New Zealand Button History

Information for this page were in large part sourced from New Zealand’s National Library’s resource; Papers Past  https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/   I also found this history useful;  http://studylib.net/doc/7569817/pinz-history—plastics-new-zealand

 

The history of button manufacturing in New Zealand followed a similar course to that in Australia.  Total reliance on imports gave way to local manufacturing and even exporting.  Finding value from the waste products of the county’s growing meat  and diary industry,  buttons were made from teeth and bones,  and casein was exported.

Published 25th Mar 1881 in the Star

Published 25th Mar 1881 in the Star

Published Auckland Star, 20th December 1919

Published Auckland Star, 20th December 1919

Wanted ads for 2 button factories, published in the Auckland Star, 1920

Wanted ads for 2 button factories,  in the Auckland Star, 1920

Published in The Queenslander, 14th May 1931

Published in The Queenslander, 14th May 1931

How you gonna keep them down on the farm? Well, it wasn’t just Broadway pulling the young folk away,  there was also the chance to sew buttons!

Published in the Evening Advocate (Queensland) 10th November 1941

Published in the Evening Advocate (Queensland) 10th November 1941

Major world events had local impacts.  The plastics industry made major contributions during WW2,  producing large quantities of buttons for uniforms as well as millions of toothbrushes!  In 1945  it was reported that the entry of Japan into the war had meant the loss of New Zealand’s main supply of pearl buttons.  The  local fresh-water mussels and trochus shells were of no commercial use,  and supply from India was insufficient.  This changed demand from pearl to plastic button,  both locally made and imported from the USA and Canada.  Post war,  world-wide shortages of supplies prompted charity efforts like that below;

Published in the Auckland Star, 21st March 1945

Published in the Auckland Star, 21st March 1945

There were to be two major plastic button producers as well as smaller outfits.

British Buttons and Buckles/General Plastics

In 1939 in the suburb of Petone,  Lower Hutt,  a company called British Buttons and Buckles started manufacturing fashion buttons.  Reportedly,  before this factory opened  there was not a significant local production.  This company became ( or was taken over by) General Plastics,  headed by Jack Quinn,  producing Beauclaire branded buttons.  The buttons were made by compression molding,  pressing of slugs,  and later injection molding.   At one stage the company employed 70-80 people and was exporting container loads of buttons.

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New Zealand made Beauclaire buttons.

New Zealand made Beauclaire buttons (Thanks, Marcia).

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beauclaire buttons produced in Petone. Notice the play on words "the Leda in fashion". this presumably dates the buttons to the late 1950's when the companies merged.

Beauclaire buttons produced in Petone. Notice the play on words “the Leda in fashion”. this presumably dates the buttons to the late 1950’s when the companies merged.

Thanks to Carol for sharing these.

Thanks to Carol for sharing these.

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It appears that Delphi also was merged with Beauclaire.

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Some wonderful Beauclaire cards. All these are labelled as approved by the NZ Drycleaners.

Some wonderful Beauclaire cards. All these are labelled as approved by the NZ Drycleaners.

On 13th April, 1965,  an electrical short circuit initiated an exposition of plastic dust which had accumulated below floor boards in the factory in Masterton.  The explosions was so massive that 300 kg machinery was thrown onto the roof.  Four people were killed,  six were injured,  and it would have been worse had not most of the staff been on a tea break.

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The company  became New Zealand Casein Plastics Ltd in 1969.  In 1988  a joint venture was formed with New Zealand Dairy Co. and a Japanese company,  Nissei Kyoeki,  to manufacture casein buttons for the Japanese market.  This venture only lasted two years.   The company wound up in 2004/5 as competition with cheaper polyester buttons as well as a rising NZ dollar against a sluggish Japanese economy took its toll.  The final seven workers were laid off.

Buttons (N.Z.) Ltd./Falcon Plastics

Joseph Henry Faulconbridge (1800 – 1955) was involved in clothing production.  In 1934, starting from his backyard and with a few pounds capital,  he started a button factory producing wood and pearl buttons.  In 1936 he listed Buttons (New Zealand) Limited with his sons Roy and Ian and expanded production to cast resin,  casein and compression molded plastic buttons in Auckland.  The company became Falcon Plastics by the 1940’s,  with Ian as production manager and Roy as managing director.

Auckland Star, 18th December 1940

Auckland Star, 18th December 1940

Published in the Auckland Star 29th March 1944

Published in the Auckland Star 29th March 1944

Auckland Star 3rd November 1945

Auckland Star 3rd November 1945

This lovely card came from New Zealand. On the bottom right hand corner is a fancy 'F'. On the top left hand corner is a bird of prey. Putting all these together, I think this must be from 'Falcon Plastics' , a past Kiwi button manufacture. See the NZ page for more history on this company.

This lovely card came from New Zealand. On the bottom right hand corner is a fancy ‘F’. On the top left hand corner is a bird of prey. Putting all these together, I think this must a Falcon Plastics example.

