Author Archives: abuttonadmin

9th November 2019

Plaskon, and other early plastics:

Many old plastic buttons are described loosely, and inaccurately, as bakelite, but are actually Beetle, Catalin, Plaskon or Casein.

Bakelite, or polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride, was the first synthetic plastic. It was developed in 1907 by Dr Leo Baekeland working on a substitute for shellac, and patented in 1909. It was made from phenol and formaldehyde with added fillers such as wood or asbestos fibres. As a result, mainly dark, sombre colours were made. According to ‘An insight into Plastics’ by BTR Nylex Ltd.,  the plastics industry started in Australia around 1917 with buttons moulded from imported phenol-formaldehyde powder being among the first products manufactured. (Editor’s note: This was probably done by Berthold Herrman. See the General Plastics page.)

In 1925 the British Cyanides Company (whose trademark was a beetle) developed  a thiourea-formaldehyde moulding powder which was marketed from 1928 as Beetle powder. In Australia, Duperite branded products, and others, were made from this imported powder. This type of plastic allowed the introduction of previously unavailable colours, and are mottled or marbled.

Plaskon was developed in 1931 by the Toledo Scale Company as a lighter material than metal to make their scales from. It was made from urea formaldehyde with cellulose as a filler, as was great for making white products.

From my Lansig catalogues, a Plaskon button.

NMAH Archives Center J. Harry Dubois Collection, 1900-1975. These buckles and buttons in the bottom right corner make me think that many of my old plastic buttons could be Plaskon.

This was printed on the back of early Beauclaire branded cards, so dates c.1951. It indicates that their buttons at that time were Plaskon and Bakelite, or more accurately Catalin.

In 1927  the American Catalin Corporation of New York City acquired the patents for Bakelite and developed Catalin plastic. Catalin is what most “Bakelite” jewellery is actually made of. It was also made from phenol-formaldehyde, but in a 2 stage process without the use of fillers. It was available in clear and solid colours, as well as light, bright options that were not possible with Bakelite. It oxidises over time so that clear and white would yellow.

Formaldehyde was also used, with casein protein from milk,  to make Casein plastic. It was successfully made in England from 1914. (An earlier French/German version called Galalith was developed from 1899-1904.)

8th November 2019

In The Telegraph(Brisbane) 1939-1940:

14th June, 1939.

25th October, 1939.  I suppose the wine barrel and (?)monkey face are buttons?

7th November, 1939. I can’t work this one out. Is the shape at the top a fancy button?

13th March, 1940.

13th March, 1940.

25th April, 1940.

6th November 2019

New finds: Embassy

Left to right: earliest to latest c. late 1950s-late 1960s.

Vintage advertising from 8th September, 1937 in the Telegraph (Brisbane):

and also …

I’m not sure about the black ??sheep buckle and button. The poor thing has legs, a tail, and a large round  body but no ears! I don’t fancy a ‘Crab Claw Buckle’, either.


5th November 2019

Vintage advertising in The Sun (Sydney) from the 1940s:

“Sensational value in imitation Leather Cardigan Buttons! Obtainable in Green, Grey, Brown, Black, Navy and Fawn … Tremendous range of floral and plain Cardigan Buttons obtainable in all the wanted shades.” 30th April 1940.

21st July 1940.

29th May 1941. Were the buttons “prohibited due to where they came from, or because they were made of Erinoid (Casein) which was a restricted product during the war years?

8th January 1942.

17th June 1942. Ration coupons are now required for many purchases.

3rd December 1944

4th January 1945.


3rd November 2019

Advertising in The Sun (Sydney) from the 1930s:

18th September 1932, in a full page advert for Grace Bros. Ltd:

20th February, 1934:

Erinoid was a trade name for casein plastic, so called because the milk came from Ireland (Erin). It was made at the Lightpill Mills in Stroud from 1914-1980s.

17th March, 1935.

29th March ,1936.

2nd June, 1936.

21st November, 1937.

1st November 2019

New cards of Disney buttons!

Yet another Mickey variation, and my first cards of Goofy and Donald buttons: Unfortunately two of them have been subject to damp, with some discolouring and rust, but I’m still happy to have them.

30th October 2019

More Cuff-links:

I‘ve not paid much attention to cuff-links, but they are closely related to buttons. They fasten clothing and consist of two button-like objects joined by a link, or one mounted on a post or bar. They have been made of all the same materials as buttons, however, they are more often made by jewelers rather than in button factories.

Here are some more advertisements from the Australian Women’s Weekly:

18th December 1969.

3rd September 1969. Details enlarged below.

10th September 1969.

23rd August 1972.

30th August 1972.

29th October 2019

Advertisement from a 1911 edition of the ‘Commonwealth Jeweller and Watchmaker’: Aren’t they lovely! Brothers Richard and Thomas Willis arrived in Melbourne in 1858 and set up as importers and wholesalers, later extending to manufacturing, of jewellery. Richard left the partnership, with the firm becoming T. Willis & co in 1875, changing to Willis & Sons in 1904. From 1931 they stopped manufacturing and reverted to importing. The firm was still going in 1951.

For images of their beautiful jewellery: