8th January 2021


One of the tools we use to date buttons is the use of Royal cyphers and/or crowns. From these articles it appears that the change over to use of the “St Edward’s crown”  started in 1953, but that there was a period of transition.

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW), 19th August 1953 page 7.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 13th November 1954 page 4.


Daily Examiner (Grafton, NSW), 13th May 1937 page 5.

Note that the St Edward’s Crown is used for only coronations, but there are other crowns. Below is the Imperial State Crown, which is modified for each Monarch to use at other times than the coronation.

Queensland Times (Ipswich), 20th November 1947 page 1.



7th January 2021

The Argus (Melbourne), 2nd September 1936 page 14.

Many button collectors are aware of the crown buttons that were produced in anticipation of The 1937 coronation of George VI, and then later for Elizabeth II. They were also sold for Royal visits.

A Coronation button for sale at Farmer’s in 1937.

The Sun (Sydney), 7th February 1937 page 2. A set of crown buttons.

The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 2nd April 1937 page 20.

The West Australian (Perth), 18th May 1937 page 3.

In 1936 Schiaparelli was using crown shaped buttons on her suits and coats. The colours ‘coronation red’ and ‘coronation blue’ were in vogue. Hats were trimmed with little crowns. Coronation emblems were printed on fabrics and frocks, even furniture …

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW), 22nd March 1937 page 3.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 2nd December 1948 page 8.

Even men were not immune to coronation fashion. The picture below is of Mr and Mrs Stiles Brumhaugh who travelled all the way from Cleveland, Ohio to Sydney to see the Queen because “she’s the loveliest thing on earth”. Mr B. had gold, crown-centred buttons on his sports coat.

The Argus (Melbourne), 5th February 1954 page 16.

Elizabeth II Coronation button made by Cash’s.



6th January 2021

China buttons

China is porcelain is china. This ceramic material was developed in China from 1600 – 1046 BC. When it came to be exported to Europe in the 16th century, it became known as “china”. It is possible that the French/Italian term “porcelain” came into use to distinguish European made products from the Chinese made.

In terms of buttons, it seems to be a dated term, used mainly the early 20th century, but as early as the mid 19th century and as late as the 1950s.

Melbourne Punch, 15th August 1889 page 13.

The Prahran Telegraph (Vic), 16th January 1909 page 6.

Examiner (Launceston), 12th August 1924 page 7. A black and white satin dress with china buttons.

White china buckle and china button with dog head.

Marigold china buckle.
Australian Women’s Weekly, 2nd October 1937 page 25.

The Telegraph (Brisbane), 16th March 1938 page 5.


The Sun (Sydney), 21st April 1946 page 10. Blue and white china zebra buttons on a blue suit.

The Mail (Adelaide), 7th July 1951 page 36. A checked tan angora jersey dress with big brown china buttons.

Warwick Daily News (Qld) 17th June 1946 page 3.


5th January 2021

Ceramics vs Pottery

Apparently the word ‘ceramic’ derives from the Greek ‘keramikos ‘meaning ‘of pottery’ or ‘for pottery’. Hence both words refer to objects made of clay and hardened by heat. In archeology, pottery is a form of ceramics, specifically clay containers (pots), with other articles referred to as ‘terracottas’. Others say that, technically, all non-metallic materials that are permanently hardened by heating, including glass and glazes, are ceramics.

To further complicate matters, there are 3 classes of pottery; earthenware, stoneware and porcelain, which differ in the temperature to which they are fired. Porcelain also differs in the mixture used; small amounts of glass, granite, and feldspar minerals are ground up with fine, white clay and then mixed with water.

So technically, buttons can be made of ceramics, but are not pottery, despite sometimes being called that.

The Age (Melbourne), 2nd January 1934 page 5.

The Sun (Sydney), 2nd June 1940 page 10. ” … the black frock trimmed with three little nigger boy pottery buttons … ” (Sorry. So incorrect!)

The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 6th April 1942 page 6.

The Mail (Adelaide), 4th December 1954, page 59.


4th January 2021

Ceramic buttons

I have always wondered at ceramic buttons. Surely they can’t wash and wear well, unless you do it by hand? Even then, surely some would loose or chip their glaze?  From the newspapers, these appear to have been mainly used on clothes such as coats that were rarely washed or dry cleaned. Perhaps they had to be removed before cleaning? What a bother!

