John_K._Daniels’s_butter_sculpture_of_Teddy_Roosevelt,_Minnesota_State_Fair,_1910Here is something you don’t see every day. It is a butter sculpture of Roosevelt as Rough Rider. As the caption indicates it was sculpted for the 1910 Minnesota State Fair. Butter sculpting assuredly dates back as far as the Original Churn. From what I learned in the article from which this image appears it became part of popular culture at the 1876 Centennial Expo in Philadelphia. Perhaps because butter’s simplicity contrasted so markedly with the rapid technological changes of the Gilded Age? Whatever the inspiration, one Caroline Shawk Brooks displayed the portrait of a lady in butter in Philadelphia which she had titled Dreaming Iolanthe.

In her article “Butter Cows and Butter Buildings” Pamela H. Simpson notes that Roosevelt was a popular subject of butter sculpting because of his creation of the Food and Drug Administration. Butter Sculpting thrived through the Great War into the 1920s. The Depression and then the rationing during the Second World War ended the practice as a widespread phenomenon. Still, one might still it at state fairs even today.

(image from the private collection of Pamela H. Simpson and published in “Butter Cows and Butter Buildings: A History of an Unconventional Sculptural Medium”, Winterthur Portfolio 41, no. 1 (Spring 2007): 1-19 via Wikimedia Commons)