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Cream Cans


Cream cans were made of galvanized iron and generally came in 3 sizes of 5, 10 and 20 gallons. To avoid mix ups every cream can delivered to this Butter Factory had a plate soldered on the lid and the bottom recording the farmer’s name and weight of the can.

Historical information

The farmer would separate the cream from the milk and store it in cream cans in the Cream Room on the farm. Twice a week the contracted Butter Factory would send a truck to the farm to collect the full cream cans and return empty cans from the previous pickup.

When the truck arrived at the factory the factory workers would unload the cream cans onto the loading ramp.

When the Butter Factory returned the cans to the farmer the main can would have a slip of paper put into it recording the details of the farmer, number of cans, weight and the results of the butter fat test. This slip measured one inch wide and ten inches long.



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Contextual Information

The return of the cream cans was also a means of bartering and communication. As the farmers couldn’t get into town much, meat, bread, butter and papers were often delivered in the returned cans. An empty can or space on the cream delivery truck could be used bring a famer’s thrice weekly standing order or be used to enable bartering between the farmers. As many of the farmers were cash poor but often had a seasonal excess of vegetables, these could be traded in kind and delivered by the cream truck. Truck drivers provided these deliveries as part of their service as well as conveying messages from town and between farmers.

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Cream cans on the conveyor feed to the Cream Can Sterilizer
Cream cans on the conveyor feed to the Cream Can Sterilizer
Selection of brass labels that were soldered onto Cream Cans
Selection of brass labels that were soldered onto Cream Cans. Photo by Bo Wong for the WA Museum.