Making butter is an ancient practice that is even noted in scriptures.
The concept of separating cream from fresh whole milk and shaking or churning it into butter is well documented in ancient history.
The discovery of churning butter later lead to the discovery of making cheese.
Sticks of butter as we know it today were not sold in some rural area stores until the mid 1900s.
Butter was either churned at home or sold directly by a dairy. Some of these suppliers were also called creameries.
Up until the mid 1960s butter was still being hand churned on most rural farms.
Most of these farms were very self sufficient and either owned a milk cow or traded other homegrown commodities for fresh milk and cream.
Even today butter is still being hand churned or churned in small electric butter churns in many rural homes.
Once the butter was made it was taken out of the churn, placed into a bowl and rinsed with cool water until the water ran off out clean.
The butter was then worked on a board until all the water was removed.
The finished product was then scooped into a dish or wooden butter mold to be shaped and formed.
Many of the restaurants and fancy hotels churned their own butter and placed it into wooden individual patty signature molds to display their logo or symbol.
Buttermilk is a result of the left over remaining milk left in the churn.
Buttermilk is a favorite ingredient used by of cooks to enhance many of their baking recipes.
Some might even confide that it's their secret recipe.
The History of making butter
With little documentation of the actual discovery of making butter the assumption prevails that butter was first discovered by nomad herders who carried some milk in leather saddle bags.
At the end of a journey they discovered the milk had been shaken so bad that it had turned to a solid matter with a different tasting milk. This milk would become known as butter milk.
Butter was once considered a lavish dish suited for royalty. The delicious discovery did not last very long as it quickly had to be used up before it would turn rancid.
The Celtic people are reportedly the first to use salt to preserve butter for a longer table life.
The history of butter churns
The first known butter churns still used leather pouches that were hung and shaken by different manual means.
Apparently at some point someone discovered the same result occurred in shaking milk in a wooden barrel.
Further discovery revealed that when the barrel was outfitted with wooden vanes on the inside the milk could be made into butter by rolling it.
It is unclear of when the plunger that would become known as the “dasher” was first used.
The wooden butter churn with dasher known as a “dash churn” became the household source of converting cream into butter.
The wooden dash churn is still being used in many European countries.
The rolling wooden barrel was also placed on a stand with a hand crank and then later was developed as a stationary wooden barrel with a hand crank attached to an inside wooden impeller.
At one point even a wooden barrel was attached on each side of a stationary base with a rotating hand crank that turned the barrel from end to end.
It is evident by the early discover of the wooden vanes inside the wooden barrel that the cream needed to splash against something to begin the transition into butter.
Without a splash bar the cream would simply roll around in the barrel.
Many people believed witchcraft was at play if their cream didn't churn into butter.
Several patents took the wooden barrel churn and replaced it with a square or octagon box so the cream couldn't just spin inside.
Documentation does not really begin to show the steady and rapid developments in the butter churns until people began to patented them in the 1800s.
Through the late 1800s and up until the mid 1900s over 2500 patents were assigned to different butter churn designs.
Evidently gaining a patent during in this era was very easy even with the very close similarities of other issued patents.
In looking over the glass butter churns discussed on down in this hub, side by side there is very little difference in the design and functioning of the hand crank models, yet so many different patents were issued for them.
Several patents took the wooden barrel churn and replaced it with a square or octagon box so the cream couldn't just spin inside.
Patents were also issued for a rocking churn that used variations of a wooden box with baffles on the inside to churn the cream as it rocked across the baffles.
Other designs took a stationary wooden box and equipped with it rocking baffles attached to a handle to rock the cream back and forth.
As more people worked on the development of making churns to produce butter faster, others worked on the transition of a leak proof container.
As people developed hand glazed pottery bowls, crocks and dishes the transition over to a glazed pottery dash churn also came out of the 1800s and became the choice up into the 1900s.
Little was known about bacteria and sanitary methods in the 1800s but the choice of a ceramic churn base would have become significant as that knowledge grew.
Tin was also used in butter churns. In review of the older barrel and rocking churns tin is noted as the outside skin in place of wood on several different models.
A tin box base was also used on the hand crank box churns that came out of the many patents filed.
One such patent for a tin butter churn was issued to a gentleman by the name of Nathan Dazey who latter founded the Dazey Churn Company.
The progression of the glass butter churns in America
As evidenced by the amount of butter churns available in antique stores today, Dazey was probably one of the most successful butter churn manufacturers or maybe best marketers?
Nathan Dazey of Dallas held the patent to the tin box butter churn, which became widely used up until they began selling glass butter churns beginning in 1922.
The name Dazey would later dominate the butter churn market in the US with its version of the glass jar churn using the hand crank technology they had developed so well with the tin churns.
The hand crank tin churn utilized a gear system that turned a rod fitted with wooden or metal paddles.
The very first glass jar churns were actually developed in England by the Blow Churn Company beginning in 1900 and were made up until 1929.
From that point the transition of the glass butter churn into America gets a bit fuzzy as there seems to be several different accounts of how and when the glass churn began being manufactured in the US.
Interesting the glass churn designed jumped the pond and was granted a US patent in 1921.
It’s also unclear how the transition occurred from England to the US, it appears that it was a collaborative effort with the US patent holder.
Soon after the patent Taylor Brothers Churn Company of St. Louis Mo. began manufacturing a glass butter churn very similar to the Blow Churn under the name of “Dandy”
Prior to the glass churn Nathan Dazey who was making can openers in Dallas Texas purchased the EZ Butter Churn Company.
This purchase provided the path for Dasey to enter the butter churn business starting with the tin butter churn that he patented in 1917.
With his success with the tin butter churn Nathan Dazey became intrigued with the idea of making a small home style churn for the small family rural farm.
Most of these farms had a daily supply of fresh whole milk but it was a limited supply from one cow.
The larger sized tin churns were difficult for the small family farm because electricity was at the time not available and refrigeration was very limited.
Milk and cream had to be processed quickly and could not be held over long to make larger batches of butter.
With his hand crank technology Dazey figured he could easily adapt it to a smaller glass jar similar to the Taylor Brothers Churn.
The Dazey Manufacturing Company grew to the point that his son John joined forces with him and they moved the company to St. Louis Mo.
It appears some collaboration may have also occurred with the St. Louis based Taylor Brothers Churn Company, but Dazey was granted a patent for his very similar glass churn in 1922.
Later reports indicate the Dazey purchased the Taylor company in 1945.
It’s also interesting that Dazey purchased the Standard Churn Company in 1950 and began using the Standard Churn hand crank design, the metal blades and even the tulip glass jars.
Apparently Dazey felt that the Standard Churn was a better design even after all the years of success with the original Dazey churns.
So is it just that Dazey was better at marketing, or was Standard beginning to out perform Dazey in quality?
At that time news traveled slow and people didn't have the sources of product reviews to know what was best. They could only rely on the advertisements of the manufactures.
Dazey already had solid name recognition through it's established tin churns, which probably gave them the leg up over Taylor and Standard.
If you have a Dazey churn with the metal blades and tulip glass jar it probably was made post 1950.
Several other companies made glass butter churns, Elgin and Fulton were two such manufactures.
These companies also plain labeled churns for such mega mail order companies as Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward.
Sears and Wards were the early day discount stores which gave Dazey a hard run in the market place.
This period during the 1930s was especially difficult for companies trying to sell new products as the country was still trying to recover from the depression.
Dazey came out with an economy churn called the Price Churn in an attempt to keep the market share.
Other companies made their own churns or contracted with a churn company to plain label churns for them.
We found a couple glass jar churns as the one pictured that only had a simple wooden plunger dasher.
We couldn't ID a manufacturer or find any similar product on the Internet for this plunger churn.
The plunger appears the same hand held wooden mixer that we have seen in other antique stores.
They apparently were used by rolling the wood dowel handle back and forth between the hands while plunging up and down into the glass jar.
The plunger churn appears to be factory made but could have been very well homemade or made by a small regional manufacturer in Texas.
Texas is the only place that we have ever seen this wooden plunger churn.
The other possibility is what we have seen in the other antique stores may have actually been the wooden dasher salvaged out of one of these glass jar plunger churns.
Sunbeam also had a glass jar churn on the market as an attachment to their popular Sunbeam Mix Master electric mixer.
We were not aware of the Sunbeam mixer attachment until we stumbled across it in an Antique store and just had to have it.
Regardless of the many different churns made during this era, Dazey seemed to dominate the butter churn market with both their tin and glass jar churns.
This is one of the reasons that Dazey churns are still so available in antique stores.
The Dazey glass churn became popular with families who wanted to make quick small batches of butter.
It’s size allowed it to be easily stored out of the way on a pantry shelf.
The Dazey tin churn in the larger sizes remained popular with the commercial size dairy operations.
As Dazey perfected and modernized the churn the open hand crank was enclosed with a more modern gear box that some call the red foot ball design.
Dazey continued with innovations with a strainer screen in the top and then the electric motor versions as the rural areas became electrified.
The hand crank versions were still used up into the 1960s as many rural homes didn’t obtain electricity until the mid 1960s.
Dazey hand crank churns are still being used and even reproductions of a hand crank churn are being used on rural farms and within sustainable living cultures.
These reproductions are actual working butter churns. Since Dazey churns have become such popular collector items fetching around $175 each many other antique reproduction Dazey churns have entered the market place.
Dazey never made a churn smaller than a 1 qt so the small so called salesman sample is for sure a fake.
Other butter churns used today for the home and small commercial dairy operations are made of Stainless Steel.
If you’re interested in locating a working reproduction churn to actually make butter, online self sufficient back to basic stores like Cottage Craft Works .com carry new glass, pottery, and stainless butter churns.
Old Fashion Butter Churn Recipe
Churning Fresh Butter from the Amish Mennonite Keepers at Home Healthy Choices Cookbook
- Collect cream until you have enough to fill your churn 1/3 full.
- Before churning set the cream out until it reaches 62 Degrees.
- Wash the churn in hot water to sanitize it and then rinse in cold water. The cold water helps to prevent the butter from sticking to the paddles and the sides.
- Pour the cream into the churn and then churn until it forms big clumps of butter. You should have butter within 10 minutes.
- Strain the butter out of the churn and place into a bowl. Rinse with cold water until the water begins to run off clear.
- Place the butter on a board and work until all the water has been removed.
- Add salt to taste mix and distribute into a butter dish or mold.
- Save the butter milk left in the churn for drinking or baking.
Nyesha Pagnou MPH from USA on August 11, 2014:
Thanks for this interesting and thorough hub with lots of photos. I enjoyed reading through this.
Katherine L. Phillips from Scio, Oregon on June 19, 2014:
I have one of the new replicas with the glass jar, metal paddle and hand crank. For the last 3 yrs I've kept dairy goats and made our own butter. I didn't freshen the goats this year but sometimes for the fun of it we'll get a carton of heavy whipping cream and make butter. It's a fun family activity during the cold rainy months and if you have dinner rolls or biscuits in the oven it makes for about the best earned dessert ever.
lizstevens (author) from Houston Texas on December 30, 2013:
Your best bet is to Google this info into as well as use Google Images and start looking for one that looks like yours. I just entered the number followed by butter churn and found out yours is a Hazel-Atlas who made the jars and a mold mark of K4249. From there you can Google your churn and find out going prices.
Mary on December 30, 2013:
I just received an antique butter churn for Christmas. It has the hand crank with 4 wooden blades, and a squarish glass jar The jar has no mfg lettering -- but on the bottom it has "6K 4249" and some sort of mark that looks like an upside down wide-block A. The jar is approx 9" tall. The lid/crank is 5" tall and has "HO" on the crank handle, "OG" on the gear, and "OB" on a part of the gear head. The glass looks to be handblown - several irregularities in the glass that look like "folds" or scrunchings. Can you tell me who the mfg is of my churn and what the possible value is, please? Thank you for your help.