Monthly Archives: April 2020

20th April 2020

Nice MOP cards from Pat. The Pennant brand card is copyrighted 1922.

Would you wear pearl buttons waterskiing?

With photoshop

Without photoshop.











Button Companies from Sands & Dougall Melbourne Directory, Part 1:

Note that I won’t cover every listing. There were multiple covered button makers and haberdashery merchants.


Australian Button Company, East Melbourne:

The first button merchants listed in  appeared under ‘Haberdasherers’. The Australian Button Company  was listed at 99 George Street, East Melbourne from 1920. I think it was also known as Novelty Co. In 1942 they advertised as selling mirrors for “the bag trade”. Strangely enough for a company that was listed until 1960, that is all I know about them,

Co-incidentally, the famous Jimmy Buttons store in Fitzroy is run by an ‘Australian Button Company’, no connection!


 Both E.C. Birch and C. Wyeth (button mould maker) were listed as haberdasherers.


David Kennedy ( of Kencrest buttons fame), was listed as a button merchant at a warehouse at 118 Flinders Lane in 1935 and 1940, but not later on when he put his name on the cards of buttons! The Pearl Manufacturing Company was listed at 297 Rae Street. Fitzroy North. O.C. Rheuben & Co Ltd was listed at 111 Flinders Street. (Frank Welton Parratt, warehouseman, had been nominated as agent for O. C. Rheuben at 110 Flinders Street when the company was registered in 1935.)

297 Rae St, Fitzroy North.


Companies described in this blog, including Bijou, Cashall’s, Melbourne Button Co  and  O. C. Rheuben were listed.


‘Essential buttons of Australia’ were listed. This firm supplied casein beads to the military in 1943. They were described as a factory, and also made jewellery until at least 1954.

‘Rex Buttons’ was listed, although it had its beginnings in 1940.

Grotjan & Co were now the sole agents for G. Herring, and Burns, Philp & Co. This firm were agents for various firms with offices in Melbourne and Sydney since 1903, and listed as button merchants from 1935.

F.C. Grotjan (on the card) was Frederick Campbell Grotjan, son of the founding partner, Emil Grotjan, a merchant born in Hamburg who came to Melbourne in 1903. The company originally described themselves as cork merchants and indenters. They would import and distribute quite a variety of goods including foodstuffs, metal scrap and ores, horse hair and artifical limbs. In the 1930s  increased tariffs on imported pearl buttons were being debated in parliament, to protect the fledgling local industry. Emil, as spokesman for pearl button importers spoke against increased tariffs. By the 1950s they were describing themselves as a  wholesale hardware firm. Frederick retired from the firm in 1952.

The Argus, 5th Jan 1938

1950 & 1955

General Plastics had a warehouse at 114 Flinders Street from around 1948-1955.

114-117 Flinders Street in 1946. General plastics had their Melbourne warehouse here.

Grant Featherstone Designs was listed at 138 Islington Street, Collingwood, although he did not list in 1955.  J. G. lloyd was at 94 Pelham Street, Carlton, and remained listed there until 1960.

G.Herring was not listed. This company had sold a plastic manufacturing plant and stock at 30 Russell Street, Melbourne, in June 1945. Perhaps it had been manufacturing in Melbourne, but closed this branch?

The Argus, 23rd June 1945.




19th April 2020

Please note the new address of this blog is:


New Finds:

There appears to be a clear plastic disc with the pupil of the eye on it fixed onto the duck’s eye. This feature was lost in later versions of the duck. They are still made today, but without any detailing.

From  1960 ‘Pink pages’ directory, Sydney:

A mystery solved!


“ALWATCO” stands for A. L. Watson  Manufacturing Company Pty Ltd, who made or supplied buttons and buckles as well as other products, on a wholesale basis only. It existed from July 1954-July 1999.


Made by one company, distributed by another:

In the 1947 listing, the name Beauclaire is not yet in use. Note that general Plastics also made cabinet handles and button mounds.

General Plastics advertised the brand ‘Beauclaire’ in the  Sydney 1951-1954 directories. The 1955-1959 years are not available online, yet. In newspapers and magazine ‘Beauclaire’ is advertised up to 1957, then ‘Leda by Beauclaire’ in 1958.  In the above 1960 directory entry, General Plastics is simply making ‘Leda’ buttons.

