12th November 2021

Tailors’ Buttons

Dead-eye buttons

Have you heard of these? They are buttons drilled with 3 holes. The name may have come from the “dead-eyes”, which were 3 -holed wooden blocks used as part of a ship’s rigging.

Made of bone or metal,they were used for naval uniforms in the 19th century. According to a 2008  article from Australian Archeology, female convicts at the Parramatta “Female Factory”  were supplied with dead-eye buttons in the 1830s-40s to sew onto prison clothing such as frocks, shirts, trousers and jackets.

Bone dead-eye buttons made in Parramatta.

The following is a tender request for sewing items including these buttons. Similar requests appeared in Australian newspapers from 1824 until 1852

The Courier (Hobart), 11th March 1842 page 2.