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As these Korbond branded buttons (below) were made in Auckland, I presume they were made in the Falcon Plastics factory.

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New Zealand marketed (and made?) Beutron buttons

New Zealand marketed (and made?) Beutron buttons.

NZ Beutron cards. Note the difference from Australian cards.

NZ Beutron cards. Note the difference from Australian cards. Thanks to Carol.

A very NZ product are Paua shell buttons. Carol has shared the following:

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A. LEVY Ltd., Wellington

Abraham Levy,  tailor,  was supplying uniforms from at least 1913.  In 1916 he was in trouble.  Apparently he used cotton instead of linen thread! Horror!

Evening Star 25th August 1916

Evening Star 25th August 1916. This must have been resolved as he continued to supply government uniforms.

The company was incorporated in June 1918,  several months after his premature death at the age of 55 years,  and finally liquidated in 1993.

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NZ Railway button

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Advertisements from the Evening Post in 1918 and 1937

 

H.B. Craighead Ltd., Wellington:

The Craighead family were tailors in New Zealand for several generations.  Hugh Clark,  Edwin George and his brother William Bruce Craighead were tailors and outfitters in Ashburton on the South Island.  It appears W.B moved to Wellington and  continued as a tailor.  Huia Bruce Craighead was born in Wellington in 1897 so presumably  was his son.  H.B.  would also become a tailor  and from around 1932 traded as H.B. Craighead Ltd.  The  New Zealand Railways button shown below is backmarked  H.B.Craighead  Ltd.  Wellington.

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Horn Buttons and Accessories Ltd:  Wellington

This company started in 1940 and was still advertising for staff in 1945.  I don’t know when it folded.

1940

Evening Post,  30th September 1940.

Check out the NZ page for more about this company.

From Carol’s latest visit to NZ.

New Zealand Clothing Factory (Hallenstein Brothers): Dunedin

In 1873 The New Zealand Clothing Factory was established in Dunedin to supply the Hallenstein Brothers clothing stores.  By 1900 there were 30 “HB” clothing stores across the country.  A grand new headquarters was built in 1882-3 which housed up to 300 employees. The opening was celebrated with a ball for 500-600 people. The company continues today,  but now most of the clothing is made in China.

The NZ Clothing Factory, 18-20 Dowling Street, Dunedin.

The NZ Clothing Factory, 18-20 Dowling Street, Dunedin.

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Otago Daily Times, 15th April 1890.

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As the above newspaper article outlines,  the factory manufactured military uniforms.  I have just received NZ artillery buttons,  including these 2 from the New Zealand Clothing Factory.

note the Queen Victoria Crown, dating the buttons pre-1902

Note the Queen Victoria Crown, dating the buttons pre-1902.

Ross & Glendining: Dunedin.

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In August 1862  two Scotsmen,  John Ross and Robert Glending,  took over a drapery store in Dunedin.  It was the start of a business that would last until 1966.  They changed from retail drapery to wholesale and importing when they opened a warehouse in 1865.

The warehouse as it looked in 1908.

The warehouse as it looked in 1906.

Their travelling salesmen would sell goods from Europe all over New Zealand. The business diversified into sheep farming, milling and manufacturing in the 1870’s.  In 1879 they built the Roslyn Woollen Mill in the Kalkora valley, Dunedin, producing yarn, blankets, flannel, plaiding, knitwear, hosiery and men and boys wear.  The buttons and trimmings were sourced from London.  They were the largest manufacturing firm in New Zealand,  even expanding into coal mining.

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By the 1900’s over 500 people were employed at the mill.  The business changed from a partnership to a Limited company.   John Ross remained involved in the company until the 1920’s, and his sons continued after that.  The number of factories increased producing clothes and shoes under various fashion labels.  In the 1960’s the firm struggled,  finally being sold and broken up after over a century of trading in 1966.  The mill continued under new ownership until 1980.

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Now, for the Fashion News….

Dominion, 27th April 1912

Dominion, 27th April 1912

Evening Post, 19th May 1928

Evening Post, 19th May 1928

Evening Post, 19th May 1928

Evening Post, 19th May 1928

Evening Post 19th May 1928 part 2

New Zealand Herald 20th Aug 1932 part 1New Zealand Herald, 20th August 1932                           NZ Herald, 20th August 1932

Press, 7th October 1932

Press, 7th October 1932

Screen shot 2016-01-13 at 10.04.50 PMEvening Post 12th November 1932Evening Post 12th November 1932

 New Zealand Herald 29th August 1933

NZ Herald 29th August 1933

Press, 20th September 1933

Press, 20th September 1933

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Oustanding plastic buttons, Evening Post 15th September 1944

Oustanding plastic buttons, Eveningpost 15th Sep 1944 part 2

Outstanding plastic buttons, Evening Post 15th September 1944