WW2 and Onwards: including leather buttons and obscure companies

The outbreak of WW2 changed everything. Manufacturers went into overdrive to supply  military needs. Civilian production changed as well. Materials such as casein and bakelite were in such demand that some became ‘declared commodities’ under government  control. The plastic industry underwent rapid growth, which would forever change manufacturing. Whilst shortages created problems, there were also opportunities….

The Newcastle Sun 10th November 1939

The Newcastle Sun (NSW), 10th November 1939.

Khaki wool pants made by H.R.Hayman in 1940: Australian War Memorial collection.

Khaki wool pants made by H.R.Hayman in 1940: Australian War Memorial collection. The company was listed from 1937-2009.

 

published in the Examiner (Launceston, Tas), 2nd December 1939

Published in the Examiner (Launceston), 2nd December 1939.

1940

Published in the News (Adelaide) 17th August 1940.

Published in the News (Adelaide), 17th August 1940.

Published in The West Australian, 28th November 1940

Published in The West Australian, 28th November 1940.  How shocking. But wait, there’s further news ….

The Advertiser(SA), 10th December 1940. Crisis averted!!!

The Advertiser (Adelaide), 10th December 1940.
Crisis averted!

1942

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Published in The Henty Observer (NSW), 12th June 1942.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brass is probably now in short supply, and who can polish buttons in the trenches?

Brass is probably now in short supply, and who can polish buttons in the trenches? The West Australian, 28th March 1942.

WW2 saw an increased demand for casein for manufacture of uniform buttons, paint, adhesives and also in aircraft production. Therefore, it became a ‘declared commodity’ with the price under government control and the export of casein powder banned. In 1947 local producers were asking for this ban to be lifted. People working in a wide range of employment, including button manufacturing , were not free to change employment without a permit. The following article describes how the sudden demand created both problems and opportunities for many manufacturers.

Queensland Times (Ipswich) 30th November 1939

Queensland Times (Ipswich), 30th November 1939.

Tweed Daily (NSW) 25th January 1940

Tweed Daily (NSW), 25th January 1940.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the war, things did not simply go back to the way they were. Supply shortages still existed.  For example …

Published in the Townsville Daily Bulletin, 18th December 1945

Published in the Townsville Daily Bulletin, 18th December 1945.

Published 1st June 1945 in the Daily Commercial News and Shipping List (Sydney)

Published 1st June 1945 in the Daily Commercial News and Shipping List (Sydney).

Commonwealth Government war factories were rented out to private enterprise. A newspaper article reported that in Hamilton, Victoria, E.W. Tilley were to produce plastic buttons in such a factory. (This company also operated from 123 Latrobe Street, Melbourne from 1942 onwards.) Confidence returned as the economy switched over to post war production.

In 1945 no thermo-setting ingredients were being made locally. By July 1950 C.S.R. Chemicals (Aust) Ltd. started local production of cellulose acetate. By 1953 Monsanto Chemicals (Aust) P/L started production of polystyrene in West Footscray. In 1959 local production also included phenol formaldehyde, melamine formaldehyde, urea formaldehyde and polyvinylchloride. In 1968 Nylex (formerly Moulded Products) started production of ABS plastic. These plastics were vital for many Australian manufacturing industries.

Published in The Argus (Melbourne) 10th May 1947

Published in The Argus (Melbourne), 10th May 1947.

Tailors could make their own buttons.

Tailors could make their own buttons.

‘Statement’ buttons were popular after WW2 to decorate the otherwise  austere style of clothing in vogue at the time. One local maker of these was Grant Featherston with his beautiful glass buttons (see separate page). Another producer was Marie Gardner.

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Ian F’s collection.

Marie Gardner pottery buttons.

Marie Gardner, 1899-1971, began studying pottery at Sydney Technical College in 1938. In 1947 she set up a small pottery studio in her backyard in Harbord, Sydney, and produced vases,  lamps, wall pockets, cruets and other decorative pieces. 

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The Sunday Herald, 26th July 1953. A piece of Marie’s work was chosen for the Museum of Applied Science in Sydney.

The buttons were very successful after WW2, as European buttons  could not be imported at that time. There were around 12 different moulds with many colour and finish variations.

Another producer was Austrian born Anna Louise Alma who had moved to Sydney. Her buttons were sold between 1947 to around 1957 when she managed the ANINA jewellery shop that was located at 21 Rowe Street, Sydney, from 1957 until her death in 1961.

The Sun, 20th October 1947.

The Sun, 20th October 1947. The ad below probably refers to her buttons.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 16th December 1947.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 16th December 1947.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) 6th May 1948.

Herald (Melbourne) , 1st February 1949.

The Age 6th April 1950.

The Age (Melbourne), 6th April 1950.

Courtesy of the Museum of Applied Arts. It is described as " 3 sets of plastic buttons bought from ALA between 1950-1957." However, the top row appear to be ceramic.

Courtesy of the Museum of Applied Arts. It is described as ” Three sets of plastic buttons bought from ALA between 1950-1957.” However, the top row at least appear to be ceramic, if not all.

