Monthly Archives: July 2019

23rd July 2019

Potato buttons:

I had previously noticed news articles about buttons made from potato, but was a bit sceptical. However, information about these buttons appears in the”German Button Industry” BIOS report.

” A considerable stock of  Anras Sheet material was found which was a Casein substitute material made from potato starch by Messrs. Anras Combine at Veendam. Production of Anras buttons was similar to normal Casein production but the material was very hard and could not be polished with a chemical polish.” The report then details how both Casein and Andras buttons were polished in five stages that took 4-6 days!

Here is the earliest article I found in Trove:

Clarence and Richmond Examiner 29 December 1891.

and the latest:

The Sunday Times (Sydney) 11th March 1906

22nd July 2019

The German Button Industry: B.I.O.S. report 1/1/47

I was surprised that such a report existed. How important could the button industry be to the British Government? Quoting from the Library of Congress … “Following right behind Allied combat troops into occupied areas, representatives of the British Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee (BIOS), the Combined Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee (CIOS), and the U.S. Field Intelligence Agency, Technical (FIAT), visited German manufacturing plants, research laboratories, and other war-related facilities to interview managers, scientists, and engineers. After collecting relevant documents, these groups wrote technical briefs on individual subjects, production processes and new technologies. They also prepared reports on whole industries – notably the German dye industry – and on construction projects, such as German underground factories.”

This report included details on thermosetting and thermoplastic resins, casein, wood, MOP,  ‘natural horn’ and metal buttons as well as the machinery and chemicals used. I think the tone of the report is one of checking up on the state of the German industry, checking if there was machinery or techniques that could benefit British industry, rather than on how German industry could be helped. Some individuals , pointedly described as anti-Nazi, were named as potentially worth taking to England for further questioning for British Industry’s benefit.

Summarising from the report paints a sad picture of the state of Germany at that time …  I have left spelling and punctuation as in the report.

General Resume

“As far as the manufacture of moulded buttons is concerned, it can be said that nothing of any particular importance was found during the visit to Germany.”

“The Country as a whole was found to be well up to date with Injection Moulding Machinery but behind the times with Compression Moulding … due to the fact that from 1938 onwards, no progress was made as the industry was not considered essential to the war effort.”

“… German firms are able to produce a very high class product with plant very much out of date (because) they have an abundance of well trained and highly skilled labour which, because of very low wages existing, is able to replace the use of more modern machinery. The position with the wages is that no change has been made (in 1946) since 1938.”

“… by the use of cheap labour … a potential danger existed to our export market if they should be re-opened to German competition.”

The Casein Button Trade was found … to be practically non-existent since no supplies of Casein Sheet Material were available.”

“The Horn Button Trade was likewise non-existent … one firm trying to make a few Horn Buttons merely because they had nothing else …”

“The Metal Button Industry was found to be in excellent condition … Samples of their products were brought back.”

“Wooden buttons were found being made by all and sundry. This was because of the shortage of other materials. In general their products were quite crude and were sold merely because of the great shortage of buttons.”

“As everywhere, working time is 42 hours a week, due to the low calorie value of the present ration and the exhaustion of the workers.”

“In 1942 the premises (of a MOP button factory) were taken over in order to house Russian Forced Labour which was employed in a nearby factory. The factory was found to be still in a disorderly state. .. the proprietor was making a few articles from the small stock of shells which then existed in order to sell them to buy food for himself and his family. The manufacturing process was very primitive and done entirely by hand.”

In 1945 the Russian Occupation Forces confiscated nearly all ( of a particular) firms machinery. The proprietor, however had immediately ordered new machines …(some had been delivered, but a company supplying them)..were not now in a position to deliver anymore but that when the Russians Occupation Forces had finished dismantling their factory, they hoped to be able to resume delivery again on a smaller scale.”

“The factory (of one particular firm) was partly destroyed by fire at the end of the war. The firm employed foreign forced labour which it seemed, accounted for the fire.”



21st July 2019

Tailors’ buttons:

T. Woodcock, Brisbane:

Thomas Woodcock, born in Lancashire in 1832, arrived in Brisbane in 1863. He was in partnership with Peter Phillips until 1877. Although he died in 1905, his firm continued until around 1924, moving from Albert Street to the new Fitzroy Buildings in Adelaide Street in 1913. I don’t know who continued under his name, as all his sons had died, and his daughters remained unmarried.


Sloan’s, Wangaratta:

Robert Macombe Sloan (1874-1956) was i partnership as ‘Clarkes & Sloan’ until 1912, then continued as ‘R. M. Sloan’ in Murphy Street, Wangaratta.

Weekly Times, 12th October 1912.

Wangaratta Chronicle 1oth January 1914.

The familiar “Sloan’s” is used in print from 1915, so perhaps the button dates from then.

20th July 2019

This snippet shows when Beutron started manufacturing buttons in South Africa. Apparently, the government was encouraging foreign businesses to invest locally:

Overseas Trading, 16th November 1962.

Tailors’ buttons:

Williams & Weller, Dandenong:

A total mystery. There is no sign of them online!


Bert Saunders, Northcote:

Albert (Bert) Edward Saunders took over his fathers business on his death in 1915. He was still advertising in 1943.



