Petite Exhibit: MAKING AN IMPRESSION: Early American Butter Prints

October 18, 2022 - December 31, 2022

Second and Main Sts., Odessa, DE 19730

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    Encounter some relics of the past in the form of early American butter prints which are on exhibit in a display case at the National Historic Register Wilson Warner House. 

    These notable pre-industrial 19th century objects are highlighted from the HOF museum collection of nearly seven thousand objects.  These lovely little objects were created to stamp a decorative impression on home-made butter thus decorating one’s butter dish.  The prints were also used to brand and identify produce from local farms thus helping consumers to associate quality and insure product loyalty for the farm.

    Typically the prints were made of lathe turned pine wood with knob like handles and carved symmetrical pictures that often included flowers, fruits, animals, and geometric patterns.  The stamp or mold would be in reverse so that it would come out the correct way round when the butter pat or pound was turned out.  There were five distinct types of butter prints created to include: 1. single piece flat prints or stamps for jar or dining table decoration, 2. two piece circular ejector prints or plungers that push the butter out, 3. two piece molds that push together to create a 3-dimensional figure, 4. rollers with carved patterns used for rolling around the sides of blocks of butter, and 5. cup or brick molds in the form of domes or hollow rectangles for producing blocks of patterned butter.

    Do you have any butter prints in your kitchen?  Does your grandmother have a collection?  These objects are frequently associated with women who were the ones to produce enormous quantities of butter to sell at markets as an American staple to be used extensively in cooking, just as it is today.

    Collectors are drawn to unusual designs beyond the typical stars, cows, thistle, and sheaves of wheat.  Words and initials are quite rare as are swans, reindeer, and eagles.  Collectors also are weary of split or cracked prints showing their wear after being used in hot kitchens and constantly being scoured and washed.  Be on the lookout for butter prints at local antiques shops or flea markets to start your collection today.

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