Museum Talk: deLaval cream separator

Tuesday, August 26, 2014
deLaval cream separator is on display at the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette

In the kitchen area of the Buffalo Island Museum in Monette is an antique deLaval cream separator from the early 1920s. It is made of cast iron and very heavy. It is missing the bowls with the pouring spouts that were probably made of aluminum.

We don't see many cows in this area anymore, but in the 1800s every country family had at least one cow to supply their milk, cream and butter. The milk was poured into pans and allowed to sit for a few days before the cream could be removed from the top. This early method of separating the cream from the milk was a slow process often resulting in spoilage. Remember this area didn't have electricity and refrigeration until the 1930s.

The first cream separator was just a container with a nozzle at the bottom and a window at the side. The milk was poured in and after standing for awhile, the cream rose to the top. The nozzle was opened and the milk drained off. You looked through the window to see when only the cream was left.

In 1877 Gustaf deLaval invented the centrifugal cream separator. He was born in Sweden and was a very successful businessman and engineer. In his lifetime he had patents for 92 inventions and had founded 37 companies.

His cream separator used force to send the cream and milk to separate very quickly, therefore preventing spoilage. The handle was turned around and around, usually by the child in the family. As the container spun, the milk was pulled against the wall of the separator while the cream was collected in the center. This separator was important to the farmers that had many cows and could now process huge amounts of milk, but it was just as important to the farmer with only one cow. The machine could separate 11 gallons of milk in 10 minutes.

These early cranked models can sometimes be found in old barns throughout the country as just about every farm had a cream separator. Think about how hard your grandparents worked to just get a pint of cream when you go to the grocery store and reach for that carton on the shelf.

Visit the museum and see the many antiques that show how life was like on early Buffalo Island. Hours are 1-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission is free.

We are now featuring a special exhibit of vintage hats once worn by area residents. The annual quilt show is Sept. 27. It is free to enter your quilt and free to attend the show. People entering a quilt will have their name entered in a prize drawing.

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