Monthly Archives: February 2020

19th February 2020

Please note the new address of this blog is:


Department of Commerce of USA

Special Consular reports





Rio De Janerio, 1915.

There was practically no local button manufacture. Buttons were imported from Germany, France and Italy with pearl buttons  coming from Japan. Varieties imported included MOP, ivory nut, horn, papier-mache, metal and bone, especially cheaper grades. A financial depression in the country had reduced trade there considerably since the beginning of 1914.


There was a small industry unable to supply local demand. Only one factory was manufacturing pearl (from imported Japanese Takase) and metal buttons in Rio de Janero.  The metal buttons were for uniforms mainly made from copper sheeting imported from France. However, with the war time ban on copper exporting, local foundries were making copper sheet from scrap. A limited amount of higher quality buttons for officers uniforms were imported. There were small local concerns making covered, composition and bone buttons.

Large amounts of buttons (especially cheaper varieties) were imported, mainly from Germany and Austria-Hungary (before the war),  and from Italy, France and Portugal, including wood, glass, bone, horn, composition, MOP, ivory and celluloid. It was cheaper to import completed vegetable ivory buttons from France and Italy (and Germany pre-war) than make them from local supplies!

It was noted that American buttons cost  twice as such on average as European buttons to import.

British Guiana:

In 1915 buttons were chiefly being imported from USA and England; mostly cheaper varieties of pearl, glass, bone and metal. A small colony, with many of the East Indian and native population using few buttons.


Manufacturing consisted of one establishment in Santiago making around 20 gross per day, mostly shoe buttons, and the lack of experienced workers was limiting the ability to increase production. Therefore most buttons were imported from Germany, Italy, France and Great Britain and the USA; horn, bone, leather, MOP, vegetable ivory, wood, metal, shoe, rubber, covered, and paper. Black mourning buttons were important due to the custom for deep mourning. They had in the past imported nearly all their military buttons and supplies from Germany, so by 1915 the supply was nearly gone.

Mapache (South-central Chile and south-western Argentina) women.

It was noted that the custom of wearing black shawls that covered the head and 3/4 of the body by Chilean women of the lower and middle classes, as well as  for all classes outside major cities, reduced the demand for fancy blouse buttons and for  buttons for tailor made clothing. Therefore most buttons used were cheaper varieties and reused for generations. Those wealthy enough to follow fashion bought from Paris or London, not America. However, since the outbreak of war European manufacturers, particularly of metal buttons and snap fasteners, had not been able to  provide supplies, so there was an opening for American exporters.


Colombia had no local manufacturers, but supplied large quantities of tagua nut to the world. The use of buttons was limited “by climatic conditions, and many persons (being) scantily clad.” The general use of white clothing limited choice of buttons used to mostly white, including those made of porcelain, bone and pearl, from France, Germany, USA and Britain.


There was no local manufacture. The button trade limited mostly to cheaper types; small amount of MOP, vegetable ivory, bone and metal from Germany, France, Britain, and since the war, mainly from the USA and Japan.


All buttons were imported, mainly from France and Germany. Mostly cheaper buttons: MOP, bone, china, porcelain, corozo, wood, and metal bachelor’s buttons. Due to the local climate, the demand was for light coloured buttons for their light coloured clothing. Most clothing was made at home, with the few wealthy people buying their clothing overseas.


There was no manufacturing of any buttons. Buttons of all types were imported, mainly from Germany, excepting for vegetable ivory from Italy.  Japan had just introduced imitation pearl buttons with increasing sales. Favoured  types were vegetable ivory, MOP, metal, horn, glass, bone, glass, composition, porcelain and ivory. Small black glass buttons were important for mourning clothes. Popular types included small novelty, small coloured glass and small brass buttons, also fancy vest buttons and shoe buttons.


There was no local manufacture;  there was a factory set up to make coconut shell buttons, but it had no money to start operating! Buttons used were” those suitable for women’s clothing of white goods or cotton prints and for men’s washable clothing of duck, denim, and khaki cloth.” It was noted that the fact clothes were usually washed by pounding them on stones resulted in a higher consumption of buttons! Types used were mainly bone, vegetable ivory and MOP, although all types of buttons were being imported, especially from Germany, Italy and France,  but also Spain, USA and Austria.  American buttons were considered more costly, but of much better quality.