The Sun (Sydney), 13th March 1946 page 12. She appears to be wearing platform shoes and ‘power shoulders’ like in the 1980s.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 21st October 1947 page 5.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 6th May 1948 page 13.

The Age (Melbourne), 17th March 1949 page 7.

 Perhaps the unknown Melbourne firm featured on  the ‘mysteries page’ made these buttons for well-to-do Melbourne ladies shopping at the exclusive George’s. See  http://www.austbuttonhistory.com/mysteries-please-help/ During the 1940s -1950s, starved of novelty and fashion during the war, women looked to buttons to make impact on the severe tailoring of the time. With shortages of many other materials, brightly coloured ceramic and glass buttons were in vogue.

Commenting on were fashionable accessories could be found in London …

The Age (Melbourne), 12th October 1949 page 5. Note that most Bimini buttons were made of glass, not ceramic.


3rd January 2021

The story of the clothing and textile industry in Australia: part 3


A  significant clothing industry had been established in Melbourne. Removal of restrictions on inter-colonial trade were being recommended to support the industry. Importation of cheap  English good were being blamed for some loss of employment. Inter-colony rivalry was evident;

The Age (Melbourne), 28th November 1878 page 4. And for clothing …

page 5


The Victorian industry, protected by duties, had “assumed colossal proportions”. Initially wages were high, but as more girls entered the trade the labour market became saturated and wages fell. (The women could be expected work from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm with half an hour break, plus 2-3 hours work at home in the evening!) Some felt that Victoria was simply producing too much stock, causing profits to fall. The colony was exporting to every other Australian colony and to New Zealand.  In 1884 exports of apparel and slops (ready made clothing) made in Victoria  were valued at £257,269. In Sydney there was no ‘protection’, and in 1886 there were only “several” clothing factories.  In contrast, in Victoria there were by 1889  4344 clothing factories and several hundred contract out-workers. (NB: I cannot verify these figures and they were disputed by the dueling colonies.)

The Australian Star (Sydney), 19th October 1889 page 3.


In NSW the trade were asking for changes to tariffs there to help their industry. They told the government that 1000,000 pairs of trousers which could have been made locally were imported into the colony in the first 6 months of 1892. Victoria was at that time making 500,000 pairs of moles per month, supplying the whole of NSW as well as itself. Victoria was a bigger rival than Britain, possibly because they received “drawbacks’, i.e.  a refund on duties paid on imported materials used to make clothing when the finished article was re-exported. This system may or may not have been abused. NSW workers lacked union support to ensure fair wages.

The Great Melbourne Fire of 1897 destroyed factories, warehouses,stores, etc causing a temporary increase in orders of clothes from NSW.


In Queensland the industry was young, but there were now several large factories. people taking sub-let work were still prey to “sweating” i.e. low paid, exploitative working conditions. Many factory workers were girls aged 14-20 years.

Post Federation

Federal protective tariffs now applied to all states. The industry remained strong in Victoria, and was growing in other states, although not all appreciated the increased competition.

The Mercury (Hobart), 25th July 1905, page 6.

Bendigo Advertiser (Vic), 24th July 1907, page 2.

The following statistics show the importance and growth of the industry. Note that the definition of a factory is mostly not indicated, so the numbers may not be completely comparable, sorry.


The Herald (Melbourne), 20th November 1918, page 10.

1922-23: 1418 factories employing 28,822 persons in Australia.

Victoria: 1923-33:

The Argus (Melbourne), 10th April 1935 page 10.

1929-30: Australian factories 3915, workers 60,069 , output £11,706,000

1936-37: Australian factories 4259, workers 82,138 , output £14,626,000.

                Victorian factories  1832, 37,953 workers.

1938-9:  Australian factories 4314, 86,092 workers, output £49,343,000

                Victorian Output £999,288

Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld), 9th October 1941 page 7.

Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld), 9th October 1941 page 7. 

1944-5:  Australian factories  4773 with 86,391 workers, output £59,343,000. Included were tailors, boot and shoe factories, dressmaking, shirt & collars &etc, dyeworks & cleaning.


             NSW   2095 factories  (workers >=4)  34,668 people 

              VIC     1817                                              35,899

              QLD    288                                                  6,210

              SA       290                                                  5,574

              WA     226                                                   3,335

             TAS       57                                                      815


1950-51: clothing output £145,720,000  verses imports: £14,072,000 textiles and £95,986,000

1952-53: The average number of workers fell by 10,000 from the previous year. Output fell to £111,500,000 due to competition from imports, according to the industry.