Published in Weekly Times (Melb) 14th April 1948

Published in Weekly Times (Melbourne), 14th April 1948.

Published in The Age (Melb) 26th May 1949

Published in The Age (Melbourne), 26th May 1949.

Stacha Halpern

Stacha Halpern 1919-1969.

Other artists produced ceramic studio buttons (i.e. in small quantities for a short period as artistic items). One such artist was Stanislav (Stacha) Halpern. He was born in Poland and fled to Melbourne in 1939. He was a painter, potter, print maker and sculptor. The buttons below are courtesy of the Museum of Applied Arts.

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Published in Weekly Times (Melb) 26th April 1950

Published in Weekly Times (Melbourne), 26th April 1950.

Pearl shell buttons were declining in market share, while plastics were booming. In the 1950s there were at least 4 major Australian button manufacturers (possibly Beauclaire, Beutron, Leda,  and Delphi) according to the following article…….

1Published in The Sunday Herald (Sydney) 8th October 1950

Published in The Sunday Herald (Sydney), 8th October 1950.

1950 saw the start of a concerted and long running campaign by local button firms to discourage the use of ‘inferior’ imported buttons. According to the local companies, Australian buttons were technologically advanced. They were boil proof, detergent proof, and dry-cleaning proof. They would not fade, melt or damage clothing. What’s more, the rotten Commies were making profits from selling us their glass buttons!

Two questions; Who were the Australian Button Manufacturers Association, and did anyone really believe that buying glass button was funding the Communists?

Two questions; Who were the Australian Button Industry Association, and did anyone really believe that buying glass button was funding the Communists?

Published in the Northern Star, 15th March 1952

Published in the Northern Star, 15th March 1952.

Part of a dry-cleaning feature published in The Argus, 8th June 1954

Part of a dry-cleaning feature published in The Argus, 8th June 1954.

For 4 years Dry-cleaners and Button firms were cross promoting. Published in The West Australian, 13th July 1954

For 4 years Dry-cleaners and Button firms were cross promoting. Published in The West Australian, 13th July 1954.

Published 24th June 1954 in The Argus.

Published 24th June 1954 in The Argus.

According to this article from 1954, Australia was producing 90% of the button used in the country, and 99% of the billions of buttons produced world-wide were by now made from plastic. “Even those frivolous diamente-centred jet buttons, those round pearl ones, those crystal glitterers, those mother of pearl ones, and those shining gold and silver filagree fancies that come on your fashion-right frocks aren’t what they seem. They’re plastic.”

Plaited Leather Buttons: 1950’s onwards

While undoubtedly leather buttons were used before this time ( see below article from 1917),   they seem to become more popular after  WW2 (borrowing perhaps from military uniforms)  particularly on sports/tweed coats and jackets. A local industry sprang up to meet the demand.  Many European and Jewish immigrants set up in the ‘rag trade’ at this time. Some would use outworkers to hand plait strips of leather into buttons in their homes that would be collected,  dyed, varnished and carded to be sold to shops and tailors.

Published 10th August 1907 in the Australasian (melbourne)

Published 10th August 1907 in the Australasian (Melbourne).

Published in The Prahran Telegraph, 10th February 1917

Published in The Prahran Telegraph, 10th February 1917.

a bc

Published in the Advocate (Launceston), 5th August 1954. It appears Mr Grey started his business after WW1 (‘the last war’) and was quite successful. A bit of detective work has uncovered that (despite being reported as W.E. Grey) his name was actually William Maxwell Gray (so much for accuracy in journalism!) He was born near Kobe, Japan in 1889 and died in 1960 in Tasmania. His wife,  demonstrating leather plaiting in the photo, was Helen Gray.

An example of plaited leather (or ‘football’) buttons can be seen below.

"Pukkah-Sahib" meaning a perfect gentleman. How very colonial!

“Pukkah-Sahib” meaning a perfect gentleman. How very colonial!

Barwon Button and Buckle Company Pty. Ltd:

In August 1939  this company commenced operating in Geelong. It was to “manufacture from Australian Casein articles which were previously made in Germany. A modern plant has been installed and is under the management of a skilled Continental technician. The establishment of the factory should be a benefit to the community…”  By September they were making, and about to market “a large range of buttons, buckles and dress ornaments.”  Forty machines had been installed. The company deregistered in  July 1944.

Empire Die & Tool Works Pty. Ltd.,  Sydney:

This company was registered in 1940 as die makers, die sinkers, iron founders, and tool makers in Sydney, New South Wales. They operated from a garage and workshop in Cathedral Street,  Woolloomooloo. Like many in manufacturing, they became involved in the war effort, producing uniform buttons. The company was wound up in 1950.

backmark: EMPIRE DIE & TOOL WORKS

backmark:  EMPIRE DIE & TOOL WORKS SYD

Sungravure building at 41-49 Forbes Street, used by Empire Die and Tool Works

Sungravure building at 41-49 Forbes Street, used by Empire Die and Tool Works.

Advert for a more typical product in 1946.

G.N. Raymond

G.N. Raymond was a company producing casein sheets and prepared button blanks for button manufacturers in the 1950s.