Venezuela, 1915. Note the light coloured clothing.

18th February 2020

Department of Commerce of USA

Special Consular reports


In pre World War 1  times Austria-Hungry, Germany, France, Italy, England, Japan, and to a small extent, Spain, supplied the world’s (apart from the United States and Canada) buttons . The USA produced 90% of its own needs and greater than 50% of Canada’s. At the time of this report, the rest of the world outside of central Europe had to depend on USA, Japan, Italy and Spain for button supply. As the USA was by far the largest producer, there was considerable growth in its exports during the war. Therefore, this report was commissioned to supply information to the American industry. It was 182 pages long, so I’ll summarise over several posts. It provides interesting historical information about manufacturing, fashion and culture around the world. If you wish to read it in it’s entirety, see

Further information can be found from

Although importing was still happening from Great Britain, Italy and France in 1915, these countries were experiencing increased demands for uniform buttons, and problems of supply that allowed for countries such as Japan and America to increase their exports. For American manufacturers however,  a challenge was to meet the low cost of buttons formerly sourced from Europe.

Military Alliances during WW1.


THE United States of America:

The trade was worth $19,476,056 in total in 1914. The table below shows that pearl button industry was the largest branch in quantity and value, followed by vegetable ivory.

Output from American factories in 1914.

America’s exports had nearly doubled in value from 1914 to 1915, with England, Canada, Australia and Cuba the largest purchasers. About two thirds of all vegetable ivory buttons were made in New York State. Two thirds of pearl button blanks were produced in Iowa but almost one half of finished pearl buttons were made in New York. Nearly all the bone buttons were made in Pennsylvannia. In 1916 there were around 20,000 people involved in the fresh-water pearl button industry. In 1917 around $45,000 value of these buttons were exported per monthly, with large qualitities going to central and South America. There were 112 ocean pearl factories in America in 1918, with most of that shell coming from the west coast of Australia.


The Roschman Brothers button factory in Queen (later Regina) Street, Waterloo. Bulit in 1886. Closed mid 1940s. Pearl shell buttons, buckles and cuff-links were made there.

The industry was not large with 15 factories in 1915. The main factories were located in Berlin (now called Kitchener) Waterloo, Toronto, Ganonoque and Montreal.  America supplied 53% of its imports in 1914, rising to 64% in 1915. In Montreal the buttons made were mainly hand crochet, mohair and celluloid made mostly by makers of braid, cord and tassels rather than dedicated button producers. In Ottowa they made bone, metal and composition buttons. Wood buttons were also made in Canadian factories.  In Ontorio manufacturers made vegetable ivory and fresh-water pearl buttons. Agate buttons were sourced from England and France, as they could not be sourced from America. Salt-water pearl buttons were being imported from Japan. There was an opportunity for American makers to meet the supply of fancy pearl and celluloid buttons previously sourced from Germany and France.

The Dominion Button Factory in 1964. This factory was built in 1910. Pearl buttons were made there.


Buttons were usually bought through French and German wholesalers. Buttons favoured were pearl, metal, horn, paste, porcelain and composition and cloth covered. There was a demand for plain polished brass and tinned buttons for military uniforms. It was noted that an officer’s dress uniform coat alone required 2 to 2.5 dozen buttons! Only poor quality pearl and bone  buttons were made in Mexico.

West Indies (including Cuba):

There were no local manufacturing excepting for a very small quantity of hand covered crochet buttons from Jamaica.

Mother-of -pearl and bone buttons were preferred, also glass, horn, brass and linen. Before the war these came from Britain, Germany and France; since the war more came from America. In Cuba the preference for quality salt water pearl buttons was strong. In Martinque, there were high import tariffs excepting for French goods for exporters to contend with.

Central Americas:

Overall the market was moderate to low, due to many people being too poor to wear clothes requiring buttons. In some areas, only  buttons that could to stand up to the hot humid conditions were suitable. “Horn deteriorates, composition splits, and metal buttons rust out.” A lot of white, washable clothes were worn. The only buttons made locally were cloth covered over wooden moulds. Most  buttons were imported from England, Austria, Italy, Germany and France. Shipping and low pricing were issues to be resolved by potential American exporters.

