Collector: Elizabeth Riordan, Outreach & Engagement Librarian for University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections & Archives
Collection Name: A Serving of Butter Pats
"It was a family friend’s own small collection of butter pats (also known as butter chips or butters) that got me started with this collection over 20 years ago. By gifting me a couple duplicates from her own collection, this friend spurred a lifetime passion for these tiny plates. Butter pats are exactly what they say they are, little dishes for pats of butter. They had their hay day from about 1850-1920, though some restaurants and railroads were still using them well into the 1950s and 60s. On one hand, they are the definition of Victorian and Edwardian excess culture. On the other hand, they are their own individual pieces of artwork made out of a utilitarian dish.
Over the years, this collection has grown and taken on new meaning with me as its collector. What started out as a cheap collection to curate turned into an appreciation for the history and makers of these dishes. I come from a family of collectors, and they have also found themselves in this collection, through gifted pats that have joined the collection to the handmade display shelves made by my grandpa and friends. What started as a gift of three butter pats has now expanded to a collection of over 100 pats, each as unique as the individuals who used them to butter their toast."
Featured collection items:
There are 97 butter pats in the case, including pieces from fine china sets, ironstone china, and restaurant ware. Some are hand painted, others transferware or metal.
The collection includes pieces from notable companies like Alfred Meakin China & Dinnerware, Anfora, Shenago China, Nippon, Haviland Limoges, Johnson Brothers China, W.H. Grindley & Co., New Wharf pottery, and Carl Tielsch & Co.
Want a better look? Guests can view Elizabeth's collection on the First Floor of Macbride Hall, south of Iowa Hall, starting the second week in June - mid-September, 2021.