in time these churns were sold by the Goshen Churn & Ladder Company also of Goshen, Indiana.  This company was formed in October of 1901.  A 1909 invoice from this company priced the oval churn at $2.14 for the 4 gallon. $2.28 for the 6 gallon, $2.42 for the 8 gallon and $2.57 for the 10 gallon.  These were wholesale prices but they churns had sure dropped in price!

A patent was granted to George Cline and Joseph Gallagher on August 28, 1877 for this churn.  They were also from Goshen, Indiana.  The patent papers discussed the unique shape of the dashers which are shown in the picture.  It appears the design in the patent papers was changed slightly for the churns that were sold.  The dashers are often found with one of both of the fingers broken off.  The clearances were very close and if the dasher warped or the journals were worn it often hit the bottom of the churn.  An oval shaped churn was not a new idea in 1877 however.  A patent was issued on June 26, 1836 to Isaac Wood for an oval shaped churn with rotary dashers.

 Fayway Butter Separators

These butter churns were called Fayway Butter Separators.  The manufacturer embossed on these churns is The Fayway Company of Cincinnati, Ohio.  We have seen a publication from 1913 that listed The Blanton & McKay Company of Cincinnati, Ohio as the manufacturers and we have seen churns with Blanton & McKay Company embossed on the churn.  We have also seen advertisements in local newspapers from the fall of 1913 offering the stock of The Blanton & McKay Company.  The ads compare an investment in Blanton & McKay to an investment in International Harvester, John Deere or DeLaval.  Somehow that did not work out.  By the fall of 1914 ads for the Fayway Butter Separators listed the company as The Fayway Company so The Blanton & McKay Company was very short lived.

The containers on these butter churns are of wood stave construction like a barrel.  The crank mechanism to turn the dasher is similar to a glass jar churn however the actual dasher is unique.  The dasher is a flat disc rather than paddles.  Also since the container is round they use two brake strips to keep the cream from just spinning in a circle.  They are held to the insides of the container by spring clips.  Click
here for a picture of the dasher and brake strips. 

The butter churn on the left measures out to around 8 gallons and the one on the right is around 3 gallons.  The butter churn on the right is shown in the patent drawings of a May 16, 1916 patent.  This patent was issued to Ambrose Blanton, also from Cincinnati, Ohio.  The butter churn on the left is similar in many respects however the metal gear frame is different.  We don't know if this was just a larger model or whether it is an earlier version.  The two metal loops at the bottom of the churn container were used to fix it to the floor to keep it steady while churning.  Two hinges with slots in them (similar to a hasp for a pad lock) were bolted to the floor.  The other half of the hinge was folded up so the loop on the churn passed through the slots in the hinge.  Then a wedge or bolt was passed through the loop and over the hinge to hold the churn down.

A 1915 advertisement for the Fayway Butter Separator claimed that it could make more butter from the same amount of cream than any other butter churn, it could churn butter in less than half the time of any other churn and the butter it produced could be sold for 5 to 10 cents per pound more than regular butter.  The Fayway Company advertised that it was the only butter churn with bronze ball bearings, making it the easiest to operate.  We would not call them ball bearings but rather bronze bushings to guide the shafts.  They company also advertised that this churn worked on a different principle than other churns.  They claimed that a hollow shaft forced air into the cream and blew the butterfat to the top where it then formed butter granules.  This was supposed to be superior to churns with paddles that beat the butter fat globules, resulting in greasy butter.  The company offered a 30 day free, on farm trial of their butter churns without any down payment.  Another advertisement boasted of a five year guarantee on the churn.  The company also offered a Correspondence Course in Farm Buttermaking that was given free to anyone purchasing a Fayway Butter Separator.  With all these enticements one wonders why you don't see more of these butter churns.

We feel that this butter separator is somehow linked to Alpheus Fay.  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.  His first churn patent was February 2, 1892 for a rocking chair powered churn.  On this patent he lists his home town as Cincinnati, Ohio; the same town the Fayway Butter Separator was manufactured in.  His later patents placed him in Louisville, Kentucky.  His churns primarily used a flat dasher similar to the Fayway Butter Separator and he often used the term butter separator in his patents which was somewhat unique.  Blanton actually mentioned Alpheus Fay in his patent for the Fayway Butter Separator.  Lastly it is hard not to see the connection between the names Alpheus Fay and the Fayway Butter Separator.