In British Honduras the preferred buttons were vegetable ivory buttons for coats and vests, coloured to match the fabric,  with cheaper versions for trousers, plus a smaller quantity of brass buttons for men, plus pearl and linen buttons for women.  In Costa Rica the market required pearl, bone, vegetable ivory, metal and cloth covered buttons.  In Gutemala some glass and porcelain buttons were imported, also cloth covered and bone buttons. French style, rather than American were preferred by upper class Gutemalians. In Honduras pearl, white china, bone vegetable ivory and non-rusting metal buttons were used, but the demand was not high. Puerto Cortes required pants buttons in bone, composition or metal, white china and pearl. There was low demand from Nicaragua, but some bone, horn, composition, china, vegetable ivory, celluloid and glass buttons were imported. Panama mainly imported white and light coloured buttons to match their light coloured clothing; mostly corozo, metal, glass and cloth covered. In Salvatore the most favoured buttons were glass, metal,  and corozo.


17th February 2020

New finds:

Carol has the Beauclaire Rose on a Roger Berry card. Roger Berry was a distributor, not a manufacturer and distributed General Plastic buttons, and possibly other’s, on their own branded cards.

Also from Carol:

The ‘Young Australia League’ was renamed in 1905 from the ‘Young Australia Football League’ which had been started in Perth and Freemantle that same year to promote the Australia code over other codes as part of a broader nationalist agenda, with a broadened interest covering literature, literature, debating, band music, sport and theatrical performances, and well as outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. They believed in “Education through Travel” and organised tours for West Australian school aged boys. After WW1 branches were started in other States. In now operates only in West Australia.












John Joseph  (Jack) Simons (1882-1948) was a West Australian businessman, newspaper publisher  and politician.

New Tailor’s button:

Jas. Coultas, Perth. W. A:

In March, 1896 James Coultas (1850-1910) “the well-known Melbourne tailor”  commenced business in Barrack street, Perth. He was the brother of Southwell Coultas (mentioned previously) and had worked with him in Melbourne from around 1881-1888. He had set up on his own in Collins Street, but struggled, filing for bankruptcy in 1892.

The Daily News, 26th August, 1950. This old photo shows the business of James Coultas, tailor-mercer, between the two telephone poles.

He moved to Perth and  died there in 1910.

Western Mail, 2nd July 1910.

15th January 2020



New find:

Could these be Australian?

The Beauclaire Rose on a non-Beauclaire branded card.

The plastic is a little rough to the touch, and shows chipping possibly the to age or poor quality plastic. The card is 6×4 inches, or approx 15x 10 cm.

The detail that links all these cards and points to an Australian origin is the printed border on the card. It is also  found on other cards of known Australian providence:

Detail on the Coquette card. The ink has run, but the design is still discernible.

This button is also seen on Embassy and Woolworths branded cards.

All my ‘plastic button’ cards are not so marked, but some seen online have ‘A GP PRODUCT’ printed on the bottom. See below.

Perhaps my cards without this designation date pre-October 1941 when O. C. Rheuben & Co changed to General Plastics; the card with the designation post October 1941, but pre 1951 when the Beauclaire label was adopted.

If you have vintage cards with this design, they may have been made by O. C. Rheuben/General Plastic, and perhaps even  The Hermann Co (pre 1934) if the ‘H’ on the card with the small blue roses above is a hint!

14th February 2020

More crafty ideas:

The Age, 4th June 1947.

The Queenslander, 13th February 1904.

Australian Women’s Weekly, 24th November 1934.

Roger Berry Buttons:

A saucer shape with a slight ridge around the circumference. Unfortunately the plastic seems cheap quality and a little rough.

Seen online:

Great graphics from Chalmers (USA) in the 1920s: Not sure about the smoking chimney’s in the background. Did that just represent the industrial might of the USA that the sailor was protecting?




12th February 2020

New Maxart:

This may date from the 1950s as during this era the dry-cleaning issue was  a marketing issue.

Carol’s new koala:

Seen online:

This style buckle first appeared on Beauclaire branded cards from the early 1950s. This Beutron card is from the 1970s.

Make your own buttons and buckles:

From the Queensland Times, 22nd February 1937:

10th February 2020



New finds:

Three differing cards of the same type of button.

On the back of the ‘Spares’ card.

Embassy cards from pre and post 1971.