An article in 1965 stsed that the workforce had stayed almost constant over the previous 15 years. The industry was still heeavily protected at this time. Areas that faced competition from imports were mainly for cotton and synthetic textiles. Spinning and weaving had undergone considerable automation from 1960, and high speed knitting machines for hosiery and knitted goods had been introduced.

The Canberra Times, 2nd October 1965, page 14.



2nd January 2021

The story of the clothing and textile industry in Australia: part 2


Leather was being produced in the colonies from 1803. Kangaroo skin made a light and durable leather, but there was initially a dearth of supply of the stronger cattle hides needed to make sole leather.

Hobart Town Gazette, 9th June 1827 page 4.

Bairnsdale Advertiser and Tambo and Omeo Chronicle (Vic), 20th January 1898 page 2.

The leather industry  was significant from the early 19th century onwards, but declined in the mid 20th century as synthetic leather became popular and cheaper. Kangaroo leather is still being produced and exported. It is in high demand in the footwear industry.



Hyde Park Barracks , Sydney Living Museum: image of convict shoe.

This advertising shows that this industry started early.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 12th June 1803 page 1.

Convict’s shoes wore out quickly due to the harsh conditions. As well as producing convicts’ shoes, convict shoe-makers were able to accept private commissions and could continue in the trade upon release. The gentleman of the above advertisment could have been an example of this. However, most shoes were imported until the 1830s. Reportedly, locally made shoes were more expensive, but better quality. First the British, and then the Americans, exported mass produced, machine produced footwear, which, until tariffs were introduced, could be imported cheaper than locally made product.

Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney), 22nd April 1899. Dennis Gillespie started a boot factory in Goulburn in 1842. In 1851 his son Charles took over. In 1899 he employed 200 people. To compete with American imports he had to buy expensive new machinery.

As supply of good quality leather became reliable by the beginning of the 20th century, footwear was produced across Australia. As with so much else, the War saw production swing over to military requirements, with an increase in employment.

Daily Post (Hobart), 15th June 1916 page 7.

The Sydney Morning Herald, 20th February 1920 page 6.

The Herald (Melbourne), 14th January 1930 page 8.

The Great Depression saw many firms fail, although some companies survived and thrived as our population grew.

Daily Standard (Brisbane), 11th May 1931 page 12.

The Age (Melbourne), 1st January 1935 page 10.

The Age (Melbourne), 1st January 1935 page 10.

The West Australian (Perth), 2nd June 1941 page 4.

The Mercury (Hobart), 2nd June 1951 page 12. Note the patronising “men and girls”.

This growth continued until the reduction in tariffs in the 1980-90s. Only about 12% of footwear sold now is locally made.

Tribune (Sydney), 3rd December 1986 page 5.


1st January 2021

The story of the clothing and textile industry in Australia: part 1


Cotton has been grown in Australia since 1788, but not successfully on a large scale until the 1960s. Most Australian cotton is grown in New South Wales and Southern Queensland and then exported. A small amount of organic Australian-made cotton fabric is  produced.

A newspaper article in 1919 stated that Australia was not producing cotton, linen or silk.

Woollen cloth

From the early days when convict tailor’s convict uniforms as part of their punishment and rehabilitation, the clothing industry was to grow in size and importance. An early part of the industry was the establishment of the wool trade. In August 1803 Governor King appointed a Scottish convict weaver to run a weaving establishment. This was the beginning of an organised woollen industry in Australia, although female convicts had been spinning and weaving before this.  Sheep had been brought out with the first fleet in 1788.

By the 1820s, cloth was being manufactured in the colonies, and settlers were spinning their fleece into course cloth for home use. However, most Australian wool was exported to the English milling town to be made into cloth ready to be imported back into Australia.

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW), 14th January 1828 page 2.

In 1827 a Tasmanian journalist, trying to encourage local trades and manufacture for the  colony, and in light of depressed prices for wool in the British market at that time, stated “that a better thing in the outset could not possibly be started than a Cloth Manufactory, established on an extensive and effective scale.”

The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW), 15th April 1843 page 22.  This was part of a discussion about the desirability of establishing a cloth factory near Maitland.

