Category Archives: Uncategorized

28th October 2019

Another Ipswich tailor:

T. J. Geertz, Ipswich

Theodore Johannes  Geertz (1859-1938) came to Australia from the Danish province of Schleswig-Holstein around 1878, as his family wished to avoid him being forced to serve in the Prussian Army. He trained as a tailor in Brisbane. For many years he was the head cutter of the Queensland Woollen Manufacturing Company  (see then in partnership with Mt T. H. Parker before continuing on his own in 1911.

Queensland Times, 5th January 1911.

His son Arthur would join the business and continue in Brisbane Street as A. A. Geertz, Practical tailor, then with Duncalfe’s Men’s Store.

Seen online:


27th October 2019

 Stokes (Australiasia) reported in the Bulletin:

In The Bulletin, 10th October 1964 Stokes (A’asia) ran an article spruiking their issue of shares at that time. They were then selling the Brunswick foundry to consolidate at their Ringwood factory. Part of the article is reproduced below. For the rest, see

The article states that whilst the company produced buttons during WW1, it did not do so during WW2 as it was too busy with other items.

Another article was published on 16th March 1974.

26th October 2019

Tailors’ buttons:

Woulfe & Son, Brisbane:

see also

Cribb & Foote, Ipswich:

Thanks to Ron Williams for this images.

On 1st September, 1855 the following advert appeared in The Morton Bay Courier:

Have you ever found yourself incompetent from the state of your health?

Benjamin Cribb’s partner was John Clarke Foote (1822-1895), born in Wiltshire and emmigrated to Moreton Bay in 1850. He moved to Ipswich around 1852 were he managed the general store of Mr Cribb. In 1853 Cribb married Foote’s sister Clarissa, after the death of his first wife. The following year they went into partnership and created a major deparment store on the corner Bell and Brisbane Streets. In May 1877 until his death in 1895 he was a member of the Queensland Legislative Council.

The Hon. John Foote.

Australian Town and Country Journal, 12th July 1873. The store was described as the largest of its kind in Queensland, covering nearly an acre. !35 hands were employed, with drapery, grocery and ironmongery departments. They also ran several cotton ginning establshments and exported large amounts of cotton.

From the Ipswich Library: Cribb & Foote c.1940.

Benjamin Cribb (1807-1874) was a native of Poole, in Dorchester. He came to Moreton Bay in 1849 and started his business as a general merchant. He too was a member of state parliment, as well as  helping to set up many of Ipswich’s institutions.

Hon. Benjamin Cribb

After Benjamin’s death, his widow and Mr Foote ran the firm until they retired in 1891, younger members of their families continuing. The company  of Cribb & Foote Ltd. was taken over by Walter Reid & Co.Ltd. in 1977.

25th October 2019


In 1919 the United States War Industries Board produced 50 bulletins about wartime prices in different industries. Apparently this was a useful endeavour! Concerning buttons, they looked at fresh water and ocean pearl, vegetable ivory, metal, bone, glass and shoe buttons. I’ll select some information from this to share:

Until 1890 (the year import tariffs were implemented) the countries supplies had mainly been supplied by Austria-Hungary and Germany. Due to the effect of the tariffs, imports fell from a five year average of $11,500,000 to $100,000 in 1891.

In 1914 five states produced over 80% of the buttons manufactured in the USA. These were New York with 245 factories, Iowa with 81, New Jersey with 60, Pennsylvannia with 24 and Connecticut with 18. The value of the entire output was over $20,000,000.

Fresh-water pearl buttons:

At the time of the printing of the bulletin, the fresh-water pearl button industry was the most significant in the country. In 1916 there were approximately 20,000 people working in the fisheries and factories. Perhaps a little naively, the fisheries commissioner had declared that “our fresh-water mussel resources will, with proper attention, endure indefinitely”. Shell varied from 1 to 2.5 cents a pound. A reduction in tariffs plus cheap labour had resulted in Japanese manufacturers  being able to compete with buttons made from fresh-water shells taken from inland lakes  near Hankow and Tientsin in China.

