Famed Dazey butter churn line based in city of St. Louis.
The old way: Study for Woman Churning Butter, a pencil-and-black crayon sketch on paper by French painter Jean-Francois Millet, 1814-1875.
The confluence of two mighty rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri, assured the success of the city of St. Louis, established by the French during the mid-1700s as a fur trading post. After the U.S. gained ownership in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase, settlers began trickling west into the new territory.
Following the War of 1812, that trickle became a flood. Since the Missouri River was the portal to the West, St. Louis became known as the “Gateway to the West.” After the Civil War, St. Louis grew to become the fourth largest city in the country. By the 1880s, it was a center of breweries, flour mills, tobacco products and slaughterhouses.
Meanwhile, in Fort Worth, Texas, a young man named Nathan P. Dazey was learning the hardware business. His earliest recorded job (that I can find) was in 1879 as a salesman for Havens & Cowing, which specialized in hardware, stoves and tinware. In 1887, he turned up in nearby Dallas working as a clerk at Harry Bros., a hardware store that sold stoves, tinware and all kinds of home furnishings and provided services such as roofing and sheet iron work.
Apparently, the Panic of 1893 hit Dallas hard, as it did many cities, and business and industry there slowed dramatically. While it’s unknown what became of Harry Bros., in 1901 Dazey was managing a house furnishings and notions store in Dallas called Doolittle & Simpson. Information is sketchy, but apparently he began to make can openers and probably other kitchenware items and became interested in a glass jar churn developed by E.B. Jones. It seems Jones’ health wasn’t good and Dazey felt his churn had merit, so in 1904 Dazey took over management of the company as well as a controlling interest.
Dazey improved the Jones churn with different paddles and in May 1906 applied for a patent on a “new and useful” churn. This churn was square and not necessarily made of glass, and featured the milk receptacle inside a larger enclosure that “[provided] means for hot or cold water [to] temper the milk in the body.” In other words, the outer container could be filled with warm water in cold weather and cold water in warm weather, thus improving the churning action. At some point the outer water receptacle was discontinued.
At about the same time, Dazey moved the firm to St. Louis, possibly for greater ease of obtaining the necessary castings or maybe to take advantage of the more extended transportation network available there by rail and water.
Not long after the move, Jones sold his interest in the firm to Dazey, who then took in a man named Pollvogt as partner. Nothing can be found about Mr. Pollvogt, but he later sold his interest in the firm for what was reportedly a handsome profit.
By 1910, Nathan Dazey’s son, Jack, entered the firm and the business grew by leaps and bounds with various sizes of churns added to the lineup. By the time of World War I, Dazey was offering large electric churns in addition to the hand-operated models. One source says that when a wartime butter shortage occurred, Dazey came up with a Dazey butter churn that used one pound of butter and one pound of milk to produce two pounds of butter, but I can find nothing to verify that.
It wasn’t all churns, however. In 1909, Dazey and another man won a patent for a vertical, two-sided advertising sign that revolved in the wind. During the 1920s, patents were given to Dazey Co. for a wall-mounted can opener with a cutting wheel, an ornamental flower bowl stand and a greaseless donut cooker.
In addition, in 1922, Nathan Dazey patented a removable strainer screen in the screw-cap top of his glass churns. A 1922 ad claimed that the screen “enables the operator to make and wash the butter free of milk right in the churn without once removing the dasher.” Explaining the process, the ad continued: “Simply pour in the milk and churn. Then drain off milk thru strainer, lift off strainer and pour in water thru opening. After washing butter, the water is then drained off thru strainer, and butter is ready to salt.”
During the late 1920s, many folks gave up on farming and moved to town in the wake of the Agricultural Depression that persisted through the “Roaring Twenties,” and there was a sharp drop in the demand for churns. Then came the Great Depression, and like a lot of other firms, Dazey struggled. The company diversified into other household items. By the time World War II started, Dazey was making ice crushers, fruit juicers, knife sharpeners and can openers, among other items.
Dazey made 20 mm ammunition during World War II. After peace was declared, the company expanded its line of home appliances and other gadgets, with such things as an electric hand-held massager, a hot shaving lather dispenser, a foot massager and hydro-therapy tub, a hair curler, a vegetable slicer, a sealer for plastic bags and even a bonnet-type hair dryer with built-in stereo speakers.
In 1947, an investment group bought Dazey Co., but the succeeding perambulations of the firm are pretty hazy. It probably was soon sold to Universal Products, then to a man named Henry J. Talge, who, in 1932, started Rival, a competitor of Dazey’s, in Kansas City, Mo. Talge moved the Dazey operation to Kansas City, but he seems to have kept it separate from Rival. The only thing certain (I think) is that Dazey is now out of business and Rival isn’t.
Dazey butter churns are a hot item among collectors, so much so that innumerable replicas are now being made. I checked 200 of the most recently completed Dazey listings on eBay and found a 1-quart No.10 “slope-shouldered” glass churn “in super condition,” that sold on June 13, 2013, for a whopping $3,450! The cheapest complete Dazey churn during this period went for $20, so you can see that prices are all over the map, depending upon rarity and, of course, condition. FC
Sam Moore grew up on a farm in western Pennsylvania. He now lives in Salem, Ohio, and collects antique tractors, implements and related items. Contact Sam by email at email@example.com.
Read more about individual Dazey churns at Doug & Linda’s Dairy Antique site.