Other Pre-Federation Button Makers.

A. J. Parkes & Co,  Brisbane:

Arthur James Parkes was born in West Bromich, England in 1886. He was apprenticed as a diesinker to the Royal Mint in London in the 1880s. It is not known when or why he came to Queensland, but the first record is of him living  at Rocbourne Terrace, Paddington, as a diesinker. By 1896 he was  listed as a diesinker and engraver at 191 Adelaide Street, Brisbane.

The oldest surviving medallion produced by the firm dates to 1897. They produced many fine medallions for sporting clubs, etc, but metal railway tokens  and union badges were important day to day work. Government contracts for button and badges during the Boer War, WW1 and WW2 provided important business. In fact, they had to move to larger premises in 1915 due to the volume of work.

The company stagnated in the inter-war period. In the late 1930s the firm consisted of only Arthur and his son James Henry Brisbane Parkes (Harry). In 1941 he put the firm up for sale, and enjoyed retirement for the last 9 years of his life.

Eric Edwards Faux borrowed heavily to buy the firm in 1941. He was an English born jeweler who had come to Queensland as a child in 1913. He kept the name because the firm had built up a reputation for quality work. The firm required modernisation, and came with the burden of Harry Parkes, who was quite eccentric and unreliable, and was repeatedly sacked! However, all the old armed forces dies and tools were intact. This allowed Mr Faux to tender for button and badge production during WW2. Due to increased demand, the firm moved to 454 George Street in the early 1940s, then back to Gregory Terrace in 1947.

In 1948 A.J. Parkes became a registered private company. Enamel and plastic badges were a big part of the business. In 1961 the company moved to Salisbury and built a new factory. Eric’s sons, Edgar and Clive joined the firm, eventually becoming Chief Executive Office and Production Manager respectively. After a sixty year hiatus, they returned to medallion production.

Back of the Scouting button.
Commonwealth Gazettes, 1953

Austral Pearl Stud Company:

This company only advertised from 1889-90. The Fink’s Building was built on the corner of Flinders and Elizabeth Streets in 1880. A fire destroyed it in 1897. It was rebuilt, but finally demolished. What a shame.

The Age, 18th July 1889.
Jewish Herald, 20th December 1889.
From State Library of Victoria collection.

Cole Bentley & Son, Melbourne:

Cole Bentley 1917

Mr Bentley was originally from Birmingham. He ran the Firm of Bentley & Son  from circa 1880 until his death in 1928. Before moving to Little Bourke Street the firm was located at 205 Little Lonsdale Street. His son, Harry Cole Bentley, continued the business until he sold up upon receiving a military commission.

Advocate (Melbourne), 17th January 1935.
The Argus, 3rd April 1943.


F. Burmeister,  Adelaide:

This article appeared in The Express and Telegraph on 10th October 1885. Has anyone seen South Australian Volunteers buttons of this era?

From the State Library of South Australia.

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 exhibited artist and had been involved with with the “first coloured moving picture in the world” that toured South Australian towns in 1895.

The Pioneer, 8th November 1940.
From artrecord.com

G.A.Miller,  Sydney:

The company’s current logo.

Gustav Adolph Carlberg (Miller), despite being quoted by the company he started as Swedish born, was actually born in Sydney in 1879 to Swedish parents. He was apprenticed to W. J. Amor (see below) before joining a Mr Morris in 1900 in partnership as badge and medallion makers ‘Miller and Morris’, which became ‘Miller and Sons’ circa 1914. A tender was accepted in 1906 by them to supply military uniform buttons. Gustav died in Sydney on the 9th January 1947. The firm became G. A. Millers circa 1919 and continues today.



 James McBean & Son, Melbourne :

James McBean & Son, Melbourne, were primarily retailers but also produced their own jewellery, their mark being  ‘J.McB & SON’. (The article below was reproduced in a silversmith website but originated in 1904.)

Sterling silver and blue enamel buckle and button set by James McBean & Son, Melbourne from c.1920.






“This well known firm was established in 1858 by Mr James McBean, the father of the present proprietor. Mr McBean who is still living, is one of the oldest identities in Melbourne, and was actively engaged in business until 1890, a period of forty years. During that time, although he took no part in public matters, the name of McBean became well and favourably known over almost all of Australasia, and the firm has a splendid reputation, not only in Victoria, but in the other States. Mr. JAMES McBEAN was born in Inverness, Scotland, in the year 1833. He served his apprenticeship as a watchmaker and jeweller in his native town, and then determined to seek his fortune in Australia. On arriving in Melbourne he saw the immense possibilities which awaited the jewellery trade, and established himself in his old business in premises directly opposite the present establishment in Elizabeth Street, on the site now occupied by Messrs McLean Brothers & Rigg. Comenceing on a very modest scale, Mr McBean gradually worked up a splendid connection. Business rapidly increased and it became necessary to remove to larger premises. Since 1894 operations have been carried on in the splendidly situated establishment in ‘The Block’, Elizabeth Street. The large and elegently fitted shop, with its two spacious window frontages, one facing Elizabeth Street, and the other ‘The Block’, is one of the sights of Melbourne. A most noticeable feature is the splendid assortment of high-class articles, representing the most artistic efforts of the gold and silversmiths’ art, which are displayed with lavish profusion. A large quantity of the jewellery is manufactured by the firm, and compares very favourably with anything which can be turned out in England. In 1890 Mr. James McBean retired and handed over the business to his son, Mr William McBean who had been associated with him for twenty years. The thorough and practical training which he received during that time has proved of great benefit, both to himself and his clients. An Inspection of the superior class of stock and its great variety will convince anyone that the present proprietor is bent on maintaining the old traditions of the house, and also in keeping well abreast of the times. Mr. WILLIAM McBEAN was born in Melbourne in 1858, and, although only forty-three years of age, has been in the trade for thirty-two years, having acquired a thorough knowledge of every branch of the business. Although a very busy man, Mr. McBean finds time to devote a good deal of time and energy to the interests of the Melbourne Cricket Club. He has been a valued member of the committee for five years, and was also one of the committee of management who had the English team of 1901 in hand.”

