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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Butter Molds/Stamps

Back in the good ole days

Alot of people have the idea that butter was made at home, which was true for country farm folks but city folks had to purchase butter at a general store. Here are photos of butter molds,stamps and presses.
Butter Stamp

 After the butter was worked and salted by a farmer, if needed, it usually was molded into blocks or rounds to be measured, stored and sold.
The other option was to just pack it into tubs or crocks but printed butter usually received a higher price in many markets. 
 And sometimes consumers bought butter in tubs and then molded it themselves to make it more presentable on the table. Common butter mold sizes were 1/2, 1 and 2 pounds. 

Since most butter was sold, having an accurate weight was important. If a customer paid for one pound of butter they wanted to get one pound. Many butter molds had provisions to adjust the size of the mold so that the amount of butter could be increased or decreased to get a print weighing the correct weight. This did not stop dishonest merchants and dairies from selling under weight rolls of butter. The problem became so bad that in 1893 the California state legislature passed a law stating: "Any person or persons, firm or corporation, who offers for sale roll butter not of full weight to each roll, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."


The butter molds pictured above were very popular and many are found today. These had fancy designs carved into the press so that the impression was left on top of the butter. Common designs were a sheath of wheat,  pineapple, thistle, cow, rooster and geometric designs. Butter would have been filled into the mold and then the plunger pressed to form a tight shape of butter. The handle screwed into the print so it could be removed from the case.

These came in a one pound size like the two molds on the left, a half pound size like the third mold and pat sizes like the last mold. 
Sears, Roebuck & Company also listed a two pound size in their 1987 catalog as well as square molds(photo above). The price of these varied depending on the complexity of the carving but would have ranged from 10 to 30 cents for a two pound mold, 13 to 26 cents for a one pound mold, 12 to 22 cents for a half pound mold and 8 to 10 cents for a pat size mold. They could be special ordered with one's initials. Montgomery Ward was still selling the pat size for 8 cents and the one pound size for 35 cents in their 1935-36 catalog.

One of the simplest ways to mold butter was to just use the butter spades or hands that were used to work the buttermilk out of the butter. One just could form the butter into the desired shape after working the butter milk out.There was no mold, the butter was just free formed into a shape. Then a butter stamp, such as in first photo pictured, could be used to imprint a design on to the butter. The stamp was only to imprint a design on the butter, it did not act as a mold. It is likely that many carved plungers from butter molds were turned into stamps after the mold case broke.


Most butter stamps were made of hardwood such as maple however one can find stamps made of glass, metal and stoneware.

The butter mold pictured above was advertised as Kinerson's Combination Butter Print. These were advertised around 1885 and manufactured by James Kinerson of Peacham, Vermont. In this print, the box that formed the mold had tapered sides so that as the butter was ejected the print became loose in the mold. Also there were thin strips of wood set into the face of the print that would form lines into the butter that would mark where the print could be cut into smaller blocks. The design was carved into the face of the print and would be raised on the surface of the butter. 
These are very collectible today,some are just used as display items, but some are actually used as their intended use.

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