Some craft projects where buttons are the feature by June Kosier, of the Mohawk Valley Button Club.
Some craft projects where buttons are the feature by June Kosier, of the Mohawk Valley Button Club.
By Pat Silvernail, Elmira Button Club
“Some thrillers are so far-fetched that they lose all semblance of reality. This is a true-to-life mystery; not too fantastic to be plausible but tremendously exciting throughout. It combines lively action with likable characters, realistic atmosphere–and a surprising ending.” This is the description taken from the book jacket and the book does indeed have a surprise ending!
Also from the book jacket – Dorothy Foster Brown was born in 1901 and lived in Worcester, Massachusetts. Her interests were wide and varied. As an artist (she graduated from the School of the Worcester Art Museum), she exhibited paintings in various cities. Her poetry appeared in the better magazines and on greeting cards of her own design. Her interest in stamp and button collecting led to her becoming a regular contributor to the magazine, HOBBIES. GRIMM DEATH, which reflects a deep attachment to the rural New England way of life, was the first of what was confidently expected to be a succession of first-rate mystery stories. ( This was her only mystery novel).
Before “The Big Book of Buttons” was first published in 1981, there was “Button Parade” published in 1942 and revised in 1968. The Lightner Publishing Company of Chicago, publisher of the famous HOBBIES magazine, issued the first edition of this book written and illustrated by Miss Brown. Mr. Lightner had many hobbies and went on to establish the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida which does indeed have a button collection in its many exhibits. Miss Brown did not write a technical book devoted to button composition and manufacturing. Rather, she looked at buttons from the human side because they are beautiful, interesting or amusing or from the standpoint of Art, Beauty and Human Interest. The author had a true collectors love for craftsmanship and detail as represented in the some 2,000 buttons shown–each painstakingly drawn by Miss Brown.
Dorothy Foster Brown became a button enthusiast in 1933 when pioneer collectors in New Hampshire introduced her parents to the hobby. Her mother was a teacher and her father an artist and designer. She started contributing button articles and drawings to HOBBIES in 1938. At the time, it was the world’s most famous publication devoted to Antiques. Miss Brown also devoted much of her time to history, liked mystery novels and Dickens and was an avid baseball fan. “I enjoy buttons” she wrote, “and I also enjoy the good friends and interesting acquaintances I have made through the hobby. But I endeavor to keep a sense of proportion: I refuse to become too serious about buttons, or to let them become too important in my scheme of things. After all, there are so many interesting things in the world!”
Miss Brown’s South High Yearbook photo includes the quote “Better to wear out than to rust out”. She was always on the honor roll and it was said she could out-talk every pupil and nearly every teacher on the subject of “War”. She spent most of her time in the art room where her fame was firmly established. In 1952, she sent a letter to a Mrs. Gibson in Worcester and enclosed four buttons she had painted– two of them were Jenny Lind, one was a snowman and one had a helmeted woman and said “Rule Britannia”. She said they were individualized and she never knew how they would come out.
Her death date is listed as “Unknown”. She is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Leominster, Massachusetts. A lovely monument has her parents’ names and dates but her name has only 1901–. One of the auction houses selling her artwork said she was 119. Her paintings are lovely, very much in the Art Deco style.
Images found at the findagrave.com website.
Famous Rochesterian Was A Member of the Rochester Button Society
By Linda Hickey, Rochester Button Society
Did you know that Margaret Woodbury Strong was a member of the Rochester (NY) Button Society?
Margaret Woodbury Strong, the only child of the wealthy, philanthropic Woodbury family joined the RBS in 1958 and was a member until her death in 1969. Margaret, whose only child passed away as a young adult had established a private museum to house her many extensive collections and she endowed the museum (now known as the Strong Museum) with her large fortune.
Born in 1897, Margaret started her collecting with a silver spoon that was a baptism gift. Her father collected stamps and coins and documented his life, extensive travels and times with many scrapbooks. Her mother collected 19th century Japanese objects d’art and her aunt collected bookplates. By age 11 Margaret had spent 6 month traveling in Japan, had also done an extensive European tour and spent another 6 months on a tour of Hawaii, Shanghai, Ceylon, Egypt and the French Riviera. Along the way she used her spending money to purchase small souvenir items. She preferred small items because she could get more items for her money and they took up less space in her suitcases than larger items. This interest in miniature and small items continued throughout the remainder of her life.
