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History of an ordinary (not "Red"!) button

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170907.  Mon Apr 30, 2007 10:41 am Reply with quote

Q: When did buttons first appear on clothing?
F; A common trivial pursuit notion is that it happened about 600 years ago


Buttons have been known to exist as far back as the Bronze age when they were worn as ornamentation. They were used to decorate belts and other metal objects. Primitive man used thorn and sinew to hold clothing together. Bone stick pins were also used. With the introduction of metals came metal pins.

The Eqyptians used cloth ties and broaches or buckles to hold their clothes together.

The Greeks and Romans are thought to have worn buttons to actually fasten clothes.

The 13th century saw form-fitting clothes come into vogue and buttons became necessary as fasteners.

For a long time buttons were a status symbol and men competed to see who could have the best, the largest or the most intricate buttons. They were used by the nobility and made of silver and gold. Buttons were made with exquisite paintings on them. They were carved, inlaid, stamped and covered. Craftsmen were hired just to make buttons.

Francis I (1494-1547) had 13,600 gold buttons on a single costume.

1700's - metal buttons were used and button covering was created. Metal threads were wound about a button in intricate patterns. Miniature scenes were painted on ivory or glass buttons. Some buttons were engraved and inlaid with silver.

The French court was notorious for button displays. Louis XIV (1638-1715) had silver-covered bone buttons on the uniforms of his soldiers.

1750 - Caspar Wistar, a German immigrant, made brass buttons in Philadelphia.

Louis XVI (1754-1793) had courtiers who used buttons to outdo each other.

1775 - metal buttons worn on the revolutionary war uniforms were actually imported from France.

1812 - war blockage led to American industry - Aaron Benedict, Waterbury, CT, bought every brass pot and pan he could get and rolled buttons in his own mill.

Covered buttons were introduced in America by S. H. Williston, Easthampton, MA.

1840's - hard rubber buttons were tried but they didn't work very well.

Celluloid, a synthetic, was developed to replace ivory .

Regency novels often refer to "tapes" used to hold young ladies dresses together at the same time young men are often disparaged because they had "buttons the size of dinner plates" on their jackets and waistcoats.

Buttons were so expensive that buttons would be rescued from old garments and used on new garments. Covered buttons remain available today - a piece of fabric can be tucked around the "teeth" of the back and the metal button snaps together. They allow sewers to make buttons that match the fabric they are using.

There are also button "covers": that can be put over plain buttons to "dress up" a garment.

I guess the bottom line is that it evolved from primitive and earlier man.



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