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Variety Of Churns Turned Cream Into
Butter For Household Use

Butter has not always come from the grocery store in rectangular blocks! For many centuries, it was made by hand on the farm, with the help of a butter churn.

Butter was made from the cream portion of whole milk. The cream, separated from the milk, was allowed to stand until it had undergone a ripening process. (We would consider it to be sour at this stage.)

The purpose of the churn was to mix the cream so rapidly that the fat globules it contained stuck to one another and became larger and larger. As the rapid agitation continued, the churn would become filled with thick foam. Eventually, this foam collapsed, leaving butter pieces about the size of peas floating on the surface.

The residue, butter milk, was drained off. The butter itself was washed, salted, kneaded and molded into various shapes in a butter mold packed into boxes or butter tubs.

The churning process usually required from 45 minutes to an hour. Most churns were hand powered by turning a crank or working a plunger rapidly up and down; others operated by rocking, using either a foot to press against the rocker or with a handle at the top.

Most of the early churns were made of wood. The rocker model looked like a barrel in a cradle, with high legs separating the rockers from the body. Another model was cylindrical, with revolving handles which were attached to paddles. Wooden “dasher” or “plunger” churns had tall, usually flared barrels. The earliest ones were held together with bands of hickory; later ones used iron or brass bands.

Butter churns were also made of pottery, glass and tin. The pottery, or stoneware, churns were usually of the plunger type. It is difficult to find stoneware churns with their original top. Many were broken; others were just discarded as a nuisance when the churn was no longer used.

The glass jar churns are very popular with collectors. They came in a variety of sizes and all would have been considered table-top models. They were operated by turning a handle, which in turn operated a paddle arrangement inside. These were made by several companies, including Dazey, Ball and Gem.

Early tin churns are rare. Most are of the plunger type.

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Curved Furniture Not For Conversation

A roundabout is one name given to a 19th century seating arrangement in which three seats formed a circle, and the three individual chair backs curved out from the central point. If three people were seated on such a unit, they would need to turn their heads toward the center of the circle in order to talk to each other.

A related piece from the same era was called the tete-a-tete. It was an S-shaped sofa on which two people could sit shoulder to shoulder, but facing in opposite directions. They had to look over their shoulders in order to visit with each other.

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Mechanical Book Created As
Astronomical Training Aid

Mechanical books, those that have either “pop-up” pages or movable pictures turned with a stiff paper lever or dial, are becoming very popular with collectors.

They do not represent a new idea, however. The first known mechanical book can be traced to 1551. Called Opera Mathematic, it was a book on astronomy printed in Nuremberg, Germany. It was used as a teaching device. Revolving disks and pointers helped to make the movement of the universe easier to understand.

By early in the 1800s, mechanical books were used for less serious purposes. Some were made to entertain, such as the American Toilet Book, which depicted objects on a lady’s dressing table. Some were also used for advertising. Observations On The Theories and Practices of Landscape Gardening used a flap to give a before-and-after effect on a client’s garden.

Dean and Son in England and Nister of England and Germany produced movable books beginning in the 1840s. Dean’s books had hand colored woodcuts of hinged figures and movable objects, such as Old Mother Hubbard sweeping her floor, with a tiny paper broom that actually swept.

Advances in printing processes and die cutting techniques made mechanical books quite readily available by the 1860s. Cut-out figures, one behind another, could be made to stand up to give a three dimensional look. The various layers of figures were erected by pulling on a piece of ribbon.

A variation of the mechanical book was the type of die-cut book that appeared near the end of the 19th century, in which the book itself took the shape of an animal, doll or child, while the enclosed pages were cut to the form of the outer cover.

Another variation was the “flip” book, with divided pages that changed the head or body of an animal when the pages were flipped. Also imported from England and Germany about this same time were books that featured disks which changed faces and shapes when turned, or tabs that pulled sliding slats to transform a picture into a completely different image.

Book designer Lothar Meggendorfer brought new techniques to the production of moveable books by the turn of the century. He used an intricate series of interconnection levers, which allowed the reader to activate the characters of the book by pulling on a tab. His dancing figures danced and his billiard players put the ball in the pocket.

Pop-up books as we think of them today originated in the 1920s. Both fairy tale characters and cartoon characters were featured. Pleasure Books and Blue Ribbon Books were two of the active publishers of these books; Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Pinocchio were among their stars. Terry and the Pirates, Buck Rogers and Popeye were also popular.

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