Ocean-pearl buttons:

“Until 1886 Manila was the center of the ocean-pearl trade, but of recent years England and the English colonies have come into control, Queensland and Singapore furnishing the largest shipments.” From 1917 imports started to come directly from Australia instead of mostly from London. The value of imports that year were $1,183,680. Varieties imported included white shell from West Australia at 72 cents per pound, yellow shell from Manilla at 58 cents and black shell from Tahiti at 40 cents. These prices had fallen during the war as the large markets of Austria-Hungry, Germany and France were inaccessible due to blockage of the ports. Japan was also using, at 13-15 cents per pound, Trochus, Takase and Awabi shell. Ocean pearl was used mostly for better grade clothing, whilst fresh-water for medium to cheap clothing. Severe competition with cheap Japanese product was noted, particularly for lower grade product.

Vegetable Ivory buttons:

The tagua nuts were imported for the most part from Ecuador, Colombia and Panama. Italian manufacturers were also using the lower quality Egyptian palma dum. Prior to the war, Hamburg was the principal market for tagua nuts and Italy, Austria-Hungry and Germany were large producers of these buttons. Italy had exported over $3,000,000 worth in 1913. During the war “no import licenses would be granted except upon condition that all waste should be turned over to the Gas Defense Service of the United States Army.” In America there were around 10,000 people employed, mainly in Rochester, N.Y. and Newark, N.J. Production had increased with soldiers’ flannel shirts using these buttons. In 1917 the Army used about 325,000 gross and in 1918 this increased to between 700,000 to 800,000 gross!


Metal Buttons:

These were mainly produced in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Buttons were made from locally sourced gold, silver, iron, copper, brass and aluminium, produced in sheets from which blanks were stamped. In 1917 about 750,000 shirt and 2000,000 overcoat buttons were used, rising to 1,000,000 and 300,000 respectively in 1918, as well as large orders of uniform buttons for foreign armies.

Bone buttons:

Pre-war, Germany and Belgium imported cattle shin bones from South America, wereas the USA sourced their own from packing houses. Three factories employing 600 people supplied nearly all their domestic bone buttons, mainly for underwear, waists (i.e. blouses) and children’s clothing. They were used by the Navy, but not the Army. Less than 1% of bone buttons were imported.

Glass Buttons:

“To mention glass buttons to the dealer is to bring to mind the factories and skilled workmen of the districts of Reichenburg and Gablonz . “The varied use of materials and the skillful blending of colors are trade secrets handed down from father to son, and often one design or particular type of button is the output of a single family.” “These button makers are the northern Bohemians. There are more German Austrians among them than Czechs.”  Importers stocked up  in 1914-5 which meant supplies lasted until 1917. After that local demand increased by around 200 %. However, not all materials were available and stocks of certain imported colors became depleted. Only about 15 American factories existed.

Shoe buttons:

These were mostly made of papier-mache saturated with linseed oil or amber varnish and baked, and produced in New England. Agate buttons were imported. In 1914 15,500,000 gross were produced!



24th October 2019

Latest Finds:

“N.S. Wales Railways”:

An unusual title on this button by Stokes & Sons. It has a ‘birdcage’ shank.







A 1930-40s penguin:

A “Beauclaire Rose” mounted on a disk of lucite:

The rose is fixed as an escutcheon to the metal pin that forms the shank. Circa 1950s.

23rd October 2019

New MOP cards:

The 2 cards at the top are from Harvey Chalmers & Sons. Ultra Kraft was a registered trade mark of Schwanda Inc. This company was previously Scwanda & Bartleman Co Inc, and before that, from 1917  the B. Schwanda & Son Ocean Peal Button Factory located in southern New England. The company went bankrupt in 1969. Unlike mostly American button firms, they used imported ocean pearl rather than local freshwater pearl shell.

Beautiful babies.

Lovely young girls.

