Historical information

A separator is a centrifugal device that separates milk into cream and skimmed milk. Separation was commonly performed on farms in the past. Most farmers milked a few cows, usually by hand, and separated milk with a hand operated machine for domestic use. The milk was poured into the bowl on the top and the handle had to then be turned fast enough to get the separator up to speed adequate to separate the cream and the milk. The milk would come out of one spigot and the cream out of the other.

In general practice some of the skimmed milk was consumed by the family, while the rest may have been used to feed calves and pigs. Enough cream was saved to make butter, and the excess was sold. In many cases excess could be bartered or swapped with neighbours for other items of produce.

The principal works and head office of Aktiebolaget Separator was established by Gustaf de Laval in Stockholm. The first Laval milk separator was patented in1884. In Australia three old established firms commenced pioneering the Alfa Laval cream separators in about 1885. These were A. W. Sandford & Co. Ltd., in Adelaide, J. Bartram & Son, of Melbourne, who have ever since been the Victorian agents of Aktiebolaget Separator. In New South Wales and Queensland, the pioneering firm was Waugh & Josephson Ltd. J. Bartram & Son, the distributor of the separator in this collection, established their business in Melbourne in 1881. In 1892 Bartram & Son estimated that 1,130 of these machines were operating throughout Victoria.


This item is significant as it is representative of domestic and dairying machinery used throughout rural areas of Australia in the early to mid 20th century.

Physical description

The separator is made in 3 sections. The base is made from cast iron. The cover and vat are made from silver painted tin. There are 2 outlet spouts. The detachable handle, made from cast iron and wood, is held in place by a screw. A name plate featuring the Victorian distributor, J Bartram & Son of Melbourne and a plate outlining patent information are attached to the base by screws.

Inscriptions & markings

Around edge of wheel "Aktiebolaget Separator Stockholm/ 2236"