New tailors’ button:
A,Horden & Sons, Sydney:
See the Department store page for the story of this firm. Below is a metal example of one of their buttons.
S. J. Derrett, Bellinger:
Nambucca and Bellinger News, 19th November 1915.
Samuel John Derrett was born in Queensland in 1886. His father, a chemist and optician, moved the family to Sydney around 1900. Sam went into partnership with Claude James as ‘Derrett and James’ from 1911 to 1914, when he moved with the rest of his family to Bowraville, advertising as a ‘tailor, hatter and mercer’. He moved to nearby Bellinger by 1915, although he continued to visit Bowraville professionally once a fortnight. He moved to Sydney for the years 1930-34, but perhaps he didn’t enjoy city life, as he moved back to Nambucca Heads, operating as a storekeeper until he retired around 1958. He died in Coffs Harbour in 1961.
Archer & Cottrell, Richmond:
Camberwell and Hawthorn Advertiser, 3rd Jan 1914.
From around 1911 Denis Cottrell and John Harry Archer advertised as high-class tailors in Swan Street, Richmond. Sadly, in 1912 at the age of only 26 years, Denis died in hospital. Archer continued under the name of ‘Archer & Cottrell” until 1914, then continued as ‘Archer’s’ until around 1937, two years before his death in 1939. He had been a former treasurer and president of Richmond football club, and a life member.
A caricature of ‘Jack’ Archer in 1931.
The actual man; 1931.
Woolworths lines: Spares and Moonglow. 1950s.
1950s Beauclaire and Leda.
New tailor’s button
David Campbell, Warracknabeal:
David (Davy) Campbell described himself as a Scotsman, but was born in Melbourne in 1875. He came to Western Victoria circa 1899 where he ran a tailoring business, first in Warracknabeal, then Horsham, then Dimboola before moving back to Melbourne. He died in Yarraville in 1945. He must have had quite a sense of humour ( and a ‘thing’ about camels)… just look at his advertising!
16th Jan 1914.
5th May 1914.
7th July 1914.
25th September 1914.
26th Oct 1915.
2nd Nov 1915.
7th February 1919.
18th July 1919.
Pat, who hails from Dubbo, has just sent me an image of her collection: she definately is a KKK (Koala/Kangarroo/Kookaburra) kind of girl! Do you think we could get away with petending the rabbits are bilbies to stay with the Aussie theme?
And here are mine:
(The silver oval is an old brooch with the pin missing).
Manufacturer’s branded buttons:
Goodura: (Brand name of Goode, Durrant and Murray Ltd)
In 1882 a firm by the name of ‘Goode, Durrant, Tite and Co’ was started in Adelaide as a softgoods importer, becoming ‘Goode, Durrant & Co’ in 1894 when William Henry Tite retired. In 1887 an office was opened in Perth. From around 1899 a factory for manufacturing menswear under the ‘Federal Clothing’ brand started, extending to ladies wear and footware. To improve profitability, the company merged in 1934 with the South Australian, West Australian and Broken Hill branches of the firm of D. & W. Murray Ltd to form Goode, Durrant and Murray Ltd. ( The overlapping letters G, D and M of the company’s name can be seen near the top of the card).
The trademark ‘Goodura’ ( a contraction from Goode and Durrant, but also referring to ‘good and durable’) was registered in 1921. It initally was used for the company’s carpets, floor cloths and oilcloths, but would be used for other materials, hats, coats, trousers, shirts, suits, boots and pyjamas.
I recently received a number of cards of buttons. Included in the lot were 5 cards of Beutron pearl buttons (I already owned one such card).
This style card plus the price dates these to 1960-1965, which surprised me. It seemed late to be producing pearl buttons, especially for a company that promoted their own plastic imitation-pearl buttons (Tecpearl) before this date. I also found a Leda card of pearl buttons that probably date from the 1950s.
Before WW2 most Australian pearl shell was exported for button production rather than processed here. There was an attempt to establish local manufacturing; the ”Australian Pearlbutton Manufacturing Co. Ltd.” Started in 1929 it was in liquidation in 1938 and bought by G.Herring (which became Beutron).
