I never dreamed buttons could be so fascinating!
We acquired bags of old brass military buttons when we opened our shop. Upon first glance at them, I said, “These are very old and very cool! I bet they are worth something.”
So, I recently started a little research. Each button contains its own story of where it was made and how it was used. Soon, I discovered lists of dates of back-marks, information on when some short-lived button and clothing makers were in business, and started recognizing patterns in the myriad of variations of buttons with eagles on them.
We’re finding that many people many people love buttons: from button collectors, special-interest collectors such as railroad and military enthusiasts, to re-enactors and costume historians and even those who just appreciate the history of great craftsmanship involved in a lovely utilitarian item.
Ontario and Western Railway in existence between 1889 and 1925 and Jas. N Petrie shows up in Chicago Records in 1889. These seem to be early in the railway’s short life. I have seen nothing like it searching other railway buttons of the era.
Previous to 1871 the Canada Militia was a local organization which became country wide when the colony organized under Great Britain. P. Tait originally from Scotland, moved to Limerick Ireland and began a clothiers shop. Tait was a supplier of clothing and buttons for the Confederate army and other organizations needing uniforms. He went out of business in 1875. The button is in good condition for its age on the front but the shank is crushed.
Civil War Confederate buttons identified the wearer’s troop: C for Cavalry, I for Infantry, E for Engineer and A for Artillery. These buttons are unmarked but are solid pewter which was common for the Civil War Era and the lathe marks and drilled hole rather than a shank help verify its antiquity. These buttons are in excellent shape and are non-dug.
The double eagle and crown are a dead giveaway of the provenance of these buttons. The double eagle has long been a Tsarist symbol of Russia and the crown indicates that it is of the Imperial era, prior to WWI. The Sigmund Eisner Company specialized in uniforms in Red Bank, New Jersey, the company handled contracts for the United States government as well as several foreign governments.
This button shows the New York State Seal with the eagle over a shield with a rising sun and the stars and stripes. This was intended for New York units. This was a post-Civil War manufacture and buttons marked by Boylan date from between 1864 through the 1880’s. The shank is bent but usable.
This button, also an Excelsior Eagle of New York State is slightly earlier, possibly towards the end of the Civil War and made by the Waterbury Scovill Manufacturers. Waterbury is still in existence today and its backmarks can be dated by the variations in the marks. This can be solidly dated between 1850-1865 because of the star and apostrophe on the mark.
This button represents a bit of Seattle history. In 1891, a cable car connected the ferry terminal on Puget Sound to Madison Park on Lake Washington that ran the entire length of Madison Street. The cable car ran for nearly 50 year and was replaced by buses in 1940. This button is quite rare and I have found no other examples of it. References to Henry Newman Co date him to the late 1800’s
Started in 1854 in San Francisco, B. PASQUALE COMPANY (Benoit Pasquale) was the only manufacturers of “Army and Navy Equipment and Uniforms” on the pacific coast. U.S. Naval reserves began in 1915 and still exists today. Chances are this is an early 20thcentury button as evidence of the B. Pasquale Company disappears from records after WWII. This button shows an earlier version of the backmark.
The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization which began in 1866 for veteran Union soldiers of the Civil War. There is no backmark and the maker is unknown but we know they are made between 1866 and 1900 as those are the dates of existence of the organization. These buttons are in good condition with varying patina, all have shanks, some are soldered and some are loose but all are intact and usable.
Two Unmarked 7/8″ and 28 5/8″ brass button covers Northern Pacific Railroad. Good condition. These seem to be unusual as we have been unable to find other examples of these specific button covers. Being that there is no back mark, we can only estimate a date and by comparing with other button covers and feel confident that they are likely from late 1800’s to early 20th century. Northern Pacific Railroad was in existence from the 1880’s until the 1970’s.
The Waterbury Button company has been in business since the early 1800’s and has been producing military buttons all through its lifetime. These buttons were manufactured post 1965 for Civil War re-enactors and film purposes.
Officers black buttons with an eagle holding in his beak a scroll with the word ‘Essayons,’a bastion with embrasures in the distance, surrounded by water, and rising sun. “ Essayons” means “Let’s Try” in French. This style button is seen as far back as the Revolutionary war but these are made by Cumner & Jones of Boston so they are either WWI or WW2 vintage.