Hurray! Summer’s nearly over! Autumn is so much nicer.
And a few seen online:
I recently received a number of cards of buttons. Included in the lot were 5 cards of Beutron pearl buttons (I already owned one such card).
This style card plus the price dates these to 1960-1965, which surprised me. It seemed late to be producing pearl buttons, especially for a company that promoted their own plastic imitation-pearl buttons (Tecpearl) before this date. I also found a Leda card of pearl buttons that probably date from the 1950s.
Before WW2 most Australian pearl shell was exported for button production rather than processed here. There was an attempt to establish local manufacturing; the ”Australian Pearlbutton Manufacturing Co. Ltd.” Started in 1929 it was in liquidation in 1938 and bought by G.Herring (which became Beutron).
The advancement of plastic manufacturing that occurred during WW2 contributed to the decline of the pearl-shell button industry. Plastic buttons were more durable and washable than pearl, and so took over in popularity. Despite this, Mr. A.G.R. Griffiths, general manager and chairman of General Plastics (Beauclaire buttons) started the ‘Pearlshell Industries Pty Ltd’ in Cairns in 1952. The buttons from this factory were finished and marketed by General Plastics however the venture failed after a couple of years. Then in 1957 General Plastics was taken over by Beutron. Perhaps General Plastics, and then Beutron, were left with stock of pearl buttons from this venture?
Here is an interesting Australian Military Forces bakelite button (Thanks Deborah).
If you look closely there is a trademark on the reverse side of the button.
An article published in ‘The Labor Daily’ on 9th April 1936 stated that “included in this great glass industry are various other subsidiary factories, including metal spinning, lamp making, metal stamping, plastic moulding, corrugated box making, refractory and crucible works.” In February 1939 A.G.M. Ltd reformed with with a glass making subsidiary ( Australian Glass Manufacturers Co Pty. Ltd.) and a plastic and moulding subsidiary (Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd).
Presumably this dates this button between 1936 and 1939, after which a trademark for A.C.I. would have been used.
Also in the MAAS collection is a series of photograph outlining how pearl-shell buttons were made by the ‘Australian Pearlbutton Manufacturing Co. Ltd.’ in the 1930s. For more about this company, see the pearl-shell button page.
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences has some great images from its collection. https://collection.maas.museum/search?q=buttons
Here are images of a display donated by Mrs John Fagan, Sydney, on 19th August 1885.
John Fagan, from London, appears in the newspapers as a sewing machine repairer in 1876 in Brisbane, before leaving for Sydney to run a engineering and tool making business until at least 1893.
Perhaps he made some of the equipment used by Parsons, Thompson, and Co., who manufactured pearl buttons in Sydney from 1881, which would explain the involvement of his wife in this museum display.
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?
For more information, see https://collection.maas.museum/object/241720#&gid=1&pid=18
and this on Ebay:
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.
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?
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.