18th August 2022

Early Stokes buttons

If you are interested in the history of Australian manufacturing, I would recommend the book published this year, “Stokes. A Proud Heritage, 140 Years in Australian Manufacturing Industry” by Leigh Blackburn and Gregory Eccleston.

Reading it, I started wondering just how many buttons had been produced by Stokes over that time, and started to do a little searching. The following list covers some of the earliest; I can never hope to complete the list as sadly not all archival data or dies have been preserved. In 1857 Thomas Stokes claimed “I have already sunk nine dies for uniform buttons in this colony (Victoria) and manufactured no less than thirteen hundred dozen buttons … “. This may not refer to 9 separate designs, as some uniforms may have had more than one sizing of buttons, requiring more than one die. The backmarks may have been ‘T. Stokes Melbourne’ or ‘Stokes Maker Melbourne’

Perhaps old backplates were used on occasions, as some of the defence services listed date from were after the partnership of Stokes and Martin had been initiated in 1867. From newspaper reports I can identify some of the buttons made, and guess others:

1854: Melbourne and Hobson’s Bay with a depiction of a locomotive. Made in Melbourne by       an un-named diesinker, although probably Stokes.

1856-1867: Newcastle Volunteer Artillery Corps

1856-1867: Victoria Yacht Club

1857: Letter Carriers’ Uniform (Post Office).

1859: Mail-coach Guards. Made in Melbourne by an un-named diesinker.

1859-1867: Victorian Volunteer Rifles

1859-1870: Royal Volunteer Artillery Regiment

1859-1867: Hobart Town Volunteer Artillery Corps

1860-1867: Launceston Volunteer Artillery Corps

Thanks to Noble Numismatics:Stokes Maker







1860-70: NSW Volunteer Rifles

c.1863: Victorian Naval Artillery

1863 -1867: Prince of Wales Victorian Volunteer Light Horse

1860-1867: City Guards (Hobart)

Thanks to Noble Numismatics: Stokes Maker








pre 1865:  Melbourne Fire Brigade

1866: Victorian Volunteer Engineers (possibly the torpedo corps button on Cossum page 17).

1866: South Australian Artillery

1866: Adelaide Corporation

1866: Adelaide Fire Brigade

c.1870: Victorian Volunteer Service

Victorian Volunteer Service:

? Date: Native Mounted Police

? Date: Royal Engineers

In his pioneering book b”Buttons of the Defence Forces in Australia”, published in 1988,              J. K. Cossum wrote in the preface that “… by the mid 1860s (Stokes) was supplying military outfitters in the other (non Victoria) colonies, in some case stamping the reverse side of the button  with the name of the outfitter.” This may well be the case, so that other buttons backmarked with names such as ‘C. K. Moore’ may have been supplied by Stokes, although they may have been supplied from England.

If you are aware of any pre ‘Stokes & Martin’ buttons, and better still, have any picture you are willing to share, please contact me using the Contact page.