New Zealand Button History

New Zealand Button History

 

Information for this page were in large part sourced from New Zealand’s National Library’s resource, ‘Papers Past’: https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/

I also found these useful:

http://studylib.net/doc/7569817/pinz-history—plastics-new-zealand

http://www.nzfashionmuseum.org.nz

The history of button manufacturing in New Zealand followed a similar course to that in Australia. Total reliance on imports gave way to local manufacturing and even exporting.  Finding value from the waste products of the county’s growing meat and diary industry,  buttons were made from teeth and bones,and casein was exported.

Published 25th Mar 1881 in The Star.

Published Auckland Star, 20th December 1919.

Wanted ads for two button factories, in the Auckland Star, 1920.

In 1939 in the suburb of Petone, Lower Hutt, a company called the  American Button Company started manufacturing fashion buttons. Reportedly, before this factory opened there had not been a significant local production. From the article below  it seems likely that the ‘American Button Company’ was making covered buttons:

Auckland Star, 23rd December 1919.

Published in The Queenslander, 14th May 1931, a collection of New Zealand Helmet and Hat badges and buttons.

How you gonna keep them down on the farm? Well, it wasn’t just Broadway pulling the young folk away, there was also the chance to sew buttons!

Published in the Evening Advocate (Queensland), 10th November 1941.

Major world events had local impacts. The  New Zealand plastics industry made major contributions during WW2, producing large quantities of buttons for uniforms as well as millions of toothbrushes! In 1945 it was reported that the entry of Japan into the war had meant the loss of New Zealand’s main supply of pearl buttons. The  local fresh-water mussels and trochus shells were of no commercial use, and supply from India was insufficient. This changed demand from pearl to plastic buttons,  locally made as well as imported from the USA and Canada. Post war, world-wide shortages of supplies prompted charity efforts like that below;

Published in the Auckland Star, 21st March 1945.

There were  two major plastic button producers:

 

British Buttons and Buckles/General Plastics: Pluckett Avenue, Petone

1939-1950

Initial shareholders included A.G. Griffiths, O. C. Rheuben and N. R.  Rheuben, who were involved in button manufacturing in Australia (O.C. Rheuben & Co, which would become ‘General Plastics’ in 1941). This new Zealand company  was also renamed General Plastics (circa 1946). Headed by Jack Quinn,  it produced Beauclaire branded buttons. The buttons were made by compression molding, pressing of slugs, and later injection molding. At one stage the company employed 70-80 people and was exporting container loads of buttons.

Evening Post, 31st July 1939.

The factory started production at the end of August 1939. In November it was reported in the Evening Post that “The new factory already employs 50 hands and it is expected that the staff will increase to 70 when full production is attained. Already the company has delivered nearly 10,000 gross of buttons and it is contended that it can produce 1000,000 gross per annum”. It was not making men’s buttons or pearl buttons, rather women’s fashion buttons.

Part of the same news report. It shows that O. C. Rheubens had at that stage a 50% interest in the company.

Unmarked, however these are definitely GP designs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probably pre-Beauclaire branding. This “Modern Miss” graphic varies from the Australian versions, but like in Australia, came from this company.

Post 1945 (GP branding). This design appears on Coronet cards in Australia.

‘Pearl Sheen’ branding (not seen in Australia). The name Beauclaire appears in a leaf shape (also not seen in Australia. Some, but not all designs in common with the Australian branch of the company.

‘Pearl-Glo’, also a term not seen in Australia.

From the designs of cards and buttons it is evident that there was some sharing of design and marketing strategies, and some independence. It is possible the name Beauclaire originated in New Zealand, before a standardising of the marketing in the two countries, and was actually Belle-claire before it became Beauclaire; see below. Ads for ‘Pearl Sheen’ buttons appeared in 1949-50.

 

Beauclaire 1950s

As in Australia, pale blue Beauclaire cards had no text in the lower oval, and the backs were completely blank.

Then printing at the bottom, and on the back occurred (identical wording except for the country’s name).

A bit of a mystery: Beauclaire cards, but the G. Herring concept of cardigan buttons with a backing disk and a different brand name, Astoria. Had Herring not patented it in New Zealand?

A counter-top display box of Astoria buttons:

The artwork changed, circa 1953. Boilproof and Moonglow branding appears.