You can see the effect of the gradual merging of General Plastics into G. Herring (later Beutron Pty Ltd). It appears that General Plastics had become a subsidiary. G. Herring quickly phases out the main competing brand name, and gets General Plastic to make, and Roger Berry to distribute, the Leda line of buttons. Long live Beutron. Farewell Beauclaire.


18th April 2020

Please note: the new address for this blog is


Thanks Pat!

R. Pankhurt & Co, Sydney:

Apart from listings of British importers, the first button merchant (not manufacturer) listed within a Sydney directory was R. Pankhurst & Co in 1918.

Robert Pankhurst had been importing buttons from Japan since at least 1915. In 1921 the company became  propriety limited. By 1928 the firm was in liquidation.

Wise’s NSW PO directory.

In 1930 they reinvented themselves as “Panky’s”, who sold button covering and eyeletting machines.

Wise’s NSW PO directory.

Bathurst House, built in 1925, now demolished.

The Pankhurst’s new business. This ad was run from 1946-47 in many newspapers.

1950 Sydney telephone directory.

In 1919 Pankhurst was joined in the directory listings by W. Lesser, importers of button moulds and makers of buttons (i.e. covered buttons). Whilst there would be many button and buckle coverers, large and small, around Australia for many years, this firm had longevity, lasting until 1991.

Dun’s Gazette of NSW, 1919.

Sydney Pink Pages, 1960


17th April 2020

New Finds: Woolworths


In a 1948/9 phone directory for Sydney, this was the listing for button manufacturers and wholesalers:

As well as a listing for the distributor that took over branding of Delphi buttons, E. Walker & Son, there is a listing for ‘So Lite Mouldings (G. E. Rhodes proprietor) of Albert House, 110 Bathurst Street.

Albert House, since demolished. So Lite was on the 6th Floor.

I only own three ‘Solite’ button cards, dated by the pricing to 1965-6. if they were producing buttons from 1948, under what branding were they sold?

I don’t know who G. E. Rodes was, but by  1950 the company had been listed on the stock exchange.

Dun’s gazette for NSW, December 1950.

Not long after, a proposal to form a new company from So Lite Mouldings and another firm was advertised. Unfortunately the new firm was already in financial difficulties by 1952 and in liquidation the following year.

Also in the 1948/9 directory was a full page advert for G. Herring

The name for cables, ‘Wilscour’ relates historically to the start of the firm as producers of sheep branding oil in  1931-2. G. Herring may have produced costume jewellery only around 1947-9.


16th April 2020



New Finds: Beutron



Plastic buttons in the 1940-50s:

As noted on the’ WW2 & Onwards’ page (see, for several years from 1948 articles appeared in newspapers around the country about inferior plastic buttons that were not able to be dry-cleaned, and could damage clothes. As these articles were often linked to promotion of the dry-cleaning trade and also to local button production, I wondered if this was more ‘beat-up’ than factual. However, it appears that in the post war period, polystyrene buttons had proved disappointing and had been banned by the American Drycleaners since 1947. In that year G. Herring promoted their buttons as boil, iron and dry-clean proof. (General Plastics did not advertise this until 1954, although drycleaning was mentioned on the back of their button cards. G. Herring always seemed to be ahead of its main rival when it came to advertising.)


Queensland Times, 26th January 1948.

The Argus, 24th August 1950.

  Excerpts from a larger article in The Argus, 8th June 1954 are below:

For some reason they were too coy to name polystyrene. The article stated that the local dry-cleaners had been warned by their American counterparts c.1920 about this type of plastic  (this may be an error, as polystyrene wasn’t manufactured until c. 1931) , and in 1947 America was ceasing production of these buttons. Another article was not so coy:

South Western Times, 2nd September 1954. Mr Smith was a West Australian dry-cleaner who had attended a national conference where “the button issue” was discussed.

I guess that two of the three of “Australia’s largest button manufacturers” were General Plastics and G. Herring, but who did Mr Smith consider was the third?



14th April 2020

PLEASE NOTE: The new address for this blog is


New Distributor:

Haffenden & Jackson Pty ltd:

This company registered in 1938 as general merchants, However, buttons became their focus. They were deregistered in 1985.

The Daily Telegraph, 4th May 1938.

1952 Sydney telephone directory. Interesting to note where the various buttons were imported from.

The Sun, 26th October 1954.

