Butter Mold Artifact Highlight #43

This butter mold was donated to our collection in 1990. It is made of wood in a shape of a bell. The interior holds a press, which consists of a stamp with a turned handle finished with a rounded tip that comes out through a round opening on top of the mold.

The stamp is carved with a decorative pineapple design. It was made around 1900-1930. It would hold about a pound of butter.

Butter molds were used to shape butter and decorate it with a design, either for individual esthetic value or to identify the maker or the dairy. The molds pressed any air and remaining buttermilk out of the butter and gave it a longer storage life.

Before being used, the mold was soaked in cold water, so that the butter would not stick to it and would be easier to remove. Once the butter was tightly packed into the mold, the handle was used to push the stamp out. The butter would take the shape of the mold with the stamped design on top. When ready for market, the stamped butter was wrapped in cloth or paraffin paper.

Midgley Ranch. PCM Collection

Well into the 19th century, butter was handmade mostly by women using butter churns. It was an important source of income for many farm families and was sometimes used to barter for goods and services.

Herbert Ponting milking Cherry. 1893 PCM Collection

Most molds were made of close-grained wood and were either round or rectangular. The most popular designs on the stamp included thistles, flowers, roosters, wheat, tulips, farm animals and pineapples.

Pineapples symbolized hospitality and generosity and were often used in centerpieces. They were also a popular decorating motif during the 19th century, used in architecture, furniture and textiles.

Background Image: Butter Making Class (Wales) c.1885. Enid Griffith Collection, PCM Collection

The mold was donated by Jerald Saladana of Newcastle. He graduated from Placer Union High School and Sierra College and went on to study theatre arts in Pasadena.

His father, Albert Saladana, was a Newcastle fruit rancher.

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