After the butter was churned the buttermilk needed to be worked out of the butter and if the butter was to be salted the salt needed to be worked in. If the buttermilk was not removed the butter would spoil quickly. This task was done by butter workers on larger operations and by hand held wooden paddles on a smaller scale. These paddles were known as butter ladles, butter spades or butter hands.
On the bottom of the picture are butter ladles on the left and butter spades or hands on the right. The first ladle on the left was an Anderson ladle and the second one was known as an Acme ladle. Ladles were cupped like a spoon while spades or butter hands were flat and usually had a grooved surface. They were used, one in each hand to continually turn and press the butter. This worked the buttermilk out and the salt in. In the 1897 Sears catalog butter ladles and spades were 8 cents each. In 1902 the price of an Anderson ladle was 7 cents while an Acme ladle or a spade was only 4 cents.
Above the butter ladles and spades is a lever butter worker. Freshly churned butter was placed in the tray and the lever was worked back and forth over the butter. The tray was tilted so as the buttermilk was worked out it would drain out the narrow end and into a container below. Salt could also be worked into the butter. This style of butter worker was patented on May 15, 1877 by Oscar S. Cornish and David W. Curtis of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. On November 16, 1880 these men were granted a second patent that covered improvements in the bracing of the legs for this style of butter worker. Lever butter works are often found with the stenciling of the company, Cornish, Curtis and Greene that sold them. The butter worker pictured above is a No. 0 size and was designed to work 15 pounds of butter. In 1896 a model with legs would have cost $3.50 from Sears, Roebuck and Company. The price had dropped to $3.33 by the fall 1904 Sears catalog and they were no longer sold in the 1908 catalog. They also came in sizes to churn 25 and 35 pounds of butter. In 1912 Creamery Package Manufacturing Company, which purchased Cornish, Curtis and Greene also sold a factory size that would work 60 pounds of butter.
The picture above is of a Eureka butter worker. One problem with the lever butter worker shown previously was that it was difficult to apply pressure to the butter evenly. The lever tended to put more pressure on the butter at the end of the lever close to the operator and less at the small end of the tray. The Eureka butter work was designed to solve this problem. Instead of a lever applying pressure directly to the butter there was a roller incorporated in the lever mechanism. The roller applied pressure evenly across the tray, yet the lever made it easy for the operator to adjust the pressure with a minimal effort. The whole lever and roller assembly was on a slide so it could be worked from one end of the tray to the other. Like most butter workers the tray was tilted slightly so the buttermilk would drain to one end.
This butter worker was first patented by Francis Butler of Bellows Falls, Vermont on April 16, 1878. Just a year later Francis Butler would be granted the patent for the Davis swing churn (click here to go to that page). A second patent for improvements on this butter worker was granted to Henry King of Bellows Falls, Vermont on November 3, 1885. This patent was assigned to the Vermont Farm Machinery Company. The improvements dealt with the small wheels that ran on the tracks on the side of the worker to guide the lever arm and roller. These improvements were meant to reduce the friction and make the roller easier to move. Vermont Farm Machinery Company referred to butter workers with these improved wheels as The Improved Eureka Butter Worker.
These butter workers came in 4 sizes. The No. 1 was a family size that would work 8 to 12 pounds of butter. The No. 2 and 3 were dairy sizes that worked 10 to 20 and 20 to 40 pounds of butter respectively. The No. 4 was a factory size that would work 40 to 60 pounds of butter. The prices from Vermont Farm Machinery Company in 1889 were 6, 8, 10 and 12 dollars for the four sizes. These butter workers were still sold in 1913, although the capacities had increased to 25, 50, 75 and 100 pounds and the prices were $8.00, $9.60, $12.00 and $16.00 dollars.
This is an A. H. Reid butter worker made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was originally patented on March 23, 1875 by Alban Reid. The lobed roller ran on two metal tracks and cranking the handle would run the roller back and forth over the butter. The handle side of the tray had legs that tilted the tray away from the operator so the buttermilk would drain out of a hole in the back. Alban Reid was granted a second patent on August 14, 1883 that dealt with operating this style of butter worker in a continuous manner driven by a motor.
