General Plastics (Beauclaire)

Berthold Herrman 1885-1972. After selling the button moulding business, he started the successful electrical company still trading today, HPM (Herrman Plastics Manufacturing).

Berthold Herrman 1885-1972. After selling the button moulding business, he started the successful electrical company still trading today, HPM (Herrman Plastics Manufacturing).

The origins of General Plastics  Pty. Ltd.  started  in 1914 when an Austrian born,  Jewish engineer by the name of Berthold Herrman (1885-1972)  arrived in Australia.  Around 1918 he started producing casein,  a plastic named after the milk protein from which it was derived.  From the 1920’s,  with his wife,  he ran  a successful button moulding company , The Herrman Company,  in Hill Street, Darlinghurst.  He sold the business to two of his brothers-in-law,  Otto Clyde and Percy Edmund Rheuben,  in 1927.  Percy left the partnership in 1929.  In 1933 Otto registered a new button manufacturing company by the name of O.C. Rheuben & Co., Pty Ltd.

Published in the Daily Commercial News, 15th May 1933

Published in the Daily Commercial News, 15th May 1933

In 1940 and 1941 the company supplied buttons and buckles for the military.  In October 1941 the company named was changed to General Plastics Pty. Ltd. and listed then on the stock market in 1946. They continued to supply the miltary until at 1957.

Commonwealth Gazettes, 17 June 1948.

Commonwealth Gazettes, 17 June 1948.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 26th February 1946

The Sydney Morning Herald, 26th February 1946.  Neville R Rheuben,  a brother of Otto, is listed as one of the directors.  The chairman is Arthur George Randolph Griffiths (1898-1952), a brother -in-law of the Rheubens.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girls as young as 14 were employed in the Camperdown factory.  In 1946 they announced that they were employing an increased proportion of male labour,  and although this was more expensive,  “the higher degree of performance was expected to be reflected in the quality and quantity of production.”  How’s that for male chauvinism?  In 1945 female outworkers were only being paid 5 pennies to sew a gross of buttons on cards,  and for that they had to pick up the buttons and deliver the completed cards at their own expense.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 25th October 1941

The Sydney Morning Herald, 25th October 1941. War time regulations affected the ability to employ  needed staff.

Published in the Tribune (Sydney), 9th August 1945

Published in the Tribune (Sydney), 9th August 1945

The Sydney Morning Herald, 30th September 1949

The Sydney Morning Herald, 30th September 1949

The Sydney Morning Herald, 29th September 1950

The Sydney Morning Herald, 29th September 1950

Published in The Australian Women's Weekly, 28th October 1950

Published in The Australian Women’s Weekly, 28th October 1950.

The Sun (Sydney) 7th August 1951

In March 1952 a new company was formed in Cairns to deal in pearls,  mother-of-pearl and trochus shells,  plastics and to manufacture buttons,  fancy goods and jewellery.  One of the directors was Mr. A.G.Randolph Griffiths.  As he was also the general manager and chairman of General Plastics, this allowed the arrangement of all marketing of the new companies buttons by General Plastics. Plant and machinery were to be imported from America with credit from General Plastics.  On the 1st May 1952,  Mr Griffiths unexpectedly died.  However the company was established on the Cairns waterfront,  with machines for trepannation,  sorting,  grinding,  shaping and drilling. The buttons were sent south (? to General Plastics factory in Sydney) for chemical polishing and rumbling. Unfortunately, the era of pearl-shell buttons was over, and the business went into liquidation in 1954. It survived with another owner only until around 1956.

Due to Arthur’s death his son, Maurice Arthur Griffiths, took over as General Manager whilst  a former chairman, Mr G. M. Stafford, resumed that role.

Maurice in 1945 at his marriage to Janice Rose.

Maurice in 1945 at his marriage to Janice Rose.

The Sun(Sydney) 9th September 1953

The Sun(Sydney) 9th September 1953. Maurice is now the General Manager.

Construction (Sydney) 17th March 1954

Construction (Sydney) 17th March 1954 Note the card of Beauclaire buttons in his hands.

Colin Peebles in 1934, The Australian Women's Weekly

A photo of Colin Peebles from 1934, The Australian Women’s Weekly

The Sydney Morning Herald had a 'Plastics Suppliment 'on 20th August 1954. C.S.R. here is advertising the cellulose acetate it produced for the production of Beauclaire buttons, amongst other things.

The Sydney Morning Herald had a  ‘Plastics Supplement ‘ on 20th August 1954.  C.S.R. here is advertising the cellulose acetate it produced for the production of Beauclaire buttons and other things.