Same style button on Embassy cards from c.1959, late 1960s and early 1970s.

Beutron cards from 1970s.

Two slightly different Leda cards of the same button. One dates 1966 (note imperial and decimal pricing), the other must be just after that as the price is the same.

Grandway was a Woolworths label from 1969-1980s.

8th February 2020

I have stumbled upon a delightful, humorous and long-winded article from The Sydney Morning Herald , 24th December, 1898. The vocabulary is wonderful, the sentences are never ending!


By L.C.

” I am suffering from an obsession of buttons. Buttons haunt me and annoy. Not the humble but faithful diminutives of bone and iron that so speak to federalise our everyday garniture  (Ed: a set of decorative accessories) by joining the scattered members together, and making them one complete responsible and serviceable protection. No, these are useful allies, whose value too often we do not sufficiently apprise till at some critical moment – in a ballroom or out at a picnic – we lose one. The offending discs are those glaring, staring, impertinent buttons of brass that stiffly stand sentry at measured distances on the parade ground of cloth popularly called a coat, worn by certain unoffending men in the community. The ire against these inanimate bits of brightness is not without reason when we think of the havoc they play.

‘Good day, Sir,’ I heard some one say as I walked along the street, and turning round I saw a rather shabbily dressed man whom I did not at first recognise. Gradually it dawned on me that this was Jim, whom I had been accustomed to see resplendent in uniform with great brass buttons marching with lofty stride up and down the pavement in front of one of the great city warehouses: It started a train of thought. Uniforms – buttons – the truth of masks – the instability of dignity, on what externals it rests, the trappings of authority, the seductive finery of a coquette. Buttons, mere knobs of gaudy tinsel, yet capable of arousing what folly, of exciting what delirium in susceptible feminine hearts, potent to raise poor human kind to what heights of petty importance!

At his post in the city Jim paced up and down the footpath in front of his warehouse with steady stride and conspicuous importance. His chest was expanded in bold exuberant style, his carriage was easy, and his whole bearing proclaimed that he was someone; that he was filling a mission in the world. He would allow his preambulations to be interrupted occasionally, when he would graciously exchange a word or two with some bewildered stranger who sought guidance in the city, would pass a few words with some friend, or with an air of favour assist a lady into a cab or carriage.

This incident with the accompanying lofty reflections suggested other scenes, and I found my thoughts wandering off to the deck of a steamer that was ploughing her way through the warm air and tranquil waters of the South seas. We had left Noumea, with its fine harbour and its haunting convict associations, not without some knowledge of the peculiarities of social and hotel life in a French colony. The sight of the hordes of dapper Frenchmen in white ducks, (ED: white trousers) grasping white cotton umbrellas, made enough sport for the most exacting, and the rich scenery, tropical vegetation, French cookery, and French customs supplied novelty and interest. When we got fairly to sea once more, life settled down to hours and days of profitable indolence. The warm, moist Trade Wind fanned us as we lounged comfortably in great deck chairs and drank in the sunshine, our thoughts flitting erratically from the page of the favourite volume in our lap to the lazy, heaving sea in front that stretched away to the horizon in shimmering expanse. It was tremendously restful, and lying in your soft, comfortable flannels, you thought, as of a sort of nightmare, of the stiffness of conventional life – of starched shirt fronts, collars, and cuffs, of fixed costume, of the appalling uniform of society functions, of official dress, of the insignia of authority – of buttons. The thought of such things was stupidly incongruous in your then surroundings, but that, I have found, is just the kind of mental impulse that by some perverse law comes to us at such moments, In our fine Australian Christmas days of blazing light and rioting sun people always find their thoughts rushing to scenes in England, where ice and snow and cold crisp weather prevail. Often we never have so strong an inclination to laugh as at some intensely solemn moment, and I suppose that it was the working of the same law that as children made it possible for us when in church to let our thoughts and attention dwell intently on anything else in the world except the sermon and the preacher before us. Thus in accordance with the law of the inopportune, the world of frill and ceremonial thrust itself into unpleasant mental prominence in the midst of situation of delightful abandon. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of Noumea, steeped as it is in officialdom, that was clinging to me. On every hand you met gendarme and officer, and the impression you carried away was that of everlasting uniform, with its aggressive fronting of buttons.

