Butter PrintThis week’s artifact is a wooden butter print used at Rock Spring, a farm between Rockville and Sandy Spring, in the late 19th century. Some butter prints or molds – used to impress a design in homemade butter – are simply large seals, but this two-piece print is a little more elaborate, with a box that fits over the press (see second photo, below).

two pieces of butter printRock Spring was the home of Roger Brooke Farquhar and his wife Caroline (Carrie) Miller Farquhar, who were married in 1867. Both were Quakers, Roger from Sandy Spring and Carrie from Alexandria. Thanks to the diaries of both husband and wife (in our archives) we know a little about life at Rock Spring; I haven’t found any specific references to using the butter print, but making butter was an important chore, and is referenced several times a month in Carrie’s diaries. A sample entry: “October 15th, 1885: Roger & I made 47 ½ lbs Butter this morning. The rest of the day I sewed. M.H. Brooke called in the aft[ernoon].”  Next time you think your day is a little boring or tedious, remind yourself that at least you’re not making 47 pounds of butter (unless that’s your thing, of course). 

Many artifacts and documents related to the family were donated by Roger Brooke Farquhar Jr., who was active in the Society in our early days. Roger was a firm believer in recording local history for posterity; he wrote a wonderful book on the houses and estates of Montgomery County, he transcribed many of his father’s diaries (leaving his mother’s for future generations, but that’s all right), and he made sure to tell at least a little bit about every artifact he donated to the Historical Society. Somewhat unfortunately, this last measure involved pasting giant paper labels to things, with typed descriptions. I must admit that while the labels generally do nothing to improve the object, at least I always know what it is. Happily this butter print escaped unscathed.

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