5th July 2020

Tailor’s button:

T.G. Brown & Son, Adelaide:

South Australian Customs

Thomas Gattey Brown (1813-1884) welcomed his son, T.G. junior, into his business, and opened new premises.

The South Austraalian Advertiser, 11th Septemper 1878, page 3.


In 1897 both T. G. Brown & Son, were taken over by the firm of Mackintosh & Co, who were in turn taken  over and  E. Lucas & Co in 1903. The firm had made uniforms for many services, including South Australian Volunteer Forces, Military Band, Telegraph Department, the Police and  Customs Departments.

The Customs department in South Australia existed from 1837, and was absorbed at Federation into the department of Trade and Customs.

State Library of SA: The principal members of the South Australian Customs Department in 1885 at Port Adelaide. They are in Naval uniforms. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/PRG+280/1/17/722


4th July 2020

Carol’s new finds:

Variation of St Peter’s College Adelaide:

Immanuel College Adelaide;  Lutheran college founded in 1895.


Tailoring firm:

Hughes & Co, Sydney:

This firm consisted of Edward Hughes and at various times, his sons Bryson, Herbert Thomas, and Edward Griffith Hughes. In 1894 it was located at Park St, but from 1902 at Erskine Street. In 1925 Herbert continued alone.

Australian United Steam Navigation Company.

Dun’s gazette of NSW, 1918.


3rd July 2020

New finds:

Cute budgies and kooka: Thanks Pat!

Around 1949-51.


Post from October 2018:

Boxing Kangaroo:

A query as to whether this set of buttons (found in Idaho) was of Australian origin came our way. For the record, I don’t think it is, as the construction (celluloid with embedded steel loop shank) is not something I have seen made by any Australian manufacturer. However, the set is fascinating. The card they were sewn on was labelled as “Allied Forces of WWII” and depicts the USA, Britain, China, Australia and Russia. This dates the buttons as 1941 or after, as that is when Russia joined the Allies.

It made me wonder about the use of the ‘boxing kangaroo’ as an Australian mascot, so I did some research:

The first boxing kangaroo of fame was named Jack and trained by ‘Professor Richard Von Lindermann’.

Melbourne Punch, 16th April 1891 page 7.

They performed in shows around Australia from 1891 and then traveled to London in 1892 where they were a great success. Jack died there in 1896, having made his trainer a lot of money. Later boxing kangaroos included two called ‘Peter Jackson” in 1897 and 1908, ‘Aussie’ from Adelaide trained by Lindsay Fahre around 1926-9, ‘Chut’ trained by Harry Abdy who appeared in the film “Orphan of the Wilderness” in 1936 and ‘Peter the Great’ who performed around America in 1940. “Peter the Great’ was not the first boxing kangaroo to travel to the States. The first reference I found was in 1893.  Photos, illustrations and cartoons of boxing kangaroos had been published since 1891, so the imagery was well known by WW2.

Melbourne Punch, 26th December 1895 page 1. The “Boxing Kangaroo” is telling off Britain and America as they squabble over a disputed border of Venesula.

2nd July 2020


Whilst I knew that Duperite branded buttons were made for the military, I did not realise they were also advertised in the Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld) from 1943-44:

Daily Mercury, 20th May 1943 page 4.

New Distributor:

Fashion Pfeiffer/ R.A. Pfeiffer:

I’ve featured “Fashion Pfeiffer Buttons before; now I’ve learnt a little more. It seems there were two associated clothing manufacturing companies. Mr Pfeiffer was Rudolf Alfons, born in Berlin in 1902 but fled to Australia in 1939 He was naturalised, and enlisted to serve in WW2. He died in 1957 with his company in liquidation by 1964.

green plastic acorns

Sunday Herald (Sydney), 16th August 1953 sewing supplement page 2.

You may have some of these buttons in your collections. The pearl and plastic tricorne example was used in an article suggesting the use of buttons to make earrings!

Sunday Times (Brisbane) 16th August 1953 page 9.



1st July 2020

A Mystery:

Who made these “Exclusive” buttons?

Pat’s collection:

Buttons on these distinctively shaped cards were supposedly made exclusively for David Jones









… and Grace Bros,

… and Farmer’s!

Whoever the manufacturers were, they had a rather loose definition of the word “exclusive”.


30th June 2020

New find:

Yellow Cab uniform button by Stokes & Sons.

I now have two of these handsome buttons by Stokes and Sons.

Yellow Cab Company:

Cartoon in Punch, 29th may 1913, page 6.

In early 1924 Mr Pearson William Tewkesbury proposed to introduce to Australia the “Chicago Yellow” cab.  He had already been involved several other taxi companies,  the City Motor Service Ltd. (from 1911) and the Royal Blue Motor Service Pty. Ltd. (from 1921) in Melbourne,  and the de Luxe in Sydney.  This company,  ‘The Yellow Cabs of Australia Limited ‘,  was the first in Australia to run meter-operated cabs,  and did not to charge the customer for the return journey when the cab was empty!  This was achieve by locating various depots in the suburbs so the taxi could wait at the nearest location rather than return to the city.

The Mail (Adelaide) 1st March 1924 page 16.

The company commenced operations in Melbourne in October 1924,  12 months later in Sydney,  and by 1926 in Brisbane,  Adelaide and Perth.  The taxis were custom built A2 Broughams,  imported from the United States.  The driver had the luggage compartment along side him in the front,  with a window separating him from the passengers behind.  The meter was fitted in the front next to the window by the driver.  The driver wore distinctive brown uniforms including caps.  By 1938 the drivers were allowed to drive in khaki shirts and ties,  without coats, in the heat of summer.  In July 1942 the company employed women as drivers for the first time.  They too wore uniforms.

