Button Manufacturing and MBS History
"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)
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 that the Michigan Button Society was formed in May of 1940. Michigan was the first state to form its very own button society. Michigan followed two years after the formation of the National Button Society in 1938.
Eight charter members from surrounding Michigan areas, 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.
From the left are founding members, Mrs. E. J. Bishop (Ethel), Mrs. V. E. Stealy (Minnie), Blanch Ward, Edith E. Fouss, Mrs. H. D. Rankin (Dot), Mrs. Lewis Jones (Nora), Estelle C. Sylvester, and Mrs. Howard J. Brown (Mahala).
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 above was taken by Dick Simpson Photography. Standing in front of their big display of buttons are the true button ladies in Michigan, no doubt.
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 Brother's Manufacturing company throughout the years, however, records of further purchases have not been located.
Weyhing Brother’s 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 Brother’s. This family brought generations of tooling experience of fine jewelry and precious metals by hand from Germany. Recently, in 2014, Weyhing Brother’s was purchased by Smith and Warren mainly for the purpose of producing public safety badge dies. According to Galperin 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. Perhaps it is time for our society to move forward and create a new exciting button for button collectors to add to his or her collection.
After the initial buttons were sold, it was decided to make more buttons. In December of 1941, the second order was completed. This batch of only 50 buttons incorporated blue enameling of the Great Lakes. The button was burnished to a higher degree giving it a bronze-like color. These buttons were sold for 68 cents.
Made in 1946, the third strike of the Michigan Button once again had a slightly different appearance. This button was enameled with a dark blue and a copper-colored body. These buttons sold for 65 cents for members living in Michigan and for $1.00 for those living out of state.
The fourth button was produced in 1957. It is thought to have gone on sale in December. It was reported to be made out of Michigan copper and green enamel was used for the lakes. Members could purchase the button for $1.00 and the non-member cost was $1.23. No data could be found as to the quantity of the buttons made.