Photography by Sarah Dunlap
Tiny enough to cradle in a lady's hand, yet durable enough to withstand the wear of many generations, butter pats are precious collectibles that have not only stood the test of time but transcended it. Once considered mere curiosities of a bygone era, these dainty tablewares are again becoming popular, beloved for their delicate beauty and their charming versatility.
Butter pats first found life and use in the mid-19th century, in an age of elegance when the elaborately set dining table was both expected and revered. Butter pats, which are sometimes called butter chips, are 2 to 3 inches in diameter, designed to resemble miniature dinner plates in a womans chosen china pattern. Decorative yet functional, they were sized to hold an individual portion of butter to accompany the requisite bread served at most meals.
As the Victorian era ended and many of its fashions faded, so went the use of the butter pat. Most manufacturers no longer make them, but butter pats are easily found today in antiques stores and flea markets, many for under $10.