Food Folk Culture: Butter Prints and Molds
Hand carved early prints (or stamps) and molds added a bit of artistry to an otherwise labor-intensive undertaking in making butter. For the wealthy, having a design on their butter brought a level of elegance and status to their table. But the primary use of butter prints and molds was for their commercial value - just as logos are today. Good quality butter was not easy to make and the design on the butter would symbolize the maker with “stamped” butter commanding higher prices in the market.
This definition is given by Paul E, Kindig in his informative book, Butter Prints and Molds:
..."butter prints consist only of a carved design, with or without a handle; the design is pressed against butter in a free-standing pat; Butter molds consist of a case, which measures and forms the correct amount of butter, and a plunger which carries the design and also pushes the butter out of the filled case."
The form progressed from hand-made prints (early ones often looked like a paddle with carvings), to hand carved molds, to craft-shop made and then finally to factory manufactured. The common thin-walled, round molds with separate plungers were possible after the advent of the lathe. Designs were varied but often included farm-related themes of animals (cows were very popular), flowers, grains, fruits and vegetables and the sun and stars. By the mid-1800s factories were producing stamps and molds to keep up with the growing dairy industry and the advent of creameries producing butter.
Butter prints and molds were a staple of the American and European farm. Today the best surviving examples are fun pieces of folk art.
Search for butter prints, molds and stamps here.
Here are a few interesting references on butter molds and prints:
- Butter Prints and Molds, Paul E. Kindig, Schiffer Publishing, 1997
- Butter Molds, Stamps & Presses, Doug & Linda's Dairy Antique Site
- Butter Molds Practically Decorative, Alice Ross, Hearth-to-Hearth, The Journal of Antiques Collectibles, October 2000
- Butter molds & stamps: A guide to American manufacturers with photo identifier, Barbara S Van Vuren, Butter Press, 2000
- What are Butter Molds?, wiseGeek
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