Monthly Archives: February 2018

27th February 2018

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?

26th February 2018

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.

25th February 2018

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.


24th February 2018

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.”

23rd February 2018

The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences has some great images from its collection.

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.


22nd February 2018

New tailor’s button:

A. N. Lovick: Adelaide

News, 10th April 1924.

Allan Andrew Nesbit Lovick was born in Banbury, England in 1880 and died in Adelaide in 1944. A. N. Lovick & Co were tailors located in King William Street from c.1923 through to 1938.

News (Adelaide) 26th March 1924.

News (Adelaide) 12th December 1936.

21st February 2018

Revisiting the MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) online site delivered a fantastic collection of General Plastics button sample cards donated to the museum in February 1950. Some of these designs you will recognise from this blog, but some are new to me. Have any readers examples of these buttons?

Here is an example of the very well known ‘rose’ design. Example of this, and also the buckle, can be seen of the General Plastics page.

Not buttons per se. Probably a sample card of colours and finishes available.

The label reads: Casein pressed. Metal insert.

The label reads: Plastic moulded. Gold and silver plated. The rose and daisy designs from the first card reappear here.

The label reads: Perspex embossed. Gold and silver plated.

The label reads: Casein pressed. Metal insert.

The label reads: Casein moulded insert. Gold and silver plated.

The label reads (?): Casein centreless. Ground and dyed.

The green button is of a style sold under both the Embassy and Woolworth labels.

For more information, see

Searching through my hoard I found a few:

and this on Ebay:

20th February 2018

Thanks to Campbell for bringing this button to my attention. Although made in Britain, it has an unique, if troubling, Australian story. 

According to the description given in Trove, it dates to 1842-1856:  ‘The name ‘New Holland’, which was not widely used to describe Eastern Australia after 1840, suggests that the button dates from the early years of the native police. If so, the button would come from either the native police force that operated in Port Phillip until 1852, or more likely the force that operated in the northern frontier of N.S.W. from 1848.’

Aborigines/VR’ police uniform button 2016, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 20 February 2018, <>

The British used armed indigenous forces  throughout their colonies. Native patrol troops, usually under a white officer, were used as cheap, brutal and effective forces. Such troops were set up in all mainland colonies of Australia in the 19th century. Troops were recruited far from where they were to be deployed to ensure lack of tribal sympathies and to provide a disincentive against desertion. The use of native troops was also a clever ploy to reduce revenge attacks against white settlers.

The first government funded troops were in the Port Phillip District from 1837.  It was hoped that this employment would have a civilising effect for the aboriginals.  Unfortunately these troops were used to commit violence and  to aid in the dispossession of the aboriginal people. Colonisation of the mainland would have taken much longer without these troops. Eventually, the use of these troops were called into question, but not before decades of murderous behaviour.

See also:

17th February 2018

New Australian button manufacturer:  F. Burmeister

This article appeared in The Express and Telegraph on 10th October 1885. Has anyone seen South Australian Volunteers buttons of this era?

From the State Library of South Australia.

In 1884 Bertram & Cornish had bought the ‘Monster Clothing establishment’ from G. & R. Wills and Company, who were  major softgoods wholesalers in Adelaide from 1849.  Frederick Frances Burmeister started as an engraver around  1879 in Adelaide, later adding printing to his business. He was born in Norwood, South Australia in 1858 and died in 1929. He was an exhibted artist and had  been involved with with the “first coloured moving picture in the world” that toured South Australian towns in 1895.

The Pioneer, 8th November 1940.

“Boiling the Billy” by Fred Burmeister