The famous ducks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mid 1950s partial card

Late 1950s-1960s

Different artwork appeared in the late 1950s, when the branding became linked with Leda. These are the small cards.

A “innovation” that was patented here was to punch out holes in the cards, and attach the buttons with sticky tape. I don’t feel this was a great idea!

Large cards:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mystery branding

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sample Cards

 

 

1965 onwards

On 13th April, 1965, an electrical short circuit initiated an exposition of plastic dust which had accumulated below floor boards in the factory in Masterton. The explosions was so massive that 300kg machinery was thrown onto the roof. Four people were killed, six were injured, and it would have been worse had not most of the staff been on a tea break.

From Archives New Zealand. 13th April 1965.

The company  became New Zealand Casein Plastics Ltd in 1969. In 1988 a joint venture was formed with New Zealand Dairy Co. and a Japanese company, Nissei Kyoeki, to manufacture casein buttons for the Japanese market. This venture only lasted two years. The company wound up in 2004/5 as competition with cheaper polyester buttons as well as a rising NZ dollar against a sluggish Japanese economy took its toll. The final seven workers were laid off.

 

Buttons (N.Z.) Ltd./Falcon Plastics, Newmarket, Auckland

Joseph Henry Faulconbridge (1800 – 1955) was involved in clothing production. In 1934, starting from his backyard and with a few pounds capital, he started a button factory producing wood and pearl buttons. In 1936 he listed Buttons (New Zealand) Limited with his sons Roy and Ian and expanded production to cast resin, casein and compression molded plastic buttons in Auckland. The company became Falcon Plastics after 1945, with Ian as production manager and Roy as managing director. They produced items such as kitchen ware as well as buttons.

Auckland Star 30th December 1936.

Auckland Star, 18th December 1940.

Auckland Star, 3rd November 1945.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Duraware manufactured by Falcon Plastics. The Falcon trademark  Seen below) appears on one of the button cards.

 

G. Herring/Beutron(Australia)

1950s

Around 1956 G.Herring opened a factory. For some reason the names ‘Titan’ and ‘Beauty buttons’ were used before changing over to Beutron. The larger Titan cards are direct copies of Australian Beutron cards. Perhaps G. Herring exported to New Zealand under these names before manufacturing locally.

Identical to British made Beutron Wash buttons.

Identical to Beutron Tub buttons.

 

 

 

 

Note that ‘Beauty buttons’ were ‘another Titan button’.

On ‘boil tested white’ cards!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The card style below was not seen in Australia.

Re-order cards

 

Minor Manufacturers/ Tailors Buttons/Distributors/miscellaneous

A. Levy Ltd., Wellington

Abraham Levy (1861-1918), tailor, was supplying uniforms from at least 1913. In 1916 he was in trouble.  Apparently he used cotton instead of linen thread!

Evening Star 25th August 1916.

Otago Daily Times, 25th January 1927. This may date the above NZ Rail button.

The Levin Building c.1969, built 1936. Credit: “Horowhenua Historical Society Inc.” https://horowhenua.kete.net.nz/item/9e3d0eb0-62e1-49a4-8290-03f5eb0758fb

Ballantyne & Co, Christchurch

John Ballantyne was born in Scotland in 1825.  He traveled to Australia in 1852 then to New Zealand in 1871.   Arriving in Christchurch in 1872 he was encouraged to take over a drapery firm,  Dunstable House that had been established in 1854.  The business became J. Ballantyne & Co. in 1920.  The company trades today as Ballantynes.

Credit: Ballantyne & Company Ltd building, Christchurch. Ref: 1/1-009721-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/29946497 Dunstable House c.1920. It was destroyed in a fire in 1947.

Charles Parsons (NZ)/Corozo

Charles Parsons (NZ) limited was known as Corozo Button Company Limited from 18 March 1955 til 23 February 1966, then Ackmead Holdings Limited from then until 14 June 1993. As this card is marked with both Corozo and Ackmead Holdings trademarks, it dates to around 1966?

H.B. Craighead Ltd., Wellington

The Craighead family were tailors in New Zealand for several generations. Hugh Clark, Edwin George and his brother William Bruce Craighead were tailors and outfitters in Ashburton on the South Island. It appears W.B moved to Wellington and continued as a tailor. Huia Bruce Craighead was born in Wellington in 1897 so presumably was William’s son. H.B. would also become a tailor and from around 1932 traded as H.B. Craighead Ltd.