The Age 31st May 1950.

J. G. Lloyd and Company Pty. Ltd:

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On the back of these 2 button cards is printed  “J.G.L. presentation”. 

John George Lloyd, of Hungarian descent, fled from Austria to Australia in 1939 and established J. G. Lloyd and Company Pty. Ltd. the following year. The company operated at Goldie Place and Elizabeth Street, Melbourne in the 1940s,  before moving to 94-106 Pelham Street, Carlton. They supplied buttons for the military from 1941-1957. They produced plastic buttons as well as vials, jars, toys, jewellery,  hair ornaments, kitchenware, electrical fittings and hardware. The company was still around in 1965.

The site of J.G. Lloyd & Co. Pelham Street, carlton.

The site of J.G. Lloyd & Co. Pelham Street, Carlton.

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The Argus, May 1946.

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The Argus, 8th September 1953.

One of the company’s  subsidiaries was Duranol Co. Pty. Ltd. (Lloyd was one of the directors).  Buttons were produced under this name, as well as the  plastic MacRobertson and Hoadley chocolate boxes you may find in vintage stores (see above). In 1965 Cope Allman (Australia) Ltd.  acquired a majority share of Duranol Pty. Ltd.,  Modern Mouldings Pty. Ltd.  and  J. G. Lloyd Pty. Ltd.

Landico Pty. Ltd. (Coburg, Melbourne):

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From 1949-1954 this “manufacturer of high class buttons” advertised for staff.  They also sought salesmen in Gippsland, Western Victoria,  Adelaide, Sydney and in Tasmania for their products.  They registered designs for buttons (class 3) in 1955.

In 1951 they had a contract to supply brush holders to the military:

Commonwealth Gazette, 28th June 1951.

Sydney Road, Coburg

148-154 Sydney Road, Coburg. The Landico office would have been in the right half of the Aussie Home Loans site.  This strip is part of a heritage precinct dating from the late 1880s.

Below: A Landico labelled button on the right and a similar button by an unknown maker.

Another Landico button. This design is duplicated by Beutron.

The buttons are solid metal with a bit of weight to them. The backs are rough and the edges around the holes are sharp.

From Carol’s collection.

MODERNE ACCESORIES (NSW) Pty. Ltd.

This company was registered in 1951 and deregistered in 1992. A former name was Datar Pty. Ltd. Under this name they were advertising for button blank machine operators in 1946.

Sydney Morning Herald, 8th January 1946.

Here's a salesman sample card for Moderne Accessories.

Here’s a salesman sample card for Moderne Accessories.

Olson Badges (Adelaide):

This company has been operating near Adelaide from 1966 as Allan J. Olson Pty. Ltd. making badges, medallions, name bars and uniform buttons.  Allan Olson started as an apprentice in 1936 with S. Schlank & Co., working with them until 1965 then starting his own business. In 1971 he bought the former Schlank plant, equipment (including many old dies) and their factory located in Forrestville, South Australia.

My husband’s swimming medallions by Olson badges.

see: http://www.olsonbadges.com.au/index.php/all-buttons

http://www.numismatics.org.au/pdfjournal/Vol25/Vol%2025%20Article%209.pdf

Ornacraft Pty Ltd:

In 1939 this business was formed from the previously named Ornacraft Company. They registered button designs in 1947. This company operated from at least 1940 to 1950 at 60 King St, Newton, Sydney, as plastic button manufacturers. This building still stands as a apartment/business/hotel complex. A photo of the building and some employment adverts follow, from The Sydney Morning Herald. The company was deregistered in 1966.

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58-60 Kings St,  Newtown.

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Raynors Pty. Ltd., NSW:

Commonwealth Gazette, 9th April 1953.

Raynors were (?are) engravers who expanded into die-casting and general metal engineering.  They operated from at least 1932 until 1977.

Rothfield & Co. Ltd/John Bowden Plastic Button Pty Ltd:

Rothfield & Co, South Yarra, was a manufacturer of sewing cottons and threads. In 1947 it became Rothfield &Co. Ltd to raise capital and extend business. It acquired or established several subsidiaries, including John Bowden Plastic Buttons Pty Ltd. In 1952 a fire destroyed £50,000 worth of cotton and £10,000 of machinery as well as a brick building occupied by the button subsidiary. The company merged with Peerless and changed its name to Peerless Holdings Limited in 1959. Rothfield’s Sewing Cottons (NSW) Pty. Ltd. was deregistered in 1968.

Published in the News (Adelaide) 14th August 1952

Published in the News (Adelaide), 14th August 1952.

Published in The Argus (Melbourne) 16th October 1954

Published in The Argus (Melbourne), 16th October 1954

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This is a reel of cotton produced by Rothfield, produced for military use during WW2. Penny at ‘Miss Foley’ has kindly shared photos of the boxes they came in.  She’s at     https://www.etsy.com/au/shop/MissFoleyVintage?ref=shopinfo_shophome_leftnav on Etsy. She was told the mill closed in the 1950 or 60s.

Commonwealth Gazette, 21 December 1939.

Commonwealth Gazette, 13th September 1956.