Table of Contents
See also the page of vintage Beutron advertising.
G. Herring & Co. Ltd. 1931-1939
The company did not start out in manufacturing buttons. ‘G. Herring and Co.’ advertised for a travelling salesman for sheep-branding oil in 1931-2. In March 1933 it became G. Herring and Co. Ltd., cotton spinners and manufacturers of twine, jute and flax.
The company was named after George Gerard Herring (1900-1980), one of the original directors. The other original directors were Marshall Carl Adolf Ney, his brother Cornelius Frederick Bernhard Ney, and John E. Morrow (probably John Elbra Morrow, 1895-1956). Marshall Ney (1906-1967) was the managing director from 1933 until at least 1953, and was still a director in 1968. The Ney brothers were great-grand nephews of the famous Marshall Michel Ney, a general in Napoleon’s Army from 1799. The brothers had been born in America and came to Australia by the 1920s. As well as his work with G. Herring, Cornelius (1902-1967) was a clothing manufacturer and representative for fashion houses in Australia.
They had been involved in pearl-shell buttons since around 1931.
The company became involved in importing plastic buttons and buckles around 1937. Also around this time they were extending into jewellery. They may have started making, or at least finishing, casein buttons at this time; certainly they were doing so by 1939.
G. Herring (Australia) Pty. Ltd. 1939-1949
In 1939 a new company, G. Herring (Aust) P/L, was incorporated in New South Wales from the merging of this G.Herring & Co. and the Pearl Button Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
The new, merged company would continue to produce pearl buttons during the 1940’s. Burns Philip maintained a 50 percent interest in the firm.
Smith’s Weekly (Sydney), 30th August 1941 page 19.
Fisheries news-letter, June 1946, page 6. During WW2 G.Herring made compass dials for Commonwealth forces and buttons for the US forces.
By 1943 the company was described as a manufacturer of casein and mother-of-pearl buttons and dress accessories. The name ‘Beutron’ was first registered by G. Herring for its buttons in September 1945. (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”. If not they may have been imported by the company.
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’). That plastic was probably casein. Soon the trade name would apply to the buttons, instead of the plastic. The term “Tub buttons” was used in advertising from 1945-1949.
Reports of a court case in 1945 shed light on the operations of the company:
Truth (Sydney), 20th May 1945 page 14.
On the back of some 1960s cards it is stated “Beautiful Beutron Buttons were originally manufactured only in Australia.” This ignores the fact that the first ‘Beutron’ buttons to be advertised (as above) were clearly not made in Australia.
Large cards: Tub, Wash and Boiling Buttons
These cards, approx 12.5 x 19mm, date from the 1940s, but overlapped with the use of smaller cards into the early 1950s at least. They were variously labelled; tub buttons, wash buttons, ‘will stand boiling’, etc. Why there were so many variations to the marketing, with different names and cards is a mystery? In newspapers, the term ‘tub buttons’ was used in advertising from 1945-1949, and ‘boiling buttons’ from 1937 -1954. The term ‘Beutron boiling buttons’ was mentioned from 1946-1949; afterwards the term ‘boil proof’ tended to be used instead.
The Sun, 3rd March, 1949 page 22.
In 1948, G. Herring advertised ‘Irridel’. It was marketed along with ‘Opal-glo’ during 1949, then Irridel was dropped as a brand name. Strangely, the brand was resurrected in 1957 after a 6 year gap.
G. Herring (Australia) Pty. Ltd. 1949-1959
‘Opal-Glo’ was a line of iridescent buttons trademarked by G.Herring on 20th December 1948 using a combination of two American plastic formulas.
There were at that time (1948) 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 were then 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.
Opal-glo buttons had design numbers (see below) as well as colour numbers (see above). ‘Opal-Glo buttons appear on both large and smaller cards. These large cards were not shown in advertising, but I presume they date from late 1940s- late 1950s.
All Purpose Buttons
Advertising from 1949 until 1957 showed Opal-Glo buttons sold on yellow cards and described as ‘All Purpose’ buttons, with matching cotton wound around the card.
G. Herring was not always consistent with their marketing. Other (that is, not Opal-Glo) buttons were sometimes sold on General Purpose cards, as below.
Another promotional line from 1950 until 1955 were the ‘Originals’, which included ‘light as a feather’ plastics, metal coated dress buttons and glass buttons. Some of these (e.g. the glass) were imported from West Germany.
The cabochon buttons above are sewn on cards with blank backs. The other glass buttons have this printed on the back:
Some of the glass ‘Originals’ are labelled “made expressly for Beutron in Western Germany”.
The name ‘West Germany’ was the English term for the ‘Federal Republic of Germany’ from 1950 until reunification in 1990. Before that, from 1945-49, exported buttons were labelled ‘Germany – US – zone’. Ethnic Germans involved in the Bavarian glass button industry were forced to leave the lands being ceded to Czechoslovakia. Resettling in the new West Germany they re-established from scratch (most of their equipment and moulds being left behind) a glass button and bead industry, making the country the dominant glass manufacturing area during the 1950-60s. The remnant button industry in Czechoslovakia under Soviet control did not export buttons until the break up of the USSR circa 1990.