A later patent, dated December 8, 1885, was granted to Nathan Williams of Bellow Falls, Vermont for improvements to this style of butter worker. Williams' improvement added two friction-rollers to the bottom of the guide that held the roller on the geared track. This allowed the roller to move more freely as it worked back and forth over the butter. Williams assigned his patent to the Vermont Farm Machinery Company, also located in Bellows Falls, Vermont. They sold many butter workers and also produced the Davis Swing Churn.
This was a size No. 4, which was a very large size, designed to work 50 pounds of butter. It was two foot wide by three foot long. Models were also available in 10, 20 and 30 pound sizes. This model was priced at $10.00 dollars in an 1889 Vermont Farm Machinery catalog. However the price dropped significantly when Sears started to market them. They were $5.75 in the 1896 Sears, Roebuck and Company catalog, increased to $6.33 in 1902 and then remained under 6 dollars until 1916. This size last appeared in the 1918 Sears catalog but smaller sizes were sold until 1926. Until 1904 Sears referred to this style of butter worker as a Reid Butter Worker, from 1905 to 1918 they called it a Philadelphia Pattern Butter Worker and in 1919 they started calling it a Standard Butter Worker. These name changes probably coincided with changes in who was supplying the butter workers to Sears. Sears advertised that these units could work butter in three to five minutes.
In their 1912 catalog, the Creamery Package Manufacturing Company referred to this style of butter worker as a Wizard butter worker. In addition to the sizes discussed above they also advertised a 75, 112 and 150 pound capacity unit for use in creameries.
Click here to go to the page with butter molds manufactured by A. H. Reid.
This is a butter worker made by the American Wooden Ware Manufacturing Co. of Toledo, Ohio. This company also made Improved Union butter churns. This butter worker probably was manufactured under the Reid patent. This one was also labeled as a size No. 4 but this was the smallest butter worker they made. It was just over a foot wide and two foot long. It was designed to work 8-10 pounds of butter. The lobes on the roller of this butter worker are larger than the Reid's butter worker pictured above even though it is smaller. Butter workers are often found with significant corrosion on the metal parts due to the salt used in working the butter.
The butter worker pictured above is a Waters' butter worker. On the Reid style butter workers shown previously the tray was stationary and the roller moved. This meant that on a large unit the operator had to move along with the roller as he cranked it. The Reid butter workers could also have problems with the roller not moving smoothly and jamming if it did not remain perpendicular to the tracks. On the Waters butter worker the roller remained fixed and the tray moved back and forth. This allowed the operator to stand still and the tray full of butter tended to move more smoothly, especially on large sizes. The legs on one end were slightly shorter to allow the buttermilk to drain towards one end. The tray could be removed from the butter worker and used to carry the butter.
Wadsworth Waters of Johnson, Vermont first patented his butter worker on July 8, 1884. Two years later on September 21, 1886 he was granted a second patent for improvements along with Samuel Waters. In their patent papers they stated that preferably the roller and the lobes were made from a single piece of wood to eliminate cracks that could be difficult to clean. This was an improvement over the Reid butter worker were the lobes were attached to the center of the roller with nails. An 1892 advertisement for Moseley & Stoddard Manufacturing Company of Rutland, Vermont featured Waters' butter workers, claiming they were "superior to all others". By 1913 they were offered in 5 sizes to work up to 15, 30, 40, 50 or 75 pounds of butter. A 50 pound worker like the one pictured here cost 10 dollars.
Samuel Waters was granted another patent on August 11, 1891 for a larger, power driven version of this butter worker that would automatically switch directions when the roller reached the end of the tray. Wadsworth Waters was granted another patent on July 7, 1896 for a version of this butter churn where the tray would tilt to drain off the buttermilk and would take less space to store.