Another journalist in 1853 bemoaned the situation, encouraging local capitalists to put their money into local manufacturing, and to pay for experienced labour to come out to Australia. He noted that tweed was already being made here, so other cloth could surely be made profitably? This type of argument would be repeated many times; surely cloth/pearl buttons/casein/etc could be made here competitively, due to the large distances and costs involved in exporting to the other side of the world and then re-importing? Often it turned out that no, without import tariffs, they couldn’t. They couldn’t compete against established and experienced mass producers with their lowly paid work forces.

None the less over the next 70 years woollen mills were set up around Australia, near to wherever flocks were grazed. As well as Parramatta (from 1803), there were mills in Launceston (from 1874), Geelong (from 1868), Melbourne, Lobethal ( from 1872), Ballarat (from 1871), Lithgow (from 1857), Hobart (from 1883), and more.

The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW ), 28th June 1902 page 1624. Marrickville Woollen Mills. Wool sorting.

Marrickville Woollen Mills. Worsted Combing and Spinning,

In 1910 tariffs were introduced to protect and encourage local industry. It also had the side-effect of encouraging foreign companies to set up factories here so as not to be priced out of the local market.

From a longer article about industry and tariffs in the Sunday Times (Sydney), 29th June 1924 page 3. In 1939 a proposal to reduce duties on woollen piece goods was defeated. The tariff was necessary  “to offset prejudice (that) still exists in some quarters against Australian cloths.”

The West Australian(Perth), 25th September 1929 page 10. It was all so easy; just buy Australian. Then why were tariffs needed?

The Australian textile industry grew quickly in the 1920s, but the due to the great depression half the woollen mills in Australia either shut, or reduced capacity.

The Brisbane Courier, 27th February 1931 page 9.

The Age (Melbourne), 8th September 1931 page 8.

The boom in demand caused by WW1 and WW2  lead to large increases in employment in the industry. However, from the 1970-90s, tariffs were reduced, and the industry went into decline. They could have only survived by increasing already high tariffs which would had driven up the already inflated local prices. Many factories and mills have closed.

The Canberra Times, 2nd March 1978 page 17: Exerts from an article titled “Tariffs – protecting jobs or profits?”. According to the article, footwear was the 4th most profitable manufacturing industry, yet paid its workers only 82% of the average manufacturing wage despite a tariff of 45%. Knitting mills and clothing was 8th most profitable yet workers received 77% of the average wage despite protection worth 70%.

For examples of buttons linked to some of these firms, see  http://www.austbuttonhistory.com/branded-buttons/branded-buttons-manufacturers/




31st December 2020

Another Golden Fleece uniform swap card.

Australian Women’s Army Service

On the back of the card: ‘ By performing such tasks as clerks, signallers, drivers, cooks, orderlies, typists, telephonists, mechanics and A.A. crews, these gallant women released soldiers for active duty. The A.W.A.S. was disbanded in 1946, the newly formed Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps, or W.R.A.A.C., carrying in its splendid tradition.’ I’m not sure you needed to be gallant (brave/heroic) to do those tasks.


This service was inaugurated in 1941 to allow women to fill jobs within the army so that men could be released for active duty. Over 20,000 women were part of the A.W.A.S. during WW2, in such roles as  clerks, typists and cooks, drivers, signallers, and provosts (military police). It  was disbanded in 1947, but some of the personnel went on to join the new Women’s Royal Australian Army in 1951.



30th December 2020

More Golden Fleece uniform swap cards

Australian Flying Corps

On the back of the card: ‘In November 1914, the A.F.C. sent two aircraft to serve in New Guinea, so becoming the first Dominion air corps on active service. In April, 1915, the half flight sailed for Bombay to fight the Turks in Mesopotamia. Other squadrons followed. Many of our famous aviation pioneers flew with the Australian Flying Corps.’

In 1912 the Australian Army ordered its first aircraft and appointed its first pilots. The first flying school was set up at Point Cook, Victoria, the following year. At first known as the Australian Aviation Corps, the Australian Flying Corps was the forerunner of the Australian Air Corps formed in 1919, then the RAAF, established in 1921. The AFC saw action in Mesopotania, Palestine and France during WW1.

Commonwealth Of Australia Gazette, 21st January 1926 page 61.

The example of the uniform tunics in the AWM collection have the general AMF buttons with the map of Australia. ( see http://www.austbuttonhistory.com/defence-forces-uniform-buttons/1901-ww2/  )

Australian War Memorial #REL36707. AFC officer’s service dress tunic.

Chronicle (Adelaide), 20th May 1916 page 27.

Sydney Mail, 20th December 1916 page