By 1949 General Plastics claimed to be the largest manufacturer of buttons in Australia, however they produced buttons and buckles under the brand name of Beauclaire only from about 1951.  Before that the buttons were labelled ‘plastic buttons’ as well as cards with a ‘lovely lady’ illustration (see below).  Later they  produced Woolworths and Embassy branded lines.

From Carol's collection.

From Carol’s collection.

No, this is not 2 seperate buttons, just a 2-sided design stapled differently onto the cards.

No, this is not 2 seperate designs, just a 2-sided button stapled to show both sides.

So I went back to my lot of loose buttons and found all these double sided examples like those on the card.

I went back to my lot of loose buttons and found all these double sided examples like those on the card.

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The partial Beauclaire card shows the same design button as featured on the 'Lovely Lady' card to the left. Onto the reproduced card on the right I have sewn more examples of this design.

The partial Beauclaire card shows the same design button as featured on the ‘Lovely Lady’ card to the left. Onto the reproduced card on the right I have sewn more examples of this design.

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above: from Carol’s collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 3 photos below (from NZ auction site Trademe) show how the branding of the company’s buttons evolved: ‘Pearl-Sheen’ becomes ‘Pearl Sheen Belle-claire’ becomes ‘Beauclaire Pearl Sheen’.

From an auction.

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A packing box for Beauclaire buttons.

A packing box for Beauclaire buttons.

The 3 cards made it to England before I repatriated them.

The 3 cards made it to England before I repatriated them.

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From Carol’s collection.

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Some loose examples of the same styles as the blue and grey buttons are below.

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Two more versions of the rose button.

The rose button was a popular one, appearing in several sizes as well as multiple colours and finishes.

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The complete card states ‘ Beauclaire PRESENTS FROM New York G.P. PRODUCT’. G.P. is General Plastics. Perhaps these buttons were imported and carded here? The other alternative is that the styling is “from” New York”? There also exists cards that state ‘FROM Paris’. See on the left for more colours and sizes of the white buttons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From an online advert.

From Lois's collection.

From Lois’s collection. A darker blue version is to the right and a green version up the page.

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Thanks to Carol F. for these pictures

Thanks to Carol F. for the above 3  pictures.

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From Lois's collection.

From Lois’s collection:  Strange,  the card on the right is a much plainer style.  More examples of the gently ruffled style from my collection are below.

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These cards are blank on the back.

These ‘Moonglow’ cards are blank on the back.  The example below have the following printing:

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After this (I presume) came this following printing. Perhaps the American reference was to allow for export?

After this (I presume) came this following printing.  Perhaps the American reference was to allow for export?

 

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 These are all the same style of button.  General Plastics,  like Beutron,  used the title ‘Moonglow’ on buttons.  Perhaps this switch to ‘Superglow’ is to differentiate the product,  or because of legal ownership of the naming??

Moonglows from Lois.

Moonglows from Lois.

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In the early 1950’s their catch cry was “Take a Button… Make a Fashion!”  By 1954 this changed to “Beauclaire.  The Budget Button.”  In 1954 they proudly introduced new plastics including polyester  from the U.S. that were  “Boil proof,  fade proof,  dry-cleaner proof and iron proof.” Wow!!   In 1955 they were in negotiations with an American button company to expand production.   Around this time they merged with Leda,  then on 1st January 1957 they were taken over by Beutron Australia Limited.  I wonder if the debt acquired in starting up Pearl Shell Industries Pty Ltd,  which lasted only a couple of years in Cairns,  left the company in trouble and lead to its sale?

A change of card design: The font and design are now the same as for Leda, with which the Beauclaire line were merged.

A change of card style:  The font and design are now the same as for Leda,  with which the Beauclaire line were merged.

Leda cards overprinted/reprinted as Leda Beauclaire.

Leda cards overprinted/reprinted as Leda Beauclaire.

Thanks to Carol F. for this picture

Thanks to Carol F. for this picture

BEAUCLAIRE ‘TINY TOTS’: Children’s line

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Below are more buttons and buckles:

A beautiful and complex button.

A beautiful and complex button.

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Details from 1953-4 adverts. The name is ‘Pearl Blossom’.

From Buttonmania.

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Some lovely buckles from Carol's collection

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Buckles from Carol’s collection.

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Thanks to LOis.

Thanks to Lois.

See also the page of gorgeous Beauclaire advertising and also posts showing my latest finds.