British Button exporters to Australia:

As discussed previously, tailor’s buttons as well as generic trouser buttons were imported from overseas, often from England. As there were many button factories in places like Birmingham and London, I wondered who they were supplied by?

A couple of Sydney post office directories supply some answers. They had lists of British Firms registered for importing:

1886-7 post office directory.

Wise’s NSW post office directory. 1921.

Whilst several firms were exporting to Australia pre-federation, it seems that only Firmin continued post federation.

13th April 2020

Please note the new address of this blog:


D. C. Quinn Pty/ltd: Manufacturer of Delphi Buttons:

Sydney Phone Directory, November 1954.

D. C. Quinn Pty Ltd was registered  on 1st October 1952 and deregistered on 9th October 2012. They were listed at 3-5 Athol Street, Leichhardt, NSW. As these are  two  1930s style red brick homes, the factory must have been small, and set up in the backyards.

Number 3 has been rendered, but older photos show it to be of the same red brick as number 5.

Although described up to 1969 (at least) as a button factory, they also undertook metal work. A 1970-71 report regarding (amongst other items) casein button blanks with regard to import duties as impacted by Free Trade Agreements with New Zealand included the following companies as interested:

Carter & Co Pty Ltd were distributors.

Quinn was supplying button blanks from two extruders with a small work force.

Further information on the button industry follows:

It was noted that G. Herring (NZ) produced by far the largest quantity of blanks. Note that General Plastics in New Zealand, as in Australia, was at least part owned by Beutron.

Apart from a small amount of blanks exported, Beutron had sold no blanks to other manufacturers for the six years up to 30th June, 1970; it was noted that the other companies probably didn’t want to buy from a competitor! However, Bijou, Carter and Maxart imported button blanks from New Zealand. Beutron and Quinn appeared to be using all their own blanks.

The NZ blanks were slightly cheaper, but local production allowed for better quality control and also the ability to quickly supply blanks as needed.

The report recommended reduction in import duties from New Zealand as it was unlikely to effect the local market much.

So despite the fact that Delphi buttons only appeared on the market for a short period around 1954, they kept making blanks. As they sold finished buttons under they own name, and then under Walkers branding,  presumably they made finished buttons as well. But for how long?

It appears that Delphi  was merged with Beauclaire.  However, this box came from New Zealand, so perhaps this was a joint product of Quinn, and General Plastics (NZ) who supplied their blanks.



12th April 2020

A mystery. Who were these manufacturers?

This one was established in Melbourne around September 1946. Did they sell, or fold?

The Argus, 5th July 1947.

There were a lot of metal working firms in Sydney who made buttons during the war. Was this one of them?

Sydney Morning Herald, 27th August, 1947.

For sale in David Jones in 1940.

The Sun, 10th November, 1940.

And now Otto Meyer’s  opinion of Dior, as reported in the Macleay Argus, 20th May 1953.











Mr Meyer was probably correct that you had to have no tummy, or hips and a tiny waist, but to say “men won’t put up with it” is to miss the point of who fashion is aimed at!

Mr Meyer is probably Otto Martin meyer, born in Bremmen in 1913, arrived in Australia in 1940 and held as a German war internee despite being Jewish. I have only found record of him listed as a director of a company called Berne Silk P/L, so cannot confirm he was involved in button manufacturing.

11th April 2020

New Manufacturers.

Australite Button Manufacturing Co:

Dun’s Gazette 1918. Nothing else appears about this company except a reference that it was to make composition buttons. I guess it failed quickly.

The Lightning Button Company:

This company made covered buttons. It expanded into pleating and then clothing manufacturing.

In 1918 the company was registered by Elizabeth Viola Marduel. She was divorcing her husband and may have needed to support herself.

Dun’s Gazette Feb 1918.

It changed ownership in May 1920, but only several months later the owners dissolved their partnership, with Salae George Saleh continuing as sole proprietor.

Government Gazette of NSW, 10th September 1920

In 1928 the firm became the Lightning Button and Pleating Company Ltd, and by 1937 it was a propriety limited company.

The Land, 3rd August 1928.

It found work during WW2 making khaki clothing for the Government, and in 1943 opened a clothing factory in Kiama.

Kiama Independant & Shoalhaven Advertiser, 12th february 1944.

In 1950 Cladders Limited, a clothing company, bought shares in the company, so that it became a subsidiary of Cladders. The company was deregistered in 1992.