21st February 2018

Revisiting the MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) online site delivered a fantastic collection of General Plastics button sample cards donated to the museum in February 1950. Some of these designs you will recognise from this blog, but some are new to me. Have any readers examples of these buttons?

Here is an example of the very well known ‘rose’ design. Example of this, and also the buckle, can be seen of the General Plastics page.

Not buttons per se. Probably a sample card of colours and finishes available.

The label reads: Casein pressed. Metal insert.

The label reads: Plastic moulded. Gold and silver plated. The rose and daisy designs from the first card reappear here.

The label reads: Perspex embossed. Gold and silver plated.

The label reads: Casein pressed. Metal insert.

The label reads: Casein moulded insert. Gold and silver plated.

The label reads (?): Casein centreless. Ground and dyed.

The green button is of a style sold under both the Embassy and Woolworth labels.

For more information, see https://collection.maas.museum/object/241720#&gid=1&pid=18

Searching through my hoard I found a few:

20th February 2018

Thanks to Campbell for bringing this button to my attention. Although made in Britain, it has an unique, if troubling, Australian story. 

According to the description given in Trove, it dates to 1842-1856:  ‘The name ‘New Holland’, which was not widely used to describe eastern Australia after 1840, suggests that the button dates from the early years of the native police. If so, the button would come from either the native police force that operated in Port Phillip until 1852, or more likely the force that operated in the northern frontier of N.S.W. from 1848.’

Aborigines/VR’ police uniform button 2016, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 20 February 2018, <https://ma.as/85030>

The British used armed indigenous forces  throughout their colonies. Native patrol troops, usually under a white officer, were used as cheap, brutal and effective forces. Such troops were set up in all mainland colonies of Australia in the 19th century. Troops were recruited far from where they were to be deployed to ensure lack of tribal sympathies and to provide a disincentive against desertion. The use of native troops was also a clever ploy to reduce revenge attacks against white settlers.

The first government funded troops were in the Port Phillip District from 1837.  It was hoped that this employment would have a civilising effect for the aboriginals.  Unfortunately these troops were used to commit violence and  to aid in the dispossession of the aboriginal people. Colonisation of the mainland would have taken much longer without these troops. Eventually, the use of these troops were called into question, but not before decades of murderous behaviour.

See also:





17th February 2018

New Australian button manufacturer:  F. Burmeister

This article appeared in The Express and Telegraph on 10th October 1885. Has anyone seen South Australian Volunteers buttons of this era?

From the State Library of South Australia.

In 1884 Bertram & Cornish had bought the ‘Monster Clothing establishment’ from G. & R. Wills and Company, who were  major softgoods wholesalers in Adelaide from 1849.  Frederick Frances Burmeister started as an engraver around  1879 in Adelaide, later adding printing to his business. He was born in Norwood, South Australia in 1858 and died in 1929. He was an exhibted artist and had  been involved with with the “first coloured moving picture in the world” that toured South Australian towns in 1895.

The Pioneer, 8th November 1940.

“Boiling the Billy” by Fred Burmeister


16th February 2018.

Thanks to Jan for sharing an article about a set of Sterling silver and blue enamel buckle and button set by James McBean & Son, Melbourne from c.1920. They were primarily retailers, but also produced their own jewellery, their mark being ‘J.McB & SON’. The article below came from a silversmith website, but originated in 1904.


“This well known firm was established in 1858 by Mr James McBean, the father of the present proprietor. Mr McBean who is still living, is one of the oldest identities in Melbourne, and was actively engaged in business until 1890, a period of forty years. During that time, although he took no part in public matters, the name of McBean became well and favourably known over almost all of Australasia, and the firm has a splendid reputation, not only in Victoria, but in the other States. Mr. JAMES McBEAN was born in Inverness, Scotland, in the year 1833. He served his apprenticeship as a watchmaker and jeweller in his native town, and then determined to seek his fortune in Australia. On arriving in Melbourne he saw the immense possibilities which awaited the jewellery trade, and established himself in his old business in premises directly opposite the present establishment in Elizabeth Street, on the site now occupied by Messrs McLean Brothers & Rigg. Comenceing on a very modest scale, Mr McBean gradually worked up a splendid connection. Business rapidly increased and it became necessary to remove to larger premises. Since 1894 operations have been carried on in the splendidly situated establishment in ‘The Block’, Elizabeth Street. The large and elegently fitted shop, with its two spacious window frontages, one facing Elizabeth Street, and the other ‘The Block’, is one of the sights of Melbourne. A most noticeable feature is the splendid assortment of high-class articles, representing the most artistic efforts of the gold and silversmiths’ art, which are displayed with lavish profusion. A large quantity of the jewellery is manufactured by the firm, and compares very favourably with anything which can be turned out in England. In 1890 Mr. James McBean retired and handed over the business to his son, Mr William McBean who had been associated with him for twenty years. The thorough and practical training which he received during that time has proved of great benefit, both to himself and his clients. An Inspection of the superior class of stock and its great variety will convince anyone that the present proprietor is bent on maintaining the old traditions of the house, and also in keeping well abreast of the times. Mr. WILLIAM McBEAN was born in Melbourne in 1858, and, although only forty-three years of age, has been in the trade for thirty-two years, having acquired a thorough knowledge of every branch of the business. Although a very busy man, Mr. McBean finds time to devote a good deal of time and energy to the interests of the Melbourne Cricket Club. He has been a valued member of the committee for five years, and was also one of the committee of management who had the English team of 1901 in hand.”

James McBean and Son’s Premises, Elizabeth Street, Melbourne.

