Button cards (6), mixed materials, made by Olney Amsden & Sons Ltd, London, England, 1925
Buttons reflect the technology, materials and fashion of the time they were produced. They have been in existence since ancient times. In the past their purpose was mainly ornamental and they were made by a craftspeople, quite different to their mass produced utilitarian function today.
The buttonhole was invented in the thirteenth century, replacing loop fastening. This is when buttons began to be produced in large quantities and the modern button began (1). The eighteenth century is considered to be the 'golden age' of buttons with flourishing industries beginning in France and Britain. The Industrial Revolution expanded the button industry and numbers of buttons being produced.
These button cards are an example of British package design from 1925. Decorative button cards were a convenient way to sell and display buttons. The buttons reveal the styles and materials that were available and fashionable at the time. Buttons are generally no longer sold on decorative cards and most buttons are mass produced and utilitarian. Many buttons in this collection are decorative, signifying the changes in the last eighty years in the production and purpose of buttons.
(1) Whittemore, Joyce, 'The book of buttons: A practical and creative guide to the decorative use of buttons', Sydney: Hodder & Stoughton, 1992.
Button cards made by Olney Amsden & Sons Ltd in London, England, in 1925.
These button cards were owned by Mrs Ella-Nora Smith (nee Seward), who was born in 1904 and died in 2001 at the age of 97. She was the donor's great aunt. Ella was not a seamstress, however like many women of her time could sew and did make some of her own clothes when she was a young woman.
It is likely that Ella obtained these button cards through her work as a secretary/typist in the Sydney Office of the London Times. She worked here until she married at 45. Product samples were sent to Australia with copies of the Times from the United Kingdom. Ella's boss would frequently give some of the samples to her. Samples included haberdashery items such as buttons and ribbons.
Some of the buttons may have been purchased to mend her clothing. Ella worked in Sydney's Central Business District and could have purchased them from one of the department stores at the time such as Farmers or David Jones.