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Illustration Art, Dog Powering a Butter Churn, A.B. Frost, Antique Drawing, 1900


Arthur Burdett Frost (1851-1928)
[Dog Powering a Butter Churn]
American: c. 1900
Signed lower left “A.B. Frost,” inscribed verso by John Frost Jr.
Watercolor heightened with white on paper, laid on canvas
9.75 x 11.75 inches, overall
Provenance: John Frost, Jr.

Watercolor of a dog walking a treadmill in a barn or warehouse to provide the power to operate a butter churn. The device shown in this illustration apparently works by a crank that operates a paddle inside a stationary churn. The surroundings are captured with realistic detail in terms of the roughly cut wood and the play of light and shadow, but whether it was based on sketches of an actual scene or drawn for publication is not known. However, the idea of a dog powering a butter churn does have a basis in actual devices sold around the turn of the century, such as the Davis Swing Churn, which offered an optional $16 treadmill attachment that allowed a dog, goat or sheep to supply the power to swing a hanging churn.

Product Description Continues Below


Arthur Burdett Frost was an American painter, illustrator and sporting artist, best known for his depictions of rural America. His long career spanned over five decades, from the late 19th to the early 20th centuries. Born in Philadelphia, he began working at engraving and lithography firms at the age of 15. He was largely self-taught although while in his teens he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts with Thomas Eakins, and later in London. By the age of 25 he was a staff artist for Harper’s Weekly, becoming one of its great illustrators. He also published illustrations in Scribner’s and Life magazines and illustrated many books, including his well-known illustrations of Uncle Remus, Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, and Mr. Dooley. He is also known for his sporting prints of hunting and fishing and a humorous book of golfing scenes that he wrote and illustrated called Golfer’s Alphabet. Frost exhibited at the Paris Expo in 1900 and became a member of the Society of Illustrators in 1905. He died in Pasadena, California. His wife and son were also painters; his grandson became a photographer.

Pencil inscription verso by the artist’s grandson, John Frost, Jr.: “by my grandfather AB Frost. John Frost Jr. AB Frost per J.F.” John Frost, Jr. (1923- ) is an artist and photographer. Born in California, he became known for his silkscreen prints, which he exhibited in the U.S. and in Mexico, where he moved in the mid 1960s. In 1979 he started a major body of work consisting of aerial photographs of Western Mexico and mid-Pacific Coast, which documents the changing topography over the years as the land underwent development. The collection is now housed in the University of Colima.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall toning, handling, wear. Some slight irregularities to margins. Laid on canvas apparently long ago.


“Arthur Burdett Frost.” 2000-2015. (29 January 2015).

Falk, Peter Hastings, ed. Who Was Who in American Art. Madison, Connecticut: Sound View Press, 1985. pp. 217-218.

“John Frost (1923-), artist and photographer.” Sombrero Books. 22 May 2012. (31 January 2015).

“Wood Butter Churns.” Doug and Linda’s Dairy Antiques Site. 2002-2015. (29 January 2015).

Additional information


Late 19th/Early 20th Century