This is a Skinner butter worker. It is kind of a cross between the pie shaped lever butter worker and the lobed roller butter workers. The roller had lobes or flutes although they were not as aggressive as the lobes on the Reid or Waters butter workers. The roller was geared to an arc shaped track at the upper end of the tray so as one turned the crank the roller revolved and also moved back and forth in the tray. Since there was only one track as opposed to two on the Reid butter workers, misalignment of the gears and track was not a problem. The lobed roller could be adjusted up or down depending on how much butter was being worked to keep the pressure even. The narrow end of the tray was 1 to 4 inches lower than the large end so the buttermilk would drain.
This butter worker was patented by Alba Skinner of Greene, New York on July 1, 1884. It was sold by the Vermont Farm Machinery Company in their 1889 catalog. They advertised it in five sizes. The smallest two sizes had no legs and were meant to be set on a table. They were designed for use in homes or small dairies. These machines were able to work 8-12 and 15-20 pounds of butter and cost 6 and 8 dollars. The three larger sizes were designed for larger dairies or factories and came with legs like the one pictured here. They worked 25-30, 40-50 and 50-60 pounds of butter and cost 10, 12 and 15 dollars.
This is a rotary butter worker advertised as Lilly's butter worker. As one turned the crank the round table rotated to move the butter towards the roller and the roller also revolved to work the buttermilk out of the butter. The buttermilk drained towards the center of the table and could be caught in a bucket set under the table.
This butter worker was patented by William Lilly of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on January 11, 1876. In an 1878 advertisement it was sold by Henderson & Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They were made in sizes that could work from 25 to 100 pounds of butter. A 30 pound machine sold for 15 dollars and the ad claimed it could work butter in five minutes. Later that year they were sold by C. H. R. Triebels, which was the successor to Henderson & Company.
Thanks Mike for letting us picture your butter worker.
This butter worker was advertised as the V. F. M. butter worker which stood for Vermont Farm Machine. Vermont Farm Machine Company was located in Bellows Falls, Vermont. Creamery Package Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois advertised this style as a Mason dairy butter worker. Turning the crank rotated the circular table as well as rotated the conical, fluted rollers. The buttermilk drained to the center of the table. The idea was very similar to the Lilly butter worker shown above except there were two rollers rotating in opposite directions.
The original design for this butter worker was patented by Homer Mason of Dundee, Illinois on August 22, 1876. His original design actually had 4 fluted rollers. There were two smaller rollers opposite the two larger rollers. The larger rollers worked the butter milk out of the butter and the two smaller rollers turned the butter and formed it into rolls. These extra rollers must have not been of great benefit because all the advertisements we have seen only have the two rollers like this.
Improvements on this butter worker were patented by David Curtis of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin on July 21, 1891. His patent was for a power driven butter worker but later advertisements said that the power butter worker was so popular the company was led to produce a dairy size butter worker with the ability to be hand cranked. The power worker came with a 5 foot diameter table while the hand cranked sizes were 3 or 4 foot in diameter. As can be seen, the hand cranked versions still came with a pulley for use with power. The prices in a 1912 Creamery Package Manufacturing Company catalog were 25 dollars for the 3 foot size and 35 dollars for the 4 foot size. A 1913 catalog showing the V. F. M. butter worker listed the prices as 30 and 35 dollars for the two sizes.
Pictured above is a Blanchard butter worker. This butter worker was manufactured by Porter Blanchard's Sons Company of of Concord and later Nashua, New Hampshire. George Blanchard patented this style of butter worker on February 21, 1882. In most butter workers there is one fixed surface that does not move and another surface like a roller or lever that moves against the butter to work out the buttermilk. George Blanchard believed that this action would smear or injure the texture of the butter. The idea behind this butter worker was that both of the quarter cylinder drums would move together, working the butter milk out and resulting in better quality butter. The buttermilk would fall to the lower tray and be collected in a bucket. Looking at it one wonders what kept the butter from falling down to the lower tray and in fact we have come across references from the period that described this butter worker as impractical. For sure they are not as common as the butter churns made by Porter Blanchard's Sons Company. George Blancahrd was also granted a patent on July 29, 1879 for a more conventional style of butter worker that we have never seen in production.
Click here to go to the butter churns made by this same company and here to go to their butter molds.