This is my Prize butter churn. Some of the lettering on the front of the churn has faded and is somewhat difficult to read in areas, but the top line says “THE PRIZE” with a curlicue design below it, the next line says “CHURN,” and the last two lines are “Pat. Oct 8, 1867 & Mar 18, 1873.”
This churn is in such wonderful condition, I would guess that it either did not see much use or its previous owners took extremely good care of it. It still has its original finish and all of its original parts, including the small square-headed iron cotter pin on the iron gears.
There are two long hollow wooden “tubes” that fit down through the thick wooden lift-off cover of the churn and pull up and out for removal… these tubes have carved flared out tops and probably let air escape. (I have removed one and laid it on its side in the photo below to show how surprisingly long these tubes are.)
The top of the churn lifts off to show the intricate wooden paddle mechanism inside. The paddles and the inside of the churn are all made of wood and are also still in perfect condition.
The photographs below show both ends of the churn. There is a carved wooden plug in the bottom of one end (the end without the gears and handle). I have no idea what this plug was for… perhaps for draining out the buttermilk or the water used for rinsing the butter… or the water used to clean the churn?
The ridges on the two gears fit together and the gears are connected to the paddles inside the churn. When the handle is turned, the paddles turn too. The smaller gear has raised lettering and numbers: “PATD MAR 18 1873.”
My mother and father never knew who the previous owners were… the churn was one of the several old items that had been left in the house they moved into shortly after they were married. My mother said she always resented the presence of this churn because it took up so much room in their small house, but she must have concealed the churn well, because I don’t remember ever seeing it. My mother said it was always stored out of sight under the eaves in one of the upstairs bedrooms.
Not too long after my husband and I had built and moved into this house, my father asked me if I wanted the churn, and after I had seen it, of course my answer was an enthusiastic yes. We have given it a prominent place in our large kitchen, where it somehow blends in equally well with the modern appliances and my other cherished treasures from the past.