‘Originals’ were also sold on larger cards, as these metalised plastic buttons show. These three designs were also made in non-metalised versions.
These were advertised in 1949-50. They included backing disks to stop the button pulling through the knitting, as shown in this detail from a 1950 advert.
This article describes the cardigan buttons and metalised plastic buttons.
Boil Tested Whites:
These were advertised from 1951-54. They were renamed in 1955 as “snow whites”, then in 1957 as “tropical whites”.
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!
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 Sydney Morning Herald, 19th January 1954 page 13.
For many years Beutron buttons were made only in Australia, but as the company thrived and demand increased, factories would be opened overseas. G. Herring established G. Beutron (Hong Kong) Limited on 21st May 1954 with Cornelius Ney, brother of Marshall Ney, as the manger. According to https://industrialhistoryhk.org/64226-2/ they then built a four story, 12000 square foot factory called Beutron House in Aberdeen, HK, to make polyester buttons. The firm became ‘Herculoid Far East’ on 20th August 1957. In 1964, seventy-five workers were producing 25-30 tons of buttons and blanks per month. The firm was dissolved on 24th February 1984.
In the late 1950s Australian made Beutron buttons were reportedly shipped in cardboard tubes to Japan to be sewn onto cards then re-imported for retail sale.
Details from 1958 Tariff Report
Herculoid (Aust) Pty. Ltd. (mentioned above) was registered in 1953, and in liquidation in 1973.
In 1958 Beutron’s new ‘Tecpearl’ buttons were marketed (note that “Techperl” buttons had been mentioned in advertising as fitted to business shirts from 1954, but hadn’t been marketed separately by G. Herring before.) These were pearl-like plastic buttons with (supposedly) the look of pearl but without the inconvenience. They were still being sold in 1965. They probably marked a move away from casein to polyester plastic buttons.
Late 1950s- early 1960s
The artwork for the button cards changed around this time. Examples with ‘boil tested whites’ and ‘Tecpearl’ have been shown already. Shown below are the new Opal-Glo cards. Note that at some stage the cards were changed again, with the cotton and the name ‘Opal-Glo” changing ends of the card!
Yet another card style, this time without cotton, dates to the late 1950s:
A curiosity: “tub buttons” (1940s terminology) on late 1950s style cards.
G. Herring (Australia) Pty. Ltd. 1960-1963
In 1962 Burns Philips sold the interest they had in the firm since 1938. The company was setting up more overseas factories.
Beutron Australia Ltd. 1963- 1970
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. Beutron branded buttons were being supplied world-wide.
Early 1960s: there were several styles of cards being used simultaneously.
“New Beutron” strip cards appeared around 1964-5. They measured approx 4.5 x 14cm. Perhaps the term ‘new’ was used to indicated the change from Burns Philp to F. W. Holding as a major partner in 1963.
The marketing term “Colour matched” was used during 1962-1969, however it appears on strip cards and standard cards for the first time in 1966 (as indicated by the dual prices).
A Spring/Summer catalogue of 1964/65 stated there was an assortment of 465 Tecpearl and Opal-Glo buttons, in standard and semi-fashion ranges. The fashion selection were designed by the “world’s leading stylists … New York, London, Paris, Rome”. There was a minimum order of 6 cards of each style, with free point of sale merchandising and wire fitment. There were different display units available for different size stores, a ‘reel unit’ for counter tops, a ‘moneyspinner’ with 75 hooks (ideal for small stores) and a ‘King size’ with 120 hooks.
Note that the two different styles of cards below were being used simultaneously in 1964:
Summary of business during the 1960s
1962 Burns Philips sold the interest they had in the firm since 1938.
1963 F.W. Williams Holdings Ltd bought a 50 percent interest in Beutron Australia and made a cash offer for General Plastics.
1965 F.W.Williams returned no dividend from Beutron. The name Beutron Plastics Australia Ltd appears in the press.
1966 F.W. Williams made losses from Beutron and other holdings. The name Beutron Plastics Australia Ltd appears in the press.
1968 Pioneer Concrete took over over F.W.Williams. They then owned 50 percent of Beutron (Aust) Ltd. Marshall Ney was still a director, and his son David Marshall Ney (1927-2018) General Manager.
1969 Pioneer Concrete sold its interest in Beutron “for a substantial cash profit’.
Late 1960s – 1970s
Note that on some of these cards the name Beutron appears in cursive script, whilst others use block letters. The former date from 1968-1970, the latter from July 1970. Prices vary from 20 to 70 cents. The cards now have a circular holes above the longer hole used previously for hanging upon display units.
Mid 1970s onwards
Beutron cards went through multiple incarnations with only the pricing then the appearance of bar codes to give an approximate dating (so forgive me if I am wrong, or better, let me know). Some cards were marked “packed in Australian by Beutron”. Some are marked made in Thailand.