In State Library of WA

From the State Library of South Australia. https://collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/resource/B+3608


29th June 2020

Oops … forgot to put button photos on K.G Luke page! All fixed,

New finds:

Lovely painted wooden buttons c.1938

Early 1960s Beutron.


New South Wales Military (originally shared April 2016):

A Stokes & Martin button:  The partnership between Thomas Stokes and G.F. Martin lasted from circa 1867 until 1893.  This button is from a New South Wales military uniform,  which dates the button from 1876 as that is when the emblem of  “a lion passant guardant  on a cross  between 4 stars of 8 points”  with a Queen’s (Victoria) crown , was declared. It has a design error, in that the stars should have 8 points, but only have 5.

NSW military uniform badge.

This NSW military brass uniform button  is dated 1881-1901.  Made by C.Anderson, Sydney. This button has the correct 8 point star.

28th June 2020

New Finds:

Grace Brothers was a department store, founded in 1885 in  Sydney by English brothers Albert Edward and Joseph Neal Grace.

Albert Edward Grace (1865-1938)

Joseph Neal Grace  (1859 -1931)









Joseph worked for Farmer & Co, then as a travelling saleman with his brother before starting a small shop in 1885. They prospered so that by 1897 they needed to build a 4-story building which was extended a couple of times. The firm became a limited liability company owned by the Grace family in 1917.In 1929 they erected a business house at the corner of York and King Street. Prior to his death in 1938 Albert had planned the suburban expansion of Grace Bros. In 1985 it was bought by Myers.

The first store in George Street, 1885.

The Broadway store. Both photos from Construction, 3rd June 1953 page 6.


Fashion Tricks with buttons:

From the Australian Women’s Weekly, 2nd November 1960 page 57:

“Old buttons plus old dress equals new look.”

Cover your dress in buttons and braid, make a pocket monogram out of tiny buttons, cover  belts,  cuffs, collars or pockets, or perhaps not ….


27th June 2020

New Finds:

From Pat, some lovely vintage  cards of Mother of Pearl (MOP) buttons:


Plastic buttons in the 1940-50s:   (Originally posted16th April 2020)

As noted on the’ WW2 Onwards’ page (see http://www.ausbuttonhistory.com/?page_id=314), 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.)

Excerpts from a larger article in The Argus, 8th June 1954, page 24,  are below:

Queensland Times, 26th January 1948 page 4.

The Argus, 24th August 1950 page 9.


Excerpts from a larger article in The Argus, 8th June 1954, page 24 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 page 7. 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?

26th June 2020

Welcome to the new edition of Australian Button History!

Note that the new address is austbuttonhistory.com (note the changed spelling) although for a time you will be re-directed if using the old address.

Hopefully you will find the blog runs smoother, has less down time and the stories are more coherent. Note that posts from the past have not been copied, as the size of the blog made it impossible to achieve. I will re-post popular posts (sorry to those who didn’t want to re-read them). Let me know if there particular past posts you need/want.

A very popular post concerned metal detector fins, originally posted on 13th April 2019:


Queries often come through to the Victorian Button Collectors Club, and also to this blog about the identity of “unearthed” buttons. I found an article from 1999 about buttons found at archeology sites by Jennie Lindberg that is relevant.

In the article she states that the oldest button types found on Australian sites are bone sew-throughs and blanks (for covering with thread or fabric), pinshanked buttons of bone or mother-of-pearl, and metal rings (as used as the base for Dorset as similar buttons). She also mentions porcelain buttons, which became common in the 1840s, glass buttons, pressed horn, and metal coat and trouser buttons. Metal trouser/braces buttons may date from the late 18th century. “They … often bear generic slogans such as ‘Our Own Make’, ‘Best Ring Edge’, ‘Excelsior’, etc.” Remnants of fabric covered copper alloy buttons may be found dating from the mid 19th century.

She cautions that it can be hard to identify what a button was used for as they are used for such a wide variety of clothing and other items such as pillow-slips and even toys. Also, delicate and ornate buttons that appear feminine may have come from men’s waistcoats.

To read the article yourself, see http://www.asha.org.au/pdf/australasian_historical_archaeology/17_04_Lindbergh.pdf

Some of Andrew Sigmund’s finds.

Please note that these trouser buttons are also found overseas. They may  have come from a button manufacturing centre such as Birmingham. The same generic terms may have been used in more than one era  and by more than one maker. These buttons are not valuable, but they are certainly interesting.

In Trove ( archived Australian newspapers etc):

It is often claimed online that ‘Best Ring Edge‘ buttons date from late 19th to early 20th century, and this was backed up by a newspaper story in Trove dated 1897 of a child wearing these buttons. 

‘Excelsior’ trouser buttons were advertised in Australia circa 1893- 1896.

‘Double Ring Edge’ are mentioned  in 1866. They are found on trousers in a museum from the late 19th century.

‘Our Own Make’ buttons are mentioned from 1892 through to 1930s.

“Best Solid Eyelet” buttons are found on a  1890s uniform, as are “Four Holes Improved”.

See https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/?q=#  if you wish to explore this resource.




Michael dug up a Moncton button in a reserve in Sydney: What a find!