In 1920, at the age of 23, she married 45-year-old Homer Strong who happened to collect stamps and Sandwich glass. Her well-to-do parents gifted him with a significant amount of money upon the marriage so that it wouldn’t be said that they had to live off her money. In 1937 they purchased the 51 acre Tuckaway Farm and its 20,000 sq ft Italianate stucco mansion on Allen’s Creek Rd adjacent to Oak Hills Country Club. Since Margaret was an avid golfer who had won many national tournaments living close to a country club was important. The large secluded house had 30 rooms, 15 bedrooms, an indoor pool and an elevator. Though Margaret always collected items, it wasn’t until after the deaths of her daughter (at age 24) and of Homer in 1958 that Margaret truly devoted her life to her collections and her private “Museum of Fascination.” It has been said that she had the three qualities of a world class collector; 1) passion, 2) money, and 3) a place to store the collections.
Margaret was known for several quirks such as never wearing a girdle but always wearing a hat and only paying bills on January 1 each year. She wanted to earn as much interest money as possible each year and refused to deal with any shop owner or business that wouldn’t let her pay just once a year. One of the oddest set of items in her collections was the 50 bath tubs she purchased from an old hotel in Maine. She had the gardener line the tubs up along the driveway to her Maine summer home and used them as flower planters. She also got various artists to decorate the outside of the tubs so each one was unique.
At the time of her death her estate listed the following significant collections:
Since her interests were mainly in miniatures or small scale, highly decorative mass-produced Victorian and Edwardian items it makes sense that she was interested in buttons. Unfortunately for the button collecting world, Strong Museum decided that buttons were not where they wanted to put the museum’s focus so the majority of Margaret’s button collection was sold at auction.
On June 8, 1968 Margaret hosted the Rochester, Buffalo and Genesee Buttons Clubs at her home for a gala lunch (catered by Oak Hills) and tour of her museum to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Rochester Button Society. Sadly Margaret passed away just over a year later on July 16, 1969.
Below is a card of some Margaret Woodbury Strong’s Buttons that are part of Norma Brown’s collection today. Thanks Norma for sharing!
Information gathered from Strong Museum website, Crooked Lake Review website by local historian Donovan A. Shilling and RBS historical files.
Book By Elinor Graham, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1946.
Reviewed by June Kosier, June 2020
I recently found this book in a box of books under my bed while cleaning during the quarantine. I don’t remember buying it but it contained a button dealer’s card. I called him up and he told me he had his store in the 1990’s. The price was $5. The same book is selling on Amazon now for $14. (I wouldn’t pay that much for it.)
Elinor Graham was an actress and teacher before she moved to Maine after getting married. Her maiden name was Elinor Mish and she lived in Hagerstown, Maryland.
Before she became a button collector, Elinor was a gardener. One day she finds a button from the Revolutionary War in the dirt. She is next given some buttons from a charm string and thus gets hooked on button collecting. She often visits neighbors and lets them know she is looking for buttons. She never seems to pay more than $10 for a button, but acquires many of her buttons through trades or as out-right gifts.
I have an interest in George Washington Inaugural buttons. One day Elinor is given a second inaugural button. She had previously been offered one for ten dollars and did not buy it. It was a flat copper button with “G. W.” at the center and “Long Live the President” in block letters at the top in a semicircle. Today, the button is worth between $5000 and $6000. This is why I do not have any of those buttons.
I found the book to be rather folksy. What is interesting is how button collecting was accomplished before the days of eBay. I also did not learn anything useful about buttons or button collecting. In the end, Mrs. Graham gives up button collecting and that is how the book ends.
I am Gretel of the button world. Let me explain.
A few years ago, I was to drive my car in the Troy, NY Flag Day parade for the Van Rensselaer Chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution). My car was new and blue. We decorated it with red, white and blue patriotic decorations including Uncle Sam images and especially flags. Troy, NY is the official home of Uncle Sam.
I had the brilliant idea (much to my husband’s dismay) to decorate my license plate holder frames with red, white and blue buttons. I included Uncle Sam, flag and DAR letter buttons. They looked great.
After that, I decorated the frames with flower buttons for the summer. (My husband just loved switching the holders for me each time.) It never occurred to me to make Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas or even winter license plate frames. I guess I better get busy and make Easter ones now.