At any other time, or in any other place, you might have dismissed such an unpalatable mental dish, but on shipboard you are at the mercy to some extent of your fellow passengers. At this psychological moment one of them sauntered over to me, and drawing up a chair and filling his pipe opened fire on me with some of his experiences.

My meditations when he arrived on the scene had got to the stage of pious bewailing of the weakness of human nature in allowing buttons (in brass) to exercise on it such a baleful sway, crushing out all that was free, easy, gentle, and natural, converting a man of manners and pliant intelligence into a stiff, stupid official with humorous ideas of the altitude of his station and very abbreviated notions of his duties to others.

My companion seemed to take up the thread of my musings where I had dropped it, for he started to tell me of his recent experience on board a man-o’-war. he has been taken against his will from the island on which he carried on his living as a trader to act as a witness in a case of a European charged with murdering a native. the case was to be tried in Suva, but a direct passage was not made, and his stay in naval quarters was unduly prolonged. I give in outline what he told.

The trader was nearly eight weeks on board the man-o’-war. he never had such a time in his life. he smiles grimly at the recollection. Could not go to bed till 10 p.m. on account of waiting for “Rounds” to be finished. Was compelled to be up at 4:30. Then when on deck it was impossible to get any rest or quiet. First there was the fiend with the hose and the holystone (ED: a block of soft sandstone used for scrubbing decks). In desperation the trader took up a position on one side of the deck. Presently along came a lieutenant, With a gruff, short “By your leave” he was shunted to the opposite side of the deck, very soon another 4ft. 2 in. importance in gilt buttons came along, and, “By your leave” he was once more turned adrift on the deck in the midst of a hundred fussing blue jackets, busily engaged rubbing away invisible dirt from a spotless deck or from shining handrails. refuge was sought between two guns, and here a slight respite was obtained until the fertile brain of someone in command would issue the order “Clean guns.” Then, “By your leave,” the hapless one had to get out.

Occasionally diversion would be given to things by sending the ship at full speed under forced draught. With a fair sea running she would duck into the water at a speed of about 16 knots, bringing copious waves over amidships, and this deluge cheerfully streamed along the deck aft. Past midnight a torpedo attack and defence would be undertaken. The bugle would sound, and all in the ship would rush to quarters. Pandemonium let loose would mildly represent the state of things that occurred for some time. The noble defenders stood to their stations, just in the clothing they were sleeping in, and as some had turned in hastily wearing only a shirt, so to the affrighted stars was given the weird spectacle of the hurrying bare shanks of those dainty exquisites who are wont to add so much colour and dash to the many fashionable balls in the colonial capitals. How dreadful to think of! – How unpoetic to look at!

Powder was brought up from below and served out; the guns loaded and swung clear. The ship kept darting about in a small space. The blinding electric searchlights are set flashing round on the waters, and at length discover the poor canvas dummy that had previously been set adrift to represent the attacking torpedo boat. Blaze, blaze, crack, crack, go the guns, large and small. When his canvas nothingness has been annihilated, and a few thousand pounds worth of powder, shot, and shell consumed,  the order to cease the attack is given. Then about a couple of hours sleep can be got before you are turned out.

After this style did he discourse, as a man with a grievance will. But the narrative produced a change in my previous thoughts. I had lost some of my choler against the men in buttons. I now thought of them as capital aids to diversion, and stalling-off further disclosures from my garrulous and, I fear, some what imaginative friend, sank into slumber to the accompaniment of the muffled boom of distant cannon and the hazy vision of uncased nether limbs shivering at their posts.”

As a reward for ploughing through that, some new finds:

Rex: Not labelled as made in Australia. I’m not sure if this company was a manufacturer or just distributor.

Walker: probably 1960s.

6th February 2020

PLEASE NOTE: The new address for this blog is


New finds:

Some lovely West German glass buttons mounted on Beutron cards: 1950s

This design, perhaps a little hard to see, is the same as of the buttons with the silver luster below.

These may not look it, but are black glass buttons. They have a silver luster applied.

Beauclaire roses on non Beauclaire card:

There is newspaper glued to the back (as was done to prevent the unravelling of the thread used to attach the buttons when cut up like this example) from a 1948 Melbourne newspaper. Of course, old newspaper may have been used for the purpose, but it is another clue as to this design predating 1950.