Birmingham Button Manufacturing: Part 7
Manufacturers mentioned by John Pemberton Turner in 1866.
Benjamin Sanders & Sons:
Benjamin Sanders (1763-1852) lived a colourful life, travelling and trading around the world. With his sons Benjamin junior (1796-1840) and Thomas Tudor Sanders (1805-1881) he made an enduring mark on button manufacturing. Whilst the firm was not always located in Birmingham, it was there for a period, and also in nearby Bromsgrove (13 miles SW of Birmingham).
Benjamin was born in Worchester (31 miles SW of Birmingham) in 1763. In the 1780s he was a tailor in London. He took his family to America in 1792, surviving storms and pirates. They spent 3 year in New York, surviving Yellow Fever, then set off for Copenhagen, surviving another storm and a French man-of-war. After building up a profitable business, Britain declared war on Denmark and bombed Copenhagan including Sander’s own house! Not surprisingly, he needed to return to England in 1807 and start again.
Whilst living in Lambeth, South London in 1813, with the technical assistance of his name-sake son, he patented the production of cloth covered buttons by machinery. The machine had to stamp out the parts, attach a shank to the back then cover the whole with fabric.
He then moved to Birmingham to take advantage of his patent in the centre of the button making trade. He move to nearby Bromsgrove in 1821, another button making town, first in High Street then at Sidemoor Mill. In 1825 his son patented the “flexible shank button”. This type of button had a cloth patch protruding through the metal back plate. This allowed the button to be stitched snug and flat onto the garment.
Later they patented a 3-part metal version with a steel back plate and a loop shank instead of the cloth patch. This is referred to as the “Sanders type” button. They also invented the modern ‘snap-fastener’.
By 1830 there were 300 employees, mostly women earning one shilling and one pence per day. The company was taken over by the Nicholls family (? when) but still trades under the name of Sanders as a badge making firm. However, button production ceased around 2014.