Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

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February 21, 2019 Kirsten Feigel

Written by John G. Sayers



We have. And we love it. There are junctions where ephemera collectors and other collectors cross paths. This button card is at one of those intersections.

The button collector is going to yawn and say, “Ho hum.” The buttons are intact but the set is plain and unremarkable. However, the ephemera enthusiast will incandesce and say “Wow! What a story.” Yes, it’s a delightful drawing of a young man. And it’s clearly an advertisement for Lady Washington Pearls, implying that these are pearl buttons. And clearly anything to do with Martha Washington – and pearls - has to be upper class.”

But look beyond that. In an era when many people were still relatively illiterate, the image told the shopper that these were shirt buttons. Specifically, shirt buttons for men’s dress shirts that they were making on their Singer sewing machine.

More importantly it showed them that the two larger buttons were for the shirt cuffs, and the smaller buttons were for the front of the shirt that they were making.

And upper class people who golfed appear to have worn shirts with these buttons, according to the drawing. Note that the apparent hole in the golfer’s head is not related to the image but is for the card to be mounted on a display!

The image implied that these were for the stylish, sophisticated modern man who played golf, an upper class sport. If the flag stick wasn’t enough of a hint, the golf club spoke loud and clear.

You’ve heard the expression, “Button, button, who’s got the button?”. Well, we have the button and it’s a charming piece of historical social and marketing ephemera!

John G. Sayers (jasayers@saybuck.com)


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