9th September 2019

Birmingham button trade: Part 4

John Taylor (1711-1775)

John Taylor probably developed the first factory in Birmingham for the manufacture of ‘toys’, such as snuff boxes, buttons ,buckles and jewellery. He was known for  japanning (decorative lacquering) and also for enameling. He certainly pioneered the use of division of labour as an efficient process of producing goods, eventually employing 500 people. Before the use of this process, button making was so time and labour intensive as to not be very profitable. He made a fortune from producing gilded buttons which were all the fashion, first in Crooked Lane, then in Union Street. When he branched into making steel buttons, his largest rival Matthew Boulton was not impressed, as that was his specialty! He also had a copper/brass mill to produce metal for the button factory.

Along with Mr Sampson Lloyd II, in 1765 he formed the first Birmingham bank, Taylor & Lloyd’s, now know as Lloyd’s T.S.B. On his death his son, John Taylor II (1738-1814), took over the business.

John II Taylor (1738-1814) by Thomas Gainsborough, 1778.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to definitely attribute surviving objects to his manufacture. However, there are enameled buttons in the Wolverhampton Museum that may have been his as they were probably produced from 1745-1765 in Birmingham, when he was the largest manufacturer in the city.

Full set of the above.


In the MET museum are 4 of a larger set of hunting buttons produced around 1760-1770. They are decorated by transfer printed enamel, a process which Taylor was using from 1765 or earlier.

Transfer printed button in the MET museum.








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