Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Buttons - History and Facts
Button-like objects have been found in the Indus Valley of ancient Pakistan and date back to around 2000 B.C.E. These were not used for fasteners, but for ornaments. Before they were used for fastening, pins, leather lacing and belts were used to secure clothing.
Before buttons could be used as fasteners, the button hole had to be devised.
Evidence dates the first button and button hole closure systems to the 13th century in Germany. This may have been a solution to the problem of how to secure clothing that was becoming more and more form-fitting, without having to resort to sharp pins.
As with most anything that is new, they became a fad. Buttons and button holes covered the clothing of the well to do. The number of them and what they were made out of became a status symbol. It has been rumored that King Louis XIV of France spent over $5 million on them in his lifetime.
Ever wonder why men's suit coats have non-functioning buttons sewn on the sleeves? Some say they are just for decoration, but there is also the story that King Frederick The Great of Prussia started the practice in the 18th century. The rumor goes that after an inspection of his troops, he ordered that buttons be sewn on the sleeves of their coats to discourage them from wiping their noses on them!
The Scovill Manufacturing Company in America made a set of gold buttons with the profile of George Washington on them that were presented to Marquis de Lafayette during his U.S. visit in 1824.
With the increased cost of ivory in the 19th century, button manufacturers began to make them out of a nut from a specific kind of palm tree in South America. This is called vegetable ivory, or corozo. When the nut is dried, it is a very reasonable facsimile for genuine ivory, and is still used today.
The first buttons made from celluloid, one of the first types of plastics, were made in the 1860's.
Before World War One, most button manufacturing was done in Europe, specifically England. After the war, the United States became the center of button making until modern times.