The advancement of plastic manufacturing that occurred during WW2 contributed to the decline of the pearl-shell button industry. Plastic buttons were more durable and washable than pearl, and so took over in popularity. Despite this, Mr. A.G.R. Griffiths, general manager and chairman of General Plastics (Beauclaire buttons) started the ‘Pearlshell Industries Pty Ltd’ in Cairns in 1952. The buttons from this factory were finished and marketed by General Plastics however the venture failed after a couple of years. Then in 1957 General Plastics was taken over by Beutron. Perhaps General Plastics, and then Beutron, were left with stock of pearl buttons from this venture?
Here is an interesting Australian Military Forces bakelite button (Thanks Deborah).
If you look closely there is a trademark on the reverse side of the button.
Image thanks to Campbell.
The trademark of the ‘Australian Glass Manufacturers’ dating from 1930.
An article published in ‘The Labor Daily’ on 9th April 1936 stated that “included in this great glass industry are various other subsidiary factories, including metal spinning, lamp making, metal stamping, plastic moulding, corrugated box making, refractory and crucible works.” In February 1939 A.G.M. Ltd reformed with with a glass making subsidiary ( Australian Glass Manufacturers Co Pty. Ltd.) and a plastic and moulding subsidiary (Australian Consolidated Industries Ltd).
Presumably this dates this button between 1936 and 1939, after which a trademark for A.C.I. would have been used.
After a period of radio silence, Carol F. has contacted me with a great collection of carded buttons and buckles:
The first ‘Kencrest’ buckle we’ve seen.
Myers did not manufacture, but they did purchase and import directly from manufacturers.
Also in the MAAS collection is a series of photograph outlining how pearl-shell buttons were made by the ‘Australian Pearlbutton Manufacturing Co. Ltd.’ in the 1930s. For more about this company, see the pearl-shell button page.
“Australia’s pearling industry began with coastal-dwelling Indigenous people harvesting and trading in pearl shell. European settlers saw value in pearling and by 1877 there were 16 pearling firms operating on Thursday Island. Workers came from around Asia including Japan, Malaya and India. South Pacific Islanders and Indigenous Australians were also employed, many against their will. In the background of the photograph, against the distinctive seascape of the Torres Strait, four two-masted luggers can be seen. The boats were most often manned by a stern diver, one midships, and one diver off the bow. Divers wore bronze helmets, heavy canvas suits and lead-weighted boots. They breathed by way of a manual air compressor. Attacks of decompression sickness, the bends, were common and deaths frequent.”
“The Golden Lip, (pinctada maxima) pearl shells, which could weigh as much as seven pounds, were sorted according to size and quality. At the time this photograph was acquired, the price of pearl shell was about 180 pounds per ton landed in Sydney.
Pearl shells obtained from the Torres Strait also found a ready market in the clothing industry in the United States and England especially for buttons and buckles. The Torres Strait supplied over half the world demand for pearl shell in the 1890s. In addition to buttons, pearl shell was used for cutlery, hair combs, jewellery, decorative objects and inlay for furniture.”
“This photograph depicts a worker cutting button blanks from pearl shell.”
“After cutting the button shaped pieces from the shell, the blanks were then split to an even thickness, an operation performed by hand and one requiring considerable judgement and skill as shown here.”
“This photograph depicts grinding button blanks.”
“This photograph depicts drilling holes into button blanks.”
“This photograph depicts polishing buttons in revolving barrels.”
“This photograph depicts workers in a Sydney pearl button factory sewing buttons onto cards.”
The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences has some great images from its collection. https://collection.maas.museum/search?q=buttons
Here are images of a display donated by Mrs John Fagan, Sydney, on 19th August 1885.
“A pearl shell with three circular holes of varying sizes cut through the surface of the shell.”
“A metal tubular revolving saw attachment that is used to remove the button blanks from the pearl shell. The saw has a small, circular, serrated cutting edge, part of which has broken off. The circular serrated edge is attached to a tubular section fixed to a square block and screw.The saw revolves at a high speed cutting out button blanks. The saw’s diameter determines the diameter of the button blank.”
John Fagan, from London, appears in the newspapers as a sewing machine repairer in 1876 in Brisbane, before leaving for Sydney to run a engineering and tool making business until at least 1893.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 27th February 1886.
Perhaps he made some of the equipment used by Parsons, Thompson, and Co., who manufactured pearl buttons in Sydney from 1881, which would explain the involvement of his wife in this museum display.