19th July 2019

Tailors’ buttons:

W. Roska, Bendigo:

A ladies’ and gentlemen’s tailor in Mitchell Street from 1910-1917.


Pool & Williams, Bendigo:

This button dates from a narrow time frame. In  January 1892 Alfred Morris Pool (1857-1916) and Joseph Thomas Williams started their business  in the premises previously occupied by the “London and American Clothing Company” in Mitchell Street, Sandhurst (later Bendigo). In February 1994, Williams left to go to Sydney, whilst Pool continued under the name “A. M. Pool”.

D. Cleary, Bendigo:

Dennis Cleary was born circa 1869 in Clare, Ireland. He came to Victoria in 1869. In 1873 he went to Bendigo and opened a tailoring business in McCrae Street. In 1905 it became D.Cleary & Sons. Dennis died in 1912. His sons continued to trade until around 1930.


18th July 2019

Tailor’s button:

Mate’s, Albury:

Thomas Hodges Mate, born in Kent in 1810, came to Australia in 1833. Whilst grazing in the district, in 1850 he opened a general store at the corner of Hume and Townsend Streets,  Albury, to supply the village (of approximately 100 people) and surrounding district.

Leader, 2nd July 1898: The store in the 1860s.

Mate was a fair boss, and ahead of the times in granting his staff a half day holiday each week as well as 2 weeks paid holidays each year. He served as a councillor, mayor and member of Parliment. He retired in 1886 and died in Sydney in 1894.

From the Parliment of MSW website.

The business grew into an apartment store and importer, and built a new building in Dean Street.  They sold wholesale from the ‘old’ store. There was a saw-mill, timber yard and brick yard.

Employees of the firm in 1898.

His son-in-law George Arthur Thompson took over as manager until his death in 1925, then his son Douglas Arthur Thompson took over. The business had been listed as Mate’s Limited in 1920.

G.A.Thompson, Leader 2nd July 1898.

D.A. Thompson, Border Morning Mail 24 Dec 1940










Border Morning Mail 11 Dec 1940.

In 1946 the firm was sold to Burns, Philp & Co, and continued to trade under the Mate’s name. Mate’s closed in 1976 when Burn’s Philp sold to Walton’s.

16th July 2019

How lucky can you be … to buy a lot of buttons in an auction lot that didn’t mention the buttons! Good on you Helen!

I have not seen these buttons with the pentagonal depression.

These cards are hard to find.

But why, why, why, do sellers scribble on the cards!

Tailor’s button:

Musgrave & McKenzie, Lithgow:

Thomas “Tom” Musgrave was born in Tasmania in 1866. He served in the Boer War, then came to Lithgow around 1911. He and  William Michael McKenzie (1880-1963) worked for L. Levine, buying the business in 1917.

Freeman’s Journal, 5th April 1917.

Tom was the managing partner as well as in charge of the mercering section. William was in charge of the tailoring section. Tom died of a heart attack at the age of 65 years in 1931. He was remembered as a cheerful and honest man.

14th July 2019


More shots of Marian’s Beutron display shelves;


Tailor’s buttons:

Elliott Williams, Clare:

Elliott Williams was born in Burra in 1888. He ran a tailoring shop in Main Street, Clare for over 40 years, selling out to his sons Errol Elton and Horace Searle Williams. They, however, only continued the dry-cleaning section of the business.

13th July 2019

Tailors’ Button:’Boan Brothers’ were Henry (Harry) Boan (1860- 1941) and Ernest Boan (1865-1939), in Broken Hill. Harry sold out to his bother and set out for Perth in 1893. He bought a swampy plot of land to set a department store, noting that the railway passed by it. Borrowing heavily, and despite naysayers, he opened Boan Brothers with another brother called Benjamin (1859-1901) in 1895 and with clever publicity caused a sensation. The store was so successful it had to be expanded several times.

Mirror, 7th November 1936.

Western Mail 20th March 1941.

After Benjamin died Harry was the sole owner. The business became Boans Limited in 1912. He moved with his family to England from around 1913, but he returned alone. He was a member of the Legislative Council on two occasions. After his retirement his son Frank, who had still been living in England, took over control of the firm.

Mirror, 7 Nov 1936.

By 1954 the firm employed 1360 staff. The store included a cafeteria and a dining hall. Groceries and household as well as commercial goods were sold. A furniture factory opened in 1910. In 1986 the firm was sold to  Coles Myers.


12th July 2019

Tailors’ buttons:

David Moyle & Co., Ballarat:

Prior to setting up his own concern, David Moyle (1866-1916) had worked as a cutter for Twentymans (see tailoring pages). He worked in Moyle Street from 1907 until his untimely death in 1916. As an active member of the Lydiard Street Methodist Church, he was sorely missed.

Ballarat Star, 16th November 1970.

A. Richardson, Mildura:

Archie William Richardson was a bit of a gypsy.  Born in Maryborough, Victoria, in 1888, he worked in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney before he set up in Langtree Avenue, Mildura from 1919 to 1927. After an unknown period of time he returned to Melbourne, where he died in 1973.

A. Cunningham:

Andrew Charles “Charlie” Cunningham was born in 1872 in Adelaide. From around 1983-1897 he was part of the partnership of “Jacobs & Cunningham” in Broken Hills, before continuing alone. He died suddenly in 1936 at the age of 64 years.