Source: The Cyclopedia of Victoria: An Historical and Commercial Review, Descriptive and Biographical, Facts, Figures and Illustrations : An Epitome of Progress. – Volume 2 – 1904
The Argus, 12th July 1894
The Argus, 14th June 1925

G. W. N. Hamilton, Melbourne:

Source: Victorian Almanac

George William Nathaniel Hamilton (1848-1931) was born in Dublin. He was known for his Emu Egg trophies. He was in partnership with Edmond Soutter from around 1873-1877 and advertised as above from 1878-1881. Has anyone any example of his buttons?

Kangaroo Office, Melbourne:

In 1854 the first private mint in Australia was set up in Franklin Street West, Melbourne, by some British entrepreneurs. Unfortunately it was a business failure. The gentleman running the business for them in Melbourne, Thomas Scaife, started to produce military buttons, then later copper tokens and medals in an attempt to salvage the venture. He left the colony in 1859, having sold the coin and button press to Thomas Stokes in 1857. A photo of the press can be seen on the Thomas Stokes’ page in this blog.

The Argus 2nd April 1855
Medallion struck by the Kangaroo Office.
A Vita-Brits collectable card from the’Coins of Australia’ series. Strictly, this was not a coin but a weight, as it was labelled ‘1 ounce’.

see also: https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/2388

Parsons, Thompson, and Co, Sydney:

Sydney Morning Herald, 10th February 1881.

The Mr Parsons referred to was probably Charles Tilbury Parsons, a skilled wood worker and businessman who ran a mill in Sydney before moving to Gosford. Presumably after he left the firm was renamed as Messrs. Thompson & Co. It later traded in Victoria as well.

Jewish Herald, 26th April 1889.
Jewish Herald (Victoria),  26th April 1889.

P. J. King Pty. Ltd., Melbourne:

The Commonwealth Jeweller & Watchmaker,

Percy John King (1870-1933) established a partnership with Charles Bridgland in 1893.  ‘Bridgland & King’ did engraving, die sinking and rubber stamp making. From 1899 Percy continued the business alone. A rival company started in Melbourne in 1903 using the name ‘Bridgland & King’ even though they were not associated with Percy.

Published in The Age, 6th August 1903.

This button is backmarked ‘Bridgland and King’ and was probably made by the firm trading on Mr King’s good name.

Detail from photo of Collins Street http:/​/​nla.gov.au/​nla.obj-146718967

Percy set up a new business, P. J. King Pty Ltd, in 1928 with his son John Howard King. The company  made uniform buttons (see below). Together with Brim Medallions, Wheelan’s Castings and Swan & Hudson, the company was amalgamated into J. J. Cash in the late 1980’s,  and is now known as  Cash’s Australia.

RAA buttons: backmarked P.J.King Melb.

S.Schlank & Co. Ltd., Adelaide:

The Commonwealth Jeweller &​ Watchmaker, 1923

Salis P. Schlank (Salis Schonlank) was a Prussian-Jewish jeweller who started his own company from the Adelaide branch of a previous partnership (P.Falk & Co.) in 1887. The company was a leading medal and badge maker and remained with the Schlank family until 1969. The company was sold off to Olsen Badges in 1970.


see: http://www.numismatics.org.au/pdfjournal/Vol23/Vol%2023%20Article%204.pdf

The Express and Telegraph, 27th Jun 1892


W.J. Amor, Sydney:

William Joseph Amor (1860-1955) was a skilled English  medalist and die engraver who established his business in Sydney in 1888.

NSW Post Office Directory 1896-7

It became a limited company in 1918.

Dun’s Gazette, 6th February 1918

From 1943 til 1978 it traded as ‘Amor P/L’ when the company was renamed ‘Amor-Sanders’ and continued to 1997 as the premier medal, badge and institutional button manufacturer in New South Wales. The company then split into two smaller entities. For more information see http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/collection/database/?irn=10737&utm_source=api&utm_medium=api&utm_campaign=828f4d948d537cf

Extracted from an article published in the Sunday Times (Sydney), 11th May 1919.
Extracted from an article published in the Sunday Times (Sydney), 11th May 1919.
Dies from Amor-Sanders used to make medals, Badges and Buttons, from the Power House Museum.
From the collection of the Museum of Arts and Applied Sciences.