The flower holders are still on the car with what buttons haven’t fallen off. My driveway is full of flower buttons which I intend to pick up and re glue on my current frames once the weather cooperates.
When I describe my car to someone who I am meeting, I always say “It is a blue Mazda with buttons around the license plate.” I don’t think there are many cars like this.
I recently went to the cemetery where my father is buried to change the winter flowers on his grave to spring flowers. As I opened the car door, I had to laugh. There on the ground was one of the flower buttons off my license plate frames. I was soon standing in the cemetery laughing my head off.
I have visions of roadways that I frequent with my flower buttons along the way. Since I don’t have GPS, I guess I will be able to backtrack home, if I get lost, following the buttons.
June Kosier of East Greenbush, NY shared a few examples of how buttons are playing a small part in helping in face mask comfort in a big way.
If you’ve ever worn a face mask, it doesn’t take long to realize that the elastic around the ears can pull, rub and hurt.
Enter the button!
Two face mask related button uses have been in the news lately to help in the prevention of pain and injury to one’s ears.
First, by medical personnel who found that if buttons are sewn to the sides of a headband, the elastic loops of the face mask can be pulled around the buttons on the headband, thus saving ears from pain and irritation.
Second, a method where a short strap with buttons sewn on each end are secured near the base of one’s neck. Pull the mask loops around the buttons and the pressure is off the ears. One woman from Flushing New York makes crocheted straps. The straps can also be made from any soft fabric such as a ribbon or flannel.
With the announcement on April 15th that Governor Cuomo will issue an executive order requiring all people in New York to wear masks or face coverings in public, mask comfort will matter to more people.
Check out the helpful links for making face masks, headbands and straps. I personally made a few child and adult sized face masks following Leah’s tutorial.
By June Kosier of East Greenbush, NY
Do you know what koumpounophobia is? I bet you don’t and until recently, neither did I. I was amazed to find out what it is and even more stunned to know that there is such a fear especially since I collect the objects that are feared and belong to a club that centers around the objects—–buttons.
The word Koumpounophobia is derived from the Latin Koumpouno, meaning buttons, and Greek, phobos, meaning fear. This phobia is experienced by almost one in every 75,000 people. People suffering from Koumpounophobia tend to avoid clothes with buttons. Just the thought, discussion or sight of buttons can trigger a full-blown anxiety attack. A traumatic event in childhood may trigger this fear. Choking on a button, having grandma’s button box fall from a closet shelf spilling on one’s head, or having difficulty fastening buttons on one’s clothes leading to bullying are examples of such incidences. Childhood abuse by someone wearing buttons can also trigger this phobia. Some people may have koumpounophobia triggered by an event they cannot even remember.
There is a novel, Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, which was also made into a movie in which the lead character, Coraline, develops koumpounophobia. Coraline discovers a parallel universe with sinister characters resembling her parents but having buttons for eyes.
There are different signs and symptoms of people with koumpounophobia. Some are afraid of all types of buttons. Some are afraid of buttons made of a certain material, such as plastic. In extreme cases, saying the word “buttons” or writing it down can send a koumpounophobic into hysteria. Some become nauseated with a button encounter. Some won’t attend formal events because there will be participants wearing clothing with buttons. Some individuals wash their hands repeatedly upon touching buttons unknowingly.
A famous person with this phobia was Steve Jobs. Do you ever remember seeing Mr. Jobs in a shirt with buttons? No, he always wore turtlenecks. Because of his koumpounophobia, the Apple Pro Mouse and the Magic Mouse don’t have an actual looking button, and iOS devices didn’t come with many buttons like traditional phones.
Fortunately, I don’t know anyone with this phobia. My home is filled with knickknacks made with buttons and I often put buttons on my needlework. At Christmas time, I have a tree decorated with ornaments made with buttons. I also make and wear jewelry made out of buttons. I have earrings, rings, bracelets and pins made with buttons. Coming to my home would be a nightmare for a koumpounophobic.
There are two button sayings which are: “Button, button who’s got the button?” and “Cute as a button.” I guess a koumpounophobic would not have a button nor consider any button cute.
