Document Type



Pre-industrial butter-making was an arduous process, involving milking, churning, proper storage, printing, and, sometimes, transport to market. The 19th-century economy in Philadelphia was forever changed by the practice of rural women selling their surplus butter as a response to the rise of consumerism. Butter-making provided rural women with the means to earn their own income, providing economic agency and increasing their independence by allowing them to work outside of the home. Butter prints emerged as a way to brand one’s butter with a signature trademark. A print’s size and shape, the materials and methods used in its construction, and the symbolism behind the incised design all hold special significance. This Public History article provides an in-depth object analysis of a butter print on display at the Mercer Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, that was once owned by the Leathermans of Bedminster, Bucks County, exploring the varying circumstances each time the object changed hands.



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