See also the page of vintage Beutron advertising.
‘G. Herring and Co.’ advertised for a traveling salesman for sheep-branding oil in 1931-2. In March 1933 it became G. Herring and Co. Ltd., as cotton spinners and manufacturers of twine, jute, and flax. By 1937 they were importing button and buckles. Also around this time they were extending into jewellery.
The company was named after George Gerard Herring, 1900-1980, one of the first directors. The other first directors were Marshall Ney, his brother Cornelius Ney, and John Morrow. Mr Marshall Ney was the managing director from 1933 until at least 1953. In 1937 the address was Jones Lane, Waterloo.
In 1939 a new company, G. Herring (Aust) P/L, was incorporated in New South Wales from the merging of this company and the Pearl Button Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
The new, merged company would continue to produce pearl buttons through the 1940’s. Burns Philip maintained a 50 percent interest in this firm.
By 1943 the company was described as a manufacturer of casein, mother-of-pearl buttons and dress accessories. The name ‘Beutron’ was first used by G. Herring for its buttons around 1946. (Interesting side note: there was a race horse named Beutron from 1941 and another around 1953. I’d guess that one or both were owned by someone to do with the company.) As the company was producing buttons from around 1939, there was approximately a 7 year period when the buttons were otherwise labelled. A brand they may have produced in this period was “Bonnie Buttons”
The photos below shows that the name Beutron was originally used by the company as a name for a type of plastic (note that the Tub Buttons were ‘made from Beutron. The plastic of the Future’). The buttons may be be casein. Soon the trade name would apply to the buttons, as well as the plastic.
Reports in The Sun (Sydney) of a court case in 1945 shed light on the operations of the company:
Note “British Made”. G. Herring was importing buttons in 1937; perhaps they kept doing so for some time despite their claim to be only manufacturing in Australia.
Boiling buttons, Tub buttons, Wash buttons! What exciting names!!
There were at that time 130 men designing and making more than one million buttons per week. The company mixed and coloured their own plastic. The powdered plastic would be poured into extruding machines to be forced under pressure into long rods of varying diameter. These rods were cut by machine into buttons then the holes drilled. After glazing and waxing the buttons would be inspected, carded, packed and distributed. The company at that time were opening their 3rd factory in and around Sydney. A small card of Opal-Glo buttons cost one shilling. By 1953 the price was one shilling and four and half pence, dropping back to one shilling three pence by 1956.
Along with Opal-Glo, G. Herring’s other main lines in the 1950’s included ‘Originals’, which included ‘light as a feather’ plastics, metal coated dress buttons and glass buttons. Some of these (e.g. the glass) were imported. There were also ‘Boil-tested Whites’ for uniforms and cardigan buttons. The latter included backing disks to stop the button pulling through the knitting, as shown in this detail from a 1950 advert.
The Sunday Mail (Brisbane) on the 5th July 1953, trumpeted the ‘most sensational advances in the Australian button trade’. What was the cause of this excitement, you ask? The new Beutron press stud pearl buttons with the clip on top that could ‘be removed in seconds’ for washing or dry-cleaning. Oh, boy!!
‘Originals’ metal coated plastic button: Above from my (left) and Carol’s collections: 3 sizes of a wreath-like style outer ring in approx 20 colours.
As well as button cards labelled ‘Opal-Glo’, ‘Originals’ and ‘Boil-tested Whites’, from around 1949 til 1959 there were yellow carded ‘All Purpose’ buttons. In 1958 Beutron’s new ‘Tec-pearl’ buttons were marketed. These were pearl-like plastic buttons with (supposedly) the look of pearl without the inconvenience.
A disastrous fire, sparked by an electrical storm on Sunday morning, the 16th November 1952, destroyed the Herring button factory, and damaged a couple of neighbouring factories. Employees living near-by rushed to help fight the fire. More arrived to protect the machinery from the heat and water, and to help clean up. The company was able to start manufacturing buttons the following week. Below is a thank-you letter from the managing director, Marshall Carl Ney, published in several newspapers.
Little more than a year later there was another fire that destroyed most of the second story of a Herring’s button factory. This time twelve had to flee, with two sustaining minor burns. The Sydney Morning Herald, on 19th January 1954, announced planned for a new factory to be built for G.Herring with an amusing title:
The factory was to be 30,000 sq.ft with room for a further 20.000. It had a steel frame and saw-tooth roofing. There was to be a ‘modern cafeteria for serving hot meals’. As the factory was to show a ‘delicate touch’ I’m also amused that … ‘A new note in appearance has been struck, particularly with the main entrance … This entrance has been made as forcible as possible with a large stone-flagged forecourt … ‘.
For a time, the company claimed that all Beutron buttons were made in Australia. As the company thrived and demand increased, factories would be opened overseas. In the late 1950s Australian made Beutron buttons were shipped in cardboard tubes to Japan to be sewn onto cards then re-imported for retail sale. In 1962 Burns Philips sold the interest they had in the firm since 1938. In 1963 F.W. Williams Holding acquired a half interest in the company that was now named Beutron Australia Ltd. By that stage there were, or had been, factories in Sydney, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan and South Africa and Beutron branded buttons were being supplied world-wide. F. W. Williams was in turn taken over by Pioneer Concrete around 1968. Marshall Ney remained as a director, but his son David Marshall Ney (1927-2018), became the general manager. Beutron was purchased in 2001 by Leutenegger, a large craft firm that was started in 1891 in Brisbane by a Swiss immigrant, Jacques Leutenegger.
Beutron packaged and/or made buttons for other companies/stores such as these: Kmart, Target and Butterick. Probably 1970s era.
And now something totally groovy!