Combined Churn and Butter Worker

The churn pictured above was called a combined churn and butter worker.  Just as the name implies it was able to churn the cream into butter and then work the buttermilk out of the butter while working the salt in.  This was a great benefit to large creameries as it saved the cost of buying two machines, saved on the floor space needed in the creamery and saved on the labor needed to move the butter by hand from the churn to the working table.  Also since the butter was never exposed to the air between churning and working it kept foreign matter (including flies) out of the butter.  These were large churns and were either driven by an attached electric motor or belt driven from an external power source

Although there were many patents for combined churns and butter workers they all worked on similar principles.  Since the barrel rotated on its long axis the inside of the barrel needed paddles or something similar to lift the cream to the top of the barrel where it would then fall back to the bottom to be lifted again.  If there were no paddles the cream would just sit at the bottom of the spinning barrel.  This process resulted in the churning of the cream.  To work the butter the gears on the churn were shifted.  This lowered the speed of the barrel and engaged the working rollers.  These rollers were usually lobed and located in the center of the barrel.  Various patents used one to four rollers.  The rollers rotated towards each other to pull the butter between them.  As the barrel rotated the butter was lifted to the top by the paddles.  At the top it fell towards the bottom but now it would be caught by the lobed rollers in the center of the barrel.  As the butter was worked between the rotating rollers the buttermilk was pressed out and could be drained out of the bottom of the barrel.  This motion also quickly worked in the salt.  Click
here for a cutaway picture of a combined churn and butter worker.

One of the first patents for a combined churn and butter worker was issued to Rueben Disbrow of Minneapolis, Minnesota on January 17, 1893.  After that many inventors improved upon the device and were granted patents.  Owatonna, Minnesota was the home to many of these later inventors.

Prior to 1910 many companies sold various models of the combined churns and butter workers.  Some of the early manufacturers and their churns included:
    Cornish, Curtis & Greene of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin sold the National and 
        the Wizard churns.
    Creamery Package Manufacturing Co. of Chicago, Illinois sold the Owen, the 
        Winner and the Victor.
    D. H. Burrell & Company of Little Falls, New York sold the Simplex.
    Disbrow Manufacturing Company of Owatonna, Minnesota sold the Disbrow.
    E. T. Winship of Owatonna, Minnesota sold the Disbrow.
    F. B. Fargo & Company of Lake Mills, Wisconsin sold the Fargo and the Victor.
    J. G. Cherry Company of Cedar Rapids, Iowa sold the Perfection.
    Oakes & Burger of Cattaraugus, New York sold the Chautauqua.
    Owatonna Manufacturing Company of Owatonna, Minnesota sold the Disbrow.

The history of the combined churn and butter worker however was a little like a soap opera.  There were many accusations of patent infringement, unfair competition and obstruction to fair trade.  Some of the patents were determined to be invalid since they did not add to the invention.  This all finally ended up in the Supreme Court where a decision was handed down in 1913.  Eventually the Creamery Package Manufacturing Company gained control of much of the market.  They bought Cornish, Curtis and Greene as well as F. B Fargo & Company.  They also gained control of the Disbrow combined churn and butter worker when they became the selling agents for the Owatonna Manufacturing Company. 

The combined churn and butter worker pictured above was made by the Creamery Package Manufacturing Company and was their Victor model.  These churns came in sizes from 325 to 640 gallons and could make 475 to 1000 pounds of butter.  One feature of this churn was that friction clutches were used to shift the gears.  On some combined churns the gears were actually moved when changing the speed of the barrel.  If the barrel had not come to a complete stop while the operator was shifting, the gears would clash and grind.  With the Victor churn the gears always remained meshed and the clutches were used to engage and disengage the gears eliminating any grinding of the gears when shifting the speed.

There were smaller, home versions of the combined churn and butter worker.  Four of the most common home churns and their manufacturers were:
    The Minnetonna Home Creamery made by the Minnetonna Company of 
        Owatonna, Minnesota.
    The Owatonna Home Creamery made by the Home Creamery Manufacturing 
        Company of Owatonna, Minnesota.
    The Perfection Jr. sold by the J. G. Cherry Company of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
    The Victor Jr. made by the Creamery Package Manufacturing Company of 
        Chicago, Illinois.
These small combined churns were often power driven although hand cranked versions were available in the smallest sizes.

here to go to the page with conventional butter workers.

Gault's Cylinder Churn

This is probably the earliest churn on the site.  It was known as Gault's Cylinder Churn or Gault's patent Churn.  We have seen references to this churn as early as 1826.  When the lid was opened the cylinder was split in half and the dashers would raise with the lid (picture).  This made it easier to remove the butter and clean the dashers but it also meant that the churn could only be filled to much less than half its capacity.  This required a much larger churn to work a given quantity of cream.  We have never located a patent granted to Gault nor one as early as 1926 but there was a patent issued on October 1, 1830 to Ebenezer Dewey.  This patent was for a very similar churn however the dashers were different and they remained in the bottom half of the cylinder when the churn was opened.  One problem with this churn was leakage of cream  around the dasher shaft.

Photo courtesy of Brunk Auctions, Asheville, North Carolina.