Source: The Cyclopedia of Victoria: An Historical and Commercial Review, Descriptive and Biographical, Facts, Figures and Illustrations : An Epitome of Progress. – Volume 2 – 1904

The Argus, 12th July 1894

The Argus, 14th June 1925

Mr McBean senior died in 1916. In April 1927 the business was moving to 3 The Block,  but only 4 months later the business was insolvent. Having failed to be sold as a going business, the entire stock and fitting were being sold by auction.

15th February 2018

New finds:

Beutrons: c. early 1950s and early 1960s.

Beutrons: c. late 1960s – early 1970s

Leda: 1950s and mid 1960s

Woolworths: 1950s ‘Hi-Style’ and mid 1960s “Sew’n’Save”.

Mixed lot: 1950s Beaucliare, 1960s Farmer’s (probably made by Beutron) and 1980s Coles ‘Haby Habits’.

14th February 2018

New Tailor’s button:

Syd Ingerson, Adelaide:

Philip Alfred Sydney Ingerson (known as Syd) was born in South Australia in 1882. He worked for Parker & Co, tailors and outfitters in King William Street, Adelaide. Early in January 1906 he opened a store in Argent Street, Broken Hill known as ‘The Don Tailors’

Barrier Miner 31st October 1906.

By around 1923 he had opened a second store back in King William Street, Adelaide and in 1925 established a new company, ‘Ingerson Limited’, with the Adelaide branch trading as ‘Syd Ingerson’.

The Diggers’ gazette 15th December 1919.

The Diggers’ gazette 21st April 1921.


In 1942 Ingerson Ltd was fined under the ‘Control of Clothing (Male Outerwear) order’ for making a suit with too much material …

The Sun (Sydney) 11th November 1943.

The firm moved to Gawler Place in 1953.

12th February 2018

Continuing with the theme of war time buttons:  The photo below from The Mercury (Hobart) newspaper on 6th June 1941 was titled “For Hitler”.

The description reads: “Button and Shells are made under the same roof in a Melbourne factory now filling war orders. The buttons are for uniforms, the shells also will be put to good use. The picture shows shell workmen handling some of their products.”

In both world wars many people found work producing military requirements, but imagine being employed just to sew on buttons!

The Sydney Morning Herald, 1st February 1919.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 29th October 1941.

c.1944 Australian War Memorial collection: A woman operates a sewing machine to sew on Army overcoats at the Commonwealth Clothing factory.


11th February 2018

An old photo (see below) has triggered some research into The National Defence League of Australia and its  Women’s Auxiliary.

In 1905 the National Defence League of Australia was formed in New South Wales to press for compulsory military training, and soon spread to other states. They believed that with modern travel and changes in the political climate, Australia’s relative physical isolation was no longer a barrier to the potential for invasion, and that Australia’s defence was woefully inadequate.

They would lobby parliament and other groups.  As WW1 approached, they were teaching drill and firearms handling to the public, and lobbying for conscription.

Between the wars the League continued  but petered out by around 1930.  A new  League was  established in 1933, but was short lived and/or ineffective.  By 1938  a new  “National Defence
League of Australia” was established with 3 main objectives:

The Sun (Sydney), 23rd October 1938.

Several months after the new league’s formation a women’s auxiliary was formed.

Daily Examiner (Grafton) 10th March 1939.

Women signed up for courses in first aid, elementary nursing, physical culture and transport (ambulance and truck driving and maintenance). Later on subjects such as map reading, signalling and drill were added. From 1940 until 1945 they hand-made camouflage netting for the military, each net taking 8-22 hours to make. They also reconditioned clothes and water bottles for the troops, repaired anti-gas eye shields, made comfort packages, and sorted salvaged material. They raised funds for hospital equipment. In 1942 the auxiliary opened a canteen and rest rooms for service women.

From Australian War Memorial collection:  Members of the National Defence League Women’s Auxiliary removing buttons and clips from old Clothes before despatching them to the waste manufacturers.

Post war they supported the establishment of Legacy. By 1947 the auxiliary ceased to exist. Of course, theirs’ were not the only women’s auxiliary or group working for the war effort. The C.W.A. was also netting and sewing:

Nepean Times, 5th April 1942;  C.W.A. report.

In Sydney, the women’s committee of the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic and War Fund depot were knitting socks and “sewing buttons for soldiers whose tunics are in a state of disrepair” as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald. (Men couldn’t possibly sew on their own buttons, now really!)



9th February 2017

I received a partial Roger/Berry Coronet button card today that points to an answer to a mystery.

These are Beauclaire style buttons!

Roger Berry was a wholesaler/distributor  rather than manufacturer. I have never found a reference as to who made Coronet buttons. The new card suggests that General Plastics made the Coronet brand buttons, and used Roger Berry as a wholesaler or distributor. General Plastics only started to use the brand name ‘Beauclaire’ from around 1951. The Coronet cards look older: I suggest that Coronet was a brand name used in the 1940s.



8th February 2018

Tailor’s button;

J. F. Holle and Co. Pty Ltd:  Sydney

In 1839 2 tailors, John Frederick Holle, a native of Bremen, Germany, and Henry Stone arrived in Sydney aboard the ship ‘Eurphrates’ from London with a tailor named William Mueller to work for him. As Mr Mueller died in 1841, they established a partnership.

They dissolved this partnership in 1855, with Holle leaving the colony. In 1860 he announced his return from Europe.

George Street, Sydney: The firm operated in this line of buildings, approx 3rd window from the left. Photo c.1868. (Sydney Living Museum collection).

Holle was well acquainted with tragedy. Four children died in infancy. A 6 year old son died and an 8 year old drowned. A 26 year old son suicided and later the same year, a 27 year old son also died. John,however died in his 80th year on the 23rd February, 1889. The firm continued as J.F. Holle and Co. Pty Ltd, and went into liquidation in 1957.

Morning suit c.1913 from the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts. The buttons are enscribed “Holle Sydney”.