Michigan Button Society Forms in 1940
Learn about our History Founders Buttons
"Many buttons with beautiful and intricate designs have been worked out with such marvelous technical skill that they are, in a modest way, as credible a work of art as a Greek temple or an Oriental rug. A collection will contain examples of the historic ornament of practically every age and country...
Buttons are not to be so casually dismissed as first thought and first glance may warrant but are worthy of careful attention and just appreciation.
Cited from "The Michigan Button Society" (MBS Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 1)
From the left are founding members, Mrs. E. J. Bishop (Ethel), Mrs. V. E. Stealy (Minnie), Blanch Ward, Edith E. Fuoss, Mrs. H. D. Rankin (Dot), Mrs. Lewis Jones (Nora), Estelle C. Sylvester, and Mrs. Howard J. Brown (Mahala).
Mrs. Martin Fouss (Edith) president in 1942. At this time she had a total of 40,000 buttons in her catologed collection.
Pictured here in 1952 are Marjory Slout, Blanche Quick (MBS President), Mildred McBride, Fannie Williams, and Ethel Bishop (former MBS Founding President). All are preparing cards for the annual convention.
Mrs. Howard Brown (Mahala) 1954 MBS president displaying buttons at the 1954 NBS Convention held in Detroit, MI of which 2000 members were expected to attend.
Michigan Button Society education display at the annual convention in 1946.
Formation of the Michigan Button Society
Sometime prior to May of 1940, eight charter members from surrounding areas in Michigan, interested in collecting clothing buttons, decided to study the history, construction, and the meaning of buttons. And, to do so, they would form the state society. Each year the Hobbies, Crafts, and Pastimes Show, presented by the J. L. Hudson Company, was held on the twelfth floor in the Hudson Auditorium. It was here, in May of 1940, that the Michigan Button Society was formed. Michigan was the first state to form its very own button society. Its formation followed two years after the founding of the National Button Society in 1938, in Chicago.
Mrs. Emery Bishop of Grand Rapids was elected president, Mrs. Lewis Jones of Marshall was elected secretary/treasurer, and Mrs. Martin Fuoss of Saline, was selected as a committee of one, to compile the Constitution and By-Laws. These ladies were from all over the state and so it is not certain as to how they all met, but through various correspondence, they united in their feeling that a society in Michigan was important. It is believed that these button collectors were meeting prior to this hobby show to discuss buttons. The photo of the founding members was taken by Dick Simpson Photography. Standing in front of their big display of buttons are the true button ladies in Michigan.
Maufacturing Process of the Michigan Button
Nora Jones, the editor of the Michigan Button Society bulletin, wrote the manufacturers of the Michigan Button as for a description of how it was made. The following was submitted by the Weyhing Manufacturing Co.
"Originally we used copper, which, of course, is mined in the United States. The copper comes from the mills where it has been converted from the ore to a practically pure metal. The metal comes to us in strips or sheets.
The first operation performed is that small discus are cut out from these sheets the approximate size that the button is to be made. These discs are placed on the top of a steel die carrying the imprint of your button in reverse. A hammer operated by air with a force of approximately fifty tons pounds on this piece of copper forcing it into the steel die making an imprint on the copper disc. When this is done the emblem is removed from the die and heated so it may be softened because as soon as pressure is applied to this metal it becomes hard and must be annealed or heated. After annealing, it is necessary that these emblems be placed in an acid bath to remove the scale caused by the heat. The emblem is then scratch brushed to remove any foreign matter that might be on its face.They are again subject to the striking operation and same heating and scratch brushing performance is repeated. When this is done the emblems are placed in a cutter which trims off the excess metal that is caused by striking of the emblems. From there it goes to the jewelry department where the post is soldered on the back. The emblem then goes to the enameling room where girls fill the portion to be enameled in with a finely ground enamel. These emblems are then placed in ovens and baked until the enamel melts and flows. They are then allowed to cool and when cool are stoned with carborundum stones.
From the enameling department, they go to the finishing department where they are water brushed, buffed and given their proper metal coloring. Of course, with the buttons that do not receive enamel, the enamel operation is entirely eliminated."
MBS Button Strikes
Volume I, issue number V, of the Michigan Button Society bulletin outlines the development of the how the official button for the society came to be. In short, Edith Fuoss, the President of the society at the time was in search of a design for the newly formed club's button. The April 1941 button exhibit was soon to open and Fuoss felt determined to find "something quite beautiful to adorn that button."
Her son was a catalyst to that design. Several Michigan brochures laying around the house inspired her son to point out several different pictures depicting a mitten with a circle around it. That was it. From that day forward, the word of the club was that the Michigan State Button design was chosen for us by the Philadelphia editor of the Saturday Evening Post, for that was his career. Of course, Fuoss seconded his motion.
The second mission would be to have the design drawn up and the material selected. It was at this time a carved Petoskey stone was attempted but was found to be hard to carve. Additionally, a sample was prepared in copper, a principal product of Michigan, and another sample in wood. The meeting vote indicated that the members at the time preferred a metal base of copper. Group I, the Log Cabin Group, felt that part of the upper peninsula should show for the proper portrayal of Michigan.
Two buttons were made by Weyhing Brothers Manufacturing Company in Detroit to show possible sizes. After the choice was made, 100 buttons were produced. They were sold the first day the Michigan Button Exhibit opened in April of 1941. The buttons sold for 42 cents each. All of these buttons were sold. Other society buttons were made by the Weyhing Brothers Manufacturing company throughout the years, however, records of further purchases have not been located.
Weyhing Brothers Manufacturing Company, purchased by Joe Garofolo in 1983, has over 100 years of tooling fine jewelry, awards, pins, class rings, and custom badges. Chances are if you graduated near the Detroit area, your class ring was made by the Weyhing Brothers. This family brought generations of tooling experience of fine jewelry and precious metals by hand from Germany. Recently, in 2014, Weyhing Brothers was purchased by Smith and Warren mainly for the sole purpose of producing public safety badge dies. According to an employee of Smith and Warren, “All other dies and tools were left with the previous owners who eventually sold the building. Any dies and tools that were left in the building were most likely scrapped, but I am not certain.” Unfortunately, the Michigan Button Society’s die made in 1941 has been lost. Most likely destroyed or scrapped.