Hi there! Lately I’ve been picking up butter pats at a higher than normal rate, so today I’m going to showcase some of them and share their history with you.
These darling collectibles, usually not much larger than 3″ in diameter, make terrific “starter” collections because of their size and the availability of so many examples at a relatively low cost.
One can collect by maker, material, decoration, country of origin, or by simply purchasing those you feel drawn to.
The butter pat period extended from about 1850 to 1920, covering much of the Victorian era into the Edwardian and beyond. You’re probably familiar with the notion that Victorians lived rather excessively in the china/glassware/flatware department. They owned a dish and piece of flatware for every food and a glass for every beverage.
At the extreme, this might mean nearly a dozen forks to the left of the plate and an equal number of knives on the right, along with several pieces of stemware for the various drinks served with dinner, and spoons laid out at the top. Can you imagine?!! Think Downton Abbey on steroids.
With a dinner service, one would expect a matching set of butter pats (or “butter chips” or simply “butters”), and each guest would find a pat positioned on the upper left of each place setting. One or two pats of butter would be placed on it, sometimes delicately molded flowers or another attractive shape.
All of the examples I’m going to share today are basically round, but you can find them in a variety of shapes: oval, square, fan or shell-shaped, and more. The pats in this post range in value from $2-8.00, all of which I bought for 25-50¢.
Antique & Vintage European Butter Pats
I just recently found a pair of these delicate porcelain butter pats with transfer flowers and embossed design along the edges. In 1842, Haviland & Co., an American company, began exporting fine china from Limoges, France to the States.
Wood, Bicknaill & Potter (see the middle of the mark) would have been the merchants who imported the china.
Haviland stopped using this mark in the late 1800’s. Still in business today, the company designed the china pattern used by the Lincoln White House.
The Royal Copenhagen pottery (Denmark) designed this little miniature work of art. Notice the delicate, basket weave pattern around the perimeter. The line under the “O” in Copenhagen indicates that it dates to 1963 and “kt” are the painters initials. It is worth about $6-8.
Many of us recognize the name Johnson Bros. from the beautiful transferware and ironstone that they produced in copious amounts beginning in 1883.
Located in Staffordshire, England, a region famous for its many potteries, they produced all kinds of pottery, including this pattern called “Pareek,” until 2005 when production moved to China. They used the mark seen here beginning in 1913.
This dainty antique example bears the mark, “Schwarzburg,” which refers to a town in Germany and dates to between 1904 and 1924.
At first glance, this pat might be mistaken for a tea or espresso cup saucer, however the inner gold circle is merely a decoration. It doesn’t mark a shallow indent to support a cup. In fact, the raised design of a central flower makes it impossible for a cup to sit securely. I placed this example in the “European” category because the number on the back is the correct color and texture for an Austrian or Bavarian piece.
Antique & Vintage Japanese Butter Pats
This beautifully hand-painted set of pats originated in Japan (the transliteration of the word “Nippon”). This mark was used from 1911-1921. The tiny side handles give them the appearance of a “chop plate.”
Also hand-painted, this Japanese example dates to significantly later, likely the 1950’s or 60’s. It has a pretty shape.
Another pretty floral example from the same time period.
Vintage American Butter Pat
This pat, made by the Jackson China company in Falls Creek (PA), falls into the “restaurantware” category, or what I would call “late period American ironstone.”
Jackson China stayed in business from 1915 to 1985, but this mark was only in use until about 1945. I believe the quaint pattern is identified by the company as #134.
Unmarked Vintage Butter Pats
This set of eight restaurantware pats have no mark but they would make a lovely addition to a fall table, if one were inclined to get all fancied up.
Additional unmarked versions.
And the final pair, a calico print on the left and a lovely foxglove(?) on the right, also both unmarked, but both very pretty.
Most pottery companies stopped manufacturing butter pats in the 1950’s, with the exception of those used by airlines, railroads, state dinners, or exclusive restaurants.
Expect travel-related butter pats, those containing advertising, and art pottery pieces to cost more, along with full sets of twelve in pristine condition.
Randi at Dukes & Dutchesses teaches how to make monogrammed butter pats for your special occasions here, if you are so inclined.
I think I’d have to have a lot of free time on my hands to make the effort to mold and shape my butter, even for a special occasion, LOL. In my house, sticks of butter are cut in half and pushed into little crocks with a butter knife and stored in a dark cupboard. Just sayin’.
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