Stokes & Sons: 1856 – today

The subject of military/livery/uniform buttons is a study in its own right. This is not meant to be an exhaustive look at this subject,  rather just to highlight Australian manufacturers.  Please refer to specialty books/websites/clubs for more information on this topic.  See also ‘Buttons in the News” page. See also  for further information and pictures.

Thomas Stokes (1831-1910)  like many others,  had come to Victoria to look for gold, arriving on New Year’s Day, 1854.  Unsuccessful,  he returned to his former trade and in 1856 set up business as a die-sinker, producing medals,  tokens (unofficial pennies and half-pennies used due to a shortage of official coinage),  buttons and silverware in Mincing Lane (this lane no longer exists, but ran between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane,  probably continuing down to near Queens Wharf).  He then moved to 115 Flinders Lane east.

The Argus (Melbourne) 4th October 1855.

The Argus (Melbourne), 3rd April 1856.

The Argus, 10th November, 1856.

The Argus (Melbourne), 10th November, 1856.

Thomas Stokes, 1831-1911

Thomas Stokes, 1831-1910.

Thomas Stkoes business at 100 Collins Street, Melbourne from circa 1858-1862.

Thomas Stokes, (later Stokes and Martin), business at 100 Collins Street, Melbourne from circa 1858-1881.  In 1881 they moved to 29 Little Collins Street and remained there until around 1889.

Published 16th May 1859 in The Age (Melbourne). This is highly likely to be Thomas Stokes, although he's not named.

Published 16th May 1859, in The Age (Melbourne).  This is  likely to be Thomas Stokes,  although he’s not named.

 The Colonial Mining Journal, Railway and Share Gazette and Illustrated Record, 7th february 1861.

The Colonial Mining Journal,  Railway and Share Gazette and Illustrated Record (Victoria),  7th February 1861.

The Ballarat Star 11th October 1871

The Ballarat Star(Victoria), 11th October 1871.

Stokes was in partnership with George Frederick Martin from about 1867 until  some time after 1891 when a fire destroyed the business premises in Caledonian Lane.  They were not insured, and suffered losses estimated around £15,000!   According to differing sources,  either because  Martin had not renewed the fire insurance,  or because of the recession in that occurred in Melbourne in the 1890’s,  the partnership was dissolved.  According to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney,  this was in 1893. Although mention of  a robbery at the premise of ‘Stokes and Martin” was reported in 1898 in multiple newspapers, this was in error as the business of “Stokes and Son” was mentioned in The Age newspaper in 1893.  George Martin had come to Australia in 1852 and died in 1912,  aged 82 years.  He was a member for the Malvern Shire Council from 1882-8.

An early mention of ‘Stokes and Martin’ in The Argus, 22nd October 1870.

The Mercury(Hobart) 13th March 1912

The Mercury(Hobart), 13th March 1912.

Screen shot 2016-02-16 at 10.35.34 PM Screen shot 2016-02-16 at 10.35.09 PM

Thanks to Ian and Carol for sharing this button(above) from the Brighton Yacht Club, which started in 1875.  Below; N.S.W. Military Forces uniform buttonand ealy artillery button.Both buttons are backmarked Stokes & Martin.

Screen shot 2016-04-16 at 4.59.54 PMScreen shot 2016-04-16 at 5.00.08 PM

Stokes three sons gradually entered the business.  In 1893,  after the partnership with Martin had dissolved,  the firm was renamed Stokes and Son,  then Stokes and Sons in 1896.  It changed again in 1911 to Stokes and Sons Pty. Ltd.  Another fire considerably damaged the premises in Caledonian Lane (off Little Bourke Street) in 1901.  In 1935  the firm moved to Brunswick.  Several grandsons would join the firm.

Screen shot 2016-09-02 at 5.58.01 PM

From the Federation University Australia Historical Collection.

Screen shot 2016-05-19 at 9.29.43 PM

Stokes & Sons, Sydney,  was listed in the Sands directory from at least 1901-1912. (from Carol’s collection.)