In 2001 Beutron Ltd. became Beutron Pty Ltd, then was accquired by J. Leutenegger (a large craft firm that was started in 1891 in Brisbane, Queensland by a Swiss immigrant, Jacques Leutenegger). Some cards are marked “Packed in Australia by J. Leutenegger Pty Ltd”.
In 1978 the practice of electronic scanning of items started, and by 1986 it is stated that 90% of grocery items had a bar-code. Coles started the practice in 1982, Woolworths in 1985 with Kmart and Grace Brothers in1988. By 1992 90% of supermarkets were using the technology.
Large plain 8.9 x 5.8 cm card
Possibly mid 1970s. Price 50 cents – $1.35, price printed on the front. The longer hole near the top of the card gets dropped, leaving only the circular hole to hang up the cards on the dispensing frames. No printing on the back.
Small plain 8.2 x 4.8 cm card
Probably from the late 1970s. Price 50 cents-$1.00. Circular hole only. No printing on the back.
American firm JHB released the Peter Rabbit series of buttons under license in 1977 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publishing of the first of Beatrix Potter”s books in 1902. The others in this series were Peter Rabbit, Hunca Munca, Squirrel Nutkin and Old Mr Brown Owl. JHB went to the effort source a company (in Japan) capable of faithfully reproducing the effect of the original water colours. Over the next 11 years, more designs were released. Beutron must have sold these buttons under licence from JHB.
Plain card with indented edges
Possibly late 1970s-early 1980s. Strangely these occur in two sizes: 8.2 x 4.8 cm and 8.8 x 5.7 cm. I think they were using up pre-cut cards of the previous two sizing (see above). Why they went to the expense/bother of cutting small indents on each corner is a mystery. Prices $1.00- $1.25. No printing on the back.
Small 8 x 4.5 cm card with gold top and rounded corners
Possibly early-mid 1980s, as there are no bar codes. Some have no printing on the back, but most are printed with “Butterick Patterns” and “Vogue Patterns” and a price. Prices $1.45-2.10.
These are of unknown dating. All I can say is these date post 1970 , due to the block script used for the name Beutron. Please let me know if you can date them; use the Contact page.
Small 8.2 x 4.7 cm card with gold borders.
These are printed with a bar code on back but no price. Some are marked for Butterick and Vogue patterns. The cards may date from sometime after the mid 1980s until circa 2001 as some are printed “Packed in Australia by Beutron Ltd”, and others “by J. Leutenegger Pty Ltd”. (In 2001 Leutenegger had purchased Beutron).
Large plain cards 8.8 x 5.8cm with rounded corners
I have one intermediate card with printing as for above, but with the size and design of those cards immediately below. They have bar codes printed on the back, with prices $1.25-3.35. I also have one card the same size as these but with the double lines of gold edging.
Small cards with gold borders and rounded corners.
Approx 8.1 x 4.7 cm, with several variations of printing on the back, indicating the buttons are made in Thailand but packed in Australia, and that Beutron is a division of J. Leutenegger. The hole is a larger diametre than previously. Dating about 2001- 2015.
Pre 2016 Cards
9 x 7 cm rectangular cards with a blue background and light blue squares, printed at the back with a ‘choking hazard warning’. The address has been changed, but the brand is still listed as a division of J. Leutenegger. These cards may date pre-2016 when the firm became part of Birch Creative, as the listed address has since changed again.
As of 2022 there are (once again) thin cardboard strips of Beutron buttons sold. These have a small strip of the blue checked pattern (seen on the cards above) along the top of the cards. Beutron buttons are also available in bags.
Printed on the back is “Packed for Beutron. A division of Leutenegger Pty Ltd” They date from around 2007.
“Beutron Button Delights” were marketed in 2008-9. They seem to have been designed for craft, rather than clothing. See https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/20080724130217/http://papersquared.openstores.com.au/c/372/Beutron_buttons.html
Undated modern Beutron Buttons
Beutron packaged and/or made buttons for other companies/stores such as these: Kmart, Target and Butterick, probably all post 1967, as there are no dual prices.
Beutron buckles were not advertised until 1953, although they could have been sold earlier.
Most have a block letter B, and “all Purpose Buckle” printed on the front.
Below are two unusual “TecOpal” buckles from the late 1950s.
Sample Cards, Display and Packaging
A handy box for tailors:
The drawers below belong to Marian.
Display Cards late 1950s-1960s
Display Cards 1970s
For the individual pages of this folder, see http://www.austbuttonhistory.com/uncategorized/16th-august-2020/
The design designation starting with “FT” dates from the 1990s.
For close ups of the pagesof the above folder, see http://www.austbuttonhistory.com/uncategorized/7th-august-2020/
For more display cards, go to http://www.austbuttonhistory.com/branded-buttons/branded-buttons-manufacturers/#Butterick
From South Africa
The ‘Beutron’ button is modern in the feel of its plastic (not casein; maybe nylon?) and the moulding marks. Interestingly, the shank it not typical of Beutron buttons. It has the shape typical of Beauclaire buttons. Perhaps this dates the button to the period of the merger, 1957-1963?