13th November 2021

Hand Painted Buttons

Even with the advent of complex automatic and semi-automatic drills, presses and lathes that came with the industrial revolution, there remained considerable manual input to the manufacture of small items such as buttons; we now expect thousands to millions to be spat out of fully automated machines with minimal human oversight. Even in the 20th century there were still large numbers of manual workers and artists involved. In 1931 the number of workers were estimated at less than 100; in 1937 at around 500.

Sunday Mail(Qld) 28th May 1939 page 31. The G. Herring can be seen on several of these cards.

The Age (Melbourne), 28th March 1951 page 18.

The Age (Melbourne), 17th February 1953 page 12.

These two buttons have hand-painted detailing; they are found on Coronet Brand cards dating from the 1930-40s. The same designs appear in various colours, with or without painted details.

The lamb is a design found on Woolworths branded cards in the 1950s. The budgerigars are probably imported.

Hand painted detailing was still occasionally to be found on Australian-made buttons into the 1950s and 1960s, but less often. I’m sure housewives no longer wished to remove buttons before washing, and the automatic washers would have have washed off painted details quickly.

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