In 1906 the firm won a tender for military buttons for Tasmanian and New South Wales forces.  The prices ranged from 25 shillings per gross for gilt buttons,  to 2 shillings, 3 pence per gross for brass buttons.  Thomas Stokes died on the 13th June, 1910.  Below is one of the many contracts for military buttons to be found in the Commonwealth Gazettes.

Screen shot 2017-02-27 at 9.31.31 PM

Staff and equipment, Stokes and Sons, 1909. From the State Library of Victoria.

(Muesum Victoria collection)  A medal and coin press in use at Stokes &​ Son, Melbourne, circa 1907.  This  press had originally been brought to Australia in 1853 by Reginald Scaife for the Kangaroo Office venture (Australia’s first private mint),  and had been used to mint the 1854 Melbourne Exhibition medals.  Thomas Stokes purchased the press from Scaife in 1857.  The press was scrapped in the 1930s.

The firm employed 280  people by 1939.  The name changed to Stokes (Australasia) Ltd in 1962.   In 2015 the manufacturing plant originally purchased in 1956 and located in Ringwood, Victoria,  was closed.  However,  the button and badge making division was sold several years ago to a N.S.W. company (Perfection Plate Holdings) and continues as Stokes Badges.

Published in The Age, 19th February 1857, page 4

Published in The Age (Melbourne), 19th February 1857, page 4.


The Advertiser (Adelaide) 23rd March 1905 Tariff Commission.

An article in The Advertiser (Adelaide),  23rd March 1905 about the tariff commision.  Despite being described as “late”,  Thomas did not die until the 13th June 1910!  His son,  Henry Richmond followed in the business,  as did Henry’s son Russell.

Published in The Argus, 14th June 1910

Published in The Argus (Melbourne),  14th June 1910.

Buttons: back marked Stokes & Sons top: pre-1901 Victorian Police Force, Qantas Empire Airways centre: Australian Military Forces ?WW2 bottom: 1903-10 Australian Commonwealth Military Forces x 2

Buttons back marked Stokes & Sons.  top row: pre-1901 Victorian Police Force (Queen Victoria crown),  Qantas Empire Airways, 1934-1967.  Note that there is a ‘rising sun’ symbol above the coat of arms.  bottom row: 1903-10 Australian Commonwealth Military Forces x 2.
centre row: Australian Military Forces  Backmarked Stokes, 1962.

left: Victoria Counrt Fire Brigades (1891-1945) centre: State Electricity Commision 1921 tramways uniform button. right: Scottisk style diamond button with thistle. ?band uniform. Backmarked Stokes (1960 onwards)

left: Victoria Country Fire Brigades (1891-1945).
centre: State Electricity Commision 1921 tramways uniform button.
right: Scottish style diamond button with thistle. ?band uniform.  Backmarked Stokes ( this dates it 1962 onwards)

3 Australian Navy buttons. Note the different backs, hollow back and loop. Melbourne Fire Bureau, Artillary.

L to R: 3 Australian Navy buttons (note the different backs;  hollow back and loop),  Melbourne Fire Bureau, Artillery.

The national Coat of Arms on a uniform button of staff of the Government House, Hobart.


"These are the expert employes (sic) of Stokes and Sons Pty. Ltd., manufactures of Georgian silver ware, badges and medals, and die sinkers, who have a modern factory in Albert Street , Brunswick. published in The Age 25th May 1939

“These are the expert employes (sic) of Stokes and Sons Pty. Ltd., manufactures of Georgian silver ware,  badges and medals,  and die sinkers,  who have a modern factory in Albert Street ,  Brunswick.  Published in The Age (Melbourne) 25th May 1939.

The Argus, 13th September 1946

The Argus (Melbourne),  13th September 1946.

Screen shot 2017-03-07 at 3.21.45 PM

Centenary Medallion for Stokes & Sons.

Screen shot 2017-03-07 at 3.21.33 PM

The Argus (Melbourne),  22nd December 1956.  Russell Newton Stokes was Thomas’s grandson.  He had been a foundation member of the Liberal Party and a member of parliment as well.  He was managing director and chairman of the family firm from 1932-1974.

At his wedding in 1935.