 

Horn Buttons and Accessories Ltd.,  Wellington

This company started in 1940 and was still advertising for staff in 1945. I don’t know when it folded.

Evening Post, 30th September 1940.

 

Kawali Island Industries

Matipo,Manuka and Puriaj wood.

 

Kawau Island lies in the Hauraki Gulf off the north Eastern coast of New Zealand. It is approximately 8×5 km. Ten percent of the Island is under control of the Department of Conservation, including an historical mansion and remains of  a copper mine. Considerable damage has been done to the environment due to introduced species, particularly wallabies. A trust is working to reverse some of this damage. The wooden buttons may be tourist or perhaps fundraising items.

 

Korbond Industries Pty. Ltd.

See also the Distributors page. Korbond Industries Limited started as manufacturers, but changed over to distributuion. As Korbond was located in Auckland, the buttons may have been supplied by Falcon Plastics of the same city.

These two cards are marked ‘made in NZ’

 

New Zealand Clothing Factory (Hallenstein Brothers), Dunedin

Wanganui Highlanders 1900

In 1873 The New Zealand Clothing Factory was established in Dunedin to supply the Hallenstein Brothers clothing stores. By 1900 there were 30 “HB” clothing stores across the country. A grand new headquarters was built in 1882-3 which housed up to 300 employees. The opening was celebrated with a ball for 500-600 people. The company continues today, but now most of the clothing is made in China.

Bendix Hallenstein (1835-1905) : Image courtesy of Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. Founder

The Hallenstein Brothers New Zealand Clothing Factory store in Queen Street, 1903. Image from Auckland Weekly News 12 November 1903, courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19031112-15-1.

Otago Daily Times, 15th April 1890.

 

Ross & Glendining, Dunedin

In August 1862 two Scotsmen, John Ross and Robert Glendining, took over a drapery store in Dunedin. It was the start of a business that would last until 1966. They changed from retail drapery to wholesale and importing when they opened a warehouse in 1865.

By the 1900’s over 500 people were employed at the mill. The business changed from a partnership to a Limited company.  John Ross remained involved in the company until the 1920’s, and his sons continued after that. The number of factories increased producing clothes and shoes under various fashion labels. In the 1960s the firm struggled, finally being sold and broken up after over a century of trading in 1966. The mill continued under new ownership until 1980.

Northern Advocate, 22nd June 1922 page 2.

Ross & Glendining’s first clothing factory was initially equipped with 21 new and second-hand sewing machines. Photo from 1902 courtesy of Hocken Collections, Dunedin, S09-529c.

This lithograph, dated 1910, depicts the Roslyn Worsted and Woollen Mills in Dunedin. Image from Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref: 1/1-009178-G. Image © unknown.

Van Staveren, Wellington

 

 

 

 

 

In Wellington the name of van Staveren was well known.  Herman van Steveren (1849-1930) was the Rabbi of Wellington from 1877 until his death.  He was very active in the community,  serving on charitable and hospital boards, for example.   Three of his sons (out of 13 children) opened Van Staveren Bros. Limited in 1905 as general traders and importers.  The firm finally closed in the 1980’s.

As merchants rather than tailors,  they must have been involved in the supply of  of soldiers’ uniforms.  As 4 sons volunteered in WW1,  the family was obviously proud to contribute.

Rabbi Herman van Staveren, wife Miriam with children and grandchildren c.1925

 

The Wellington Woollen Manufacturing Company, Limited.

This company was incorporated in 1882 and commenced manufacturing in 1886.  The head office,  warehouse and clothing factory were situated in a three/four story brick building in Petone,  near Wellington.  The mills were also in Petone.       

The Head Office, corner of Willeston and Victoria Streets, Petone.

 

Miscellaneous

Paua Shell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paua is the Maori name for several species of sea-snail, known elsewhere as abalone.

 

Sweetheart brooches

Items such as this, made from 3 uniform buttons, were bought or made as a gift for a sweetheart, wife or mother to wear whilst her boy served overseas.

Items such as this, made from 3 uniform buttons, were bought or made as a gift for a sweetheart, wife or mother to wear whilst her boy served overseas.