Cards and envelops of buttons by Luckyday.

Japanese, German and French flavour.

Love the Robins!

And finally, plastic look-a-likes.


21st October 2019

New  Finds:

1953 ‘pearl’ press studs, 1960s Farmer’s department store buttons, 1950s Leda buttons.

Seen online:

So cute! Note that Beutron imported glass buttons from ‘West Germany’.

New Zealand ‘Modern Miss’ buttons

I have this style button top, but not mounted on a plastic disk.

19th October 2019

 More on Vegetable Ivory (or Cathy is greatly irritated):

I’ve just been reading a book originally published in 1946 by Edward Louis Newberger, who was a member of the Blumenthal family of button makers; The Button Industry in the United States. Overall it was fascinating, but I was annoyed so see the same old erroneous data give about the origin of the vegetable ivory button trade that appears all over the internet and books. It is an error easily debunked with a little research.

Tagua nut buttons may have been “invented” in 1859 in Austria (as quoted in the book) but this was not the earliest. The Austrians did not start the tagua button industry in 1865, or should I say, their industry may have started then but  it started earlier elsewhere. Factories in England were NOT started in 1862 (again, quoted in the book), but around 1858.

If you search in Trove (  and enter the term ‘vegetable ivory’ you will see that in the Sydney Morning Herald, 27th January 1846, that a case of buttons had been imported including “Florentine, twist, gambroon, bronzed, patent horn, sporting, vegetable, ivory, and other coat and vest buttons.”  Then an article about an American Tariff Bill was reported in The Shipping Gazette and Sydney General Trade List on 5th May 1849. Amongst the many items details it mentioned  “manufacturers of bone, shell, horn, pearl, ivory or vegetable ivory … ” .  In an article about vegetable ivory written in the Sydney Morning Herald dated 18th September 1860 the author, George Bennett mentioned he had recently visited Birmingham where he “found that for the last two years these nuts have been used in that city in the manufacture of buttons; they are found durable and capable of receiving the various dyes equal to ivory, and are made at considerably less price than the latter material.” The Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1852 included items manufactured from vegetable ivory, although it does not state what items.

Sunbury American and Shamokin journal. [volume], October 21, 1843. ‘Ivory nut’ was known in North America and England by this date.

On 12th August, 1843 the Indiana State Sentinel reported that ” the English are manufacturing a variety of fancy articles out of the nut”. The Ottawa Free Trader printer an article titled ‘Wonderful Trees’ on the 26th February 1853:

Most web pages about the history of tagua nut/vegetable ivory/ corozo buttons repeat the same old story about how the nuts were used as ballast in ships sailing to Europe, where they were dumped on the docks until around 1865 enterprising Austrian/German wood carvers realised their potential, or something along that line. This is a very Eurocentric view of history, and ignores that the Spanish were exporting produce from South America long before this. The Historical Dictionary of Ecuador by George M. Lauderbaugh states that along with cacao and sugar, in 1835 Ecuador’s other main exports were “Panama hats, balsa and tagua (ivory) nuts used in the production of buttons” which may mean the trade started earlier.  Wikipedia states that “First records of tagua production are for 1840-1841 when it made up a negligible fraction of Colombian exports. The Cultural History of Plants by Sir Ghillean Prance,and Mark Nesbitt states that “Sir William Hooker may have first introduced vegetable ivory to England in 1826” although of course that does not mean it was used in manufacturing that early.

Production of V.I. buttons  in the USA began either in 1862 or 1864, depending on who you believe. However, it is clear the industry predated this by possibly 2-3 decades.



18th October 2019

Button fest finds part 7:

Styles numbers 613, 660, 837 and 842.

Beutron Originals: Imported beautiful moonglow glass buttons

Tecpearl “only an oyster can tell the difference” and TecOpal, which was never advertised and kind of looks the same.

All Purpose Buttons: 1949-1959

New Beutron: circa 1963-1965

Beutron “basket weave” button and an advert detail from 1952.








Another 1952 style: