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The Butter Churn … Continuing Adventures of the Antiques Detective

November 8, 2010

Early this year I acquired a wooden butter churn, made by the Standard Churn Co., at an antiques shop in Montana.  My Emigh family was in the creamery business in Walla Walla from 1897 to 1992.  In 1994 we remodeled one of those buildings into our shop, Shady Lawn Antiques. Therefore I have an affinity for dairy related antiques and I was immediately drawn to this churn.

Butter Churn prior to restoration

As an antiques dealer I endeavor to put my emotions aside and project who would buy an item and how they would use it.  My first reaction was that the top of this churn was just the right height for an end table next to a sofa or a chair.  You could put a lamp, some reading material, a television remote and or a drink on it.  It would also look very good in a dairy or farm collection.  I thought, “OK, there seems to be at least three groups of people that the churn would appeal to (and I like it) so I’ll buy it.”

My restoration decisions are based upon how I think that a piece might be used.  There is a good chance that the churn would be displayed or used inside a house.   Therefore the metal parts were cleaned, the rust removed, and then they were lightly buffed.  The oak was then cleaned, lightly sanded and some danish oil was applied.

Churn after restoration

When I was done, the Antique Preservationist side of me wanted to know more about this churn.  The first step was to do some research on the churn and my research books had no information so I turned to the internet.  I found a dairy antiques website with some information about the Standard Churn.

The website indicated that the Standard Churn Company of Wapaknoneta, Ohio, was established in 1889 by F.H. and R.C. Haman and S.A. Hoskins.  They were producing 40,000 churns per year in the early 1900’s.  My churn is known as the wood box churn on legs and it is over 100 years old.

Original stenciling on churn

The computer research revealed the history of the Company and an approximate age of the churn.  The churn’s lid had an additional story to tell.  There is a dark (verging on black) ring on top of the lid and there is a curved ragged missing section of wood.

One side of me says that it is too bad these marks are on the lid because they detract from an otherwise nearly perfect churn.  The other side says that these marks just document the history of this churn.

Top of the churn lid

Upon further inspection and some thought, I was able to conclude that the ragged section was caused by the chewing of a small animal or rodent.  This animal had been getting into the churn in search of butter.  When the farmer discovered this he put a metal cream can on the the lid to hold it down.  Over time, the metal can sitting on the moist oak lid caused the black ring.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim permalink
    November 10, 2010 12:48 pm

    Dave – Very cool churn! It is about 50 times smaller than the ones that used to grace Shady Lawn. Nice job on the restoration. I would guess that the spot where the gnawing occured is where the lid was lifted by the user and it got saturated with butter/salt. Another thought is that the spot may be where the person churning the butter put his/her hand when cranking the churn. Keep up the good posts!

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