Ballston Spa Life
Local Resident Was Churn Manufacturer and Inventor
Ballston Spa Life
Before the advent of home refrigeration, the art of making one’s own butter was widespread. Milk was left to settle in a cool place in shallow dishes so that the cream would rise to the top. This cream would be skimmed off and emptied into a simple device called a churn.
There was no single design for churns, since any action of keeping the cream moving was enough to make butter, but a small bucket with a top and a plunger was the most common method of churning milk. Agitating the cream brought its fat globules together and caused them to fuse into lumps of butter, which left behind a liquid called butter milk.
Matthew Hoyt of Ballston Spa not only invented a new type of churn, but started a business around it in 1889. The churn involved a new type of vessel that he reported to be “more uniformly balanced,” which made it more efficient and easy to use. The vessel was supported on trunnions and rotated back and forth to agitate the milk.
His churn had a diamond-shaped body, so he named his business the Diamond Balance Churn Company, located on 15 Saratoga Avenue. Hoyt went on to invent a cover to be used primarily for the churn he invented. The cover featured a locking mechanism that could be easily unlocked for ease of use. He also patented a churn-valve for his churn, which obviated the need for a separate strainer.
Hoyt operated his business for a respectable five years, but did not seem to meet with great success, since he moved to Birchton (outside of Galway) in 1897. Perhaps the establishment of the Ballston Refrigerating Company in 1894 contributed to Hoyt’s business closure.
While in Birchton, he began inventing liquid separators and milk testers for D. H. Burrell & Company. It was founded in 1885 to design, develop, manufacture, and distribute dairy apparatus and supplies, which exists today as the Waukesha Cherry-Burrell Corporation.
Excerpted from Timothy Starr’s book “Invented in Ballston Spa,” available for sale at the Brookside Museum, home of the Saratoga County Historical Society. For more information on the book, please see www.ballstonhistory.com.