By June Kosier of East Greenbush, NY
I was born in 1905 in Muscatine, Iowa and I was one of 1.5 billion of my kind born there that year. My mother was a freshwater mollusk found in the Mississippi river and harvested by one of the town’s citizens in a flat-bottom boat. I was cut, drilled and polished by machine and that was a bit scary. I am a cool dude. If you hold me next to your face, you will feel how cool a dude I am. I was put on a small card with five others just like me and sent to a dry goods store.
About six months later, the card was purchased by a farmer’s wife. She spent her time at night knitting and we were put on a white sweater she knitted and there we remained for about 40 years. The sweater got old and raggedy because the farmer’s wife wore that sweater almost every day; all day in the winter and during cool summer evenings.
In 1946, her granddaughter got married. The six of us were sewn on to the back of her wedding dress which was made by her mother. There was a lovely church ceremony and a reception in a hall afterwards. All the guests brought a covered dish or dessert and there was dancing with a paid band. The bride was complimented on her wedding dress and especially the six buttons on the back. Everyone mentioned how beautiful we were and how we stood out when she stood at the altar with her back to the guests. The bride told everyone who complimented her that the wedding gown was made by her mother and her grandmother gave her the buttons.
A year later, the new wife had a baby. For some reason, she cut up her wedding dress and made a Christening gown for her child. Us buttons were put in to service again. That Christening gown was worn by nine babies in all; seven boys and two girls.
When the girls got married in a double ceremony, their mother gave each of them three of us for their wedding gowns. This time we were used on the front of the dresses. There we stayed for another 20 years.
Then the daughter of one of the girls took her mother’s dress and had it remade into a more modern wedding dress with no buttons. I was one of the buttons removed from the original wedding gown. We were put into a metal can for safe keeping. The can of buttons was recently sold at a garage sale and the buyer is sending all of us to the Holocaust Museum in Visalia, California. They are collecting 6 million buttons, one for every person who was killed in the Holocaust. They want school children visiting the museum to see just how many 6 million is. It is a very worthwhile project. I suspect this will be my home for many years.
I have had an interesting life. I have been a family member for over a century and now I will be part of a museum.
About June: June belongs to the Mohawk Valley Button Club. She started collecting buttons back in the 90’s to use in her counted cross stitch projects, but got really busy collecting around 2004 after she retired. June lives in East Greenbush, NY.
Looking for a fun idea for an upcoming club meeting? Consider a hunt for the ugliest button. The Fingerlakes Button Club did just that.
At the June meeting, members enjoyed presenting their ugliest button for consideration, and everyone got to vote for their favorite. The vote ended in a tie until the mail carrier stepped in and broke it.
Kathy Doody took home the coveted award. The rule is that the winner must keep the award on display in their home for all visitors to see for one year. Then she will bring it back for the next person who wins.
Last week Linda Hickey of the Rochester Button Club was invited to give a talk to residents in the town of Irondequoit on the history of buttons and why people love to collect them as a hobby.
Most everyone knows of at least one family member who has a jar or stash of buttons in their house. But how often do people think about where the button came from, or who wore the button? This everyday object is treated much like a worthless penny. But when one considers how long the button and other closures have been around, the vast quantities, and multitude of materials a button is created from, one starts to think about a button in a more appreciative way.
When Linda presents, it’s not a ‘death by PowerPoint’ slide presentation. Linda supplements her talks with her own personal collection of buttons, books and crafts that she displays on several tables making it easy for her to show real examples of the various types of buttons collectors love. She has everything from metal picture buttons to bone underwear buttons. And Linda encourages attendees to pick them up for a closer look.
Where a lot of collectors look for ‘pretty’ buttons, Linda likes buttons that she believes most people would consider ugly. She also prefers collecting more modern buttons. Despite what she likes to collect, she has a big selection of many types of antique, vintage and current day buttons on cards. Everything from calico buttons, military buttons, celluloid, Bakelite, glass of all colors, vegetable ivory, bone, horn, shell, and then all of the various metals – brass, silver, pewter… the types are endless. In her talk she shares what was popular during various centuries and what’s popular today.
At this session, the attendees expressed a new found appreciation for buttons, and all agreed it was a presentation worth hearing and a hobby worth considering.
If you are interested in having a button club member provide a similar demonstration about buttons, don’t hesitate to contact a club president in your area. The New York State Button Society Presidents are listed in this website under ” Our Clubs.”