Tag Archives: National Button Society

Ebenezer on the Couch

At McCarter, Lauren Keating’s rewrite of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” relates Scrooge’s obsession with money to Dickens’ life story.  Of the two children in the play who have symbolic names, “Want” and “Ignorance,” Dickens was a child of want.

While previous productions delighted audiences with spectacle and magic deployed by the spirits who scare Ebenezer Scrooge into generosity, Keating’s version is much more generous with psychological insights. For instance, it opens with a peddler who introduces all the characters, including Ebenezer’s obnoxious father. Ebenezer, played by Dee Pellettier, skillfully reveals his gradual change. 

As a collector of antique buttons, and a member of the New Jersey State Button Society, I have been doing research on the history of button making and ran across what I believe to be a significant insight into Dickens’ childhood. In 1852, in his ”Household Words,” he described the Birmingham button factories: ‘range beyond range of machines—the punching, drilling, stamping machines, the polishing wheels, and all the bright and compact, and never-tiring apparatus which is so familiar a spectacle in Birmingham work-rooms. We see hundreds of women, scores of children, and a few men… Very young children gather up the cut circles. Little boys, ‘just out of the cradle,’ range the pasteboard circles, and pack them close, on edge, in boxes or trays; and girls, as young, arrange on a table the linen circles…”

Far from being outraged at this child labor, Dickens wholeheartedly approved. Compared to his own experience, the button making tots had it easy. After all, they were with their parents and worked only 10-12 hours a day.

In contrast, when Dickens was 12, his job (pictured above) was to paste labels on bootblack jars in vermin-infested smelly factory with long hours. Meanwhile his father was in debtors’ prison, accompanied by his mother, along with the younger children.

If naysayers object to Ebenezer being played by a woman, oh well. As Keating points out, gender differences were more accepted in Dickens time than in Victorian times. Dickens refers to “the cook and the cook’s special friend.”

If this version more openly preaches the moral of the story, so be it. That’s in the true spirit of Charles Dickens.

The ghost of Christmas Past begins to change Ebenezer in Lauren Keating’s version of “A Christmas Carol” at McCarter Theatre. Photo by Matt Pilsner.

Correction: earlier I listed the Dickens publication as “Household Matters.” Apparently it was “Household Words.”

Buttons Help Quilts Tell Stories

Large 1 3/8 inch Bakelite carved Turtle $55 Left a turtle carved of Bakelite. These are online references for quilting talks

Every Button Has a Story: Buttons Help Quilts Tell Stories
Barbara Figge Fox and Jane Albanowski
New Jersey State Button Society
for Turtle Creek Quilters Quild
November 17, 2013

National Button Society: membership @$35 includes handbook and five journals per year.

New Jersey State Button Society:
Membership @$10 includes newsletters. Semiannual shows, open to the public, at the Union Fire Company building on Route 29 in Titusville on May 9, 2015 and September 12, 2015. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., program at 1:30 p.m. Admission $2.

Central Jersey Buttoniers, lunches on third Mondays, in member’s homes. Contact Sonia Force, 908-782-5716 or SOJON@comcast.net

Button Country
website with many useful links
How to mount buttons: http://www.buttonsintime.com/howto.htm
How to classify different materials.

Ways to identify different materials

Basics of Button Collecting: Pam Vasilow

Button Button: Identification and price guide, Peggy Osborne (print book)

Field Guide to Buttons and Antique Glass http://www.grandmothersbuttons.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/gran_fieldguide_web2011.pdf

Contacts for info about membership:
President: Sara Mulford, 205 Lafayette Drive, Logan Township, NJ 08085-1426
 slmulford@verizon.net; 856-275-6945
Northern, NJ: Gloria Chazin 908-889-8970
Ocean & Monmouth County:
Lil Buirkle 732-793-4555
Hunterdon & Mercer County:
Carol Meszaros 609-737-3555
DUES: Send $10 check made out to the New Jersey State Button Society c/o Ann Wilson, Treasurer, Box 92, Maplewood, NJ 07040

Charles Dickens on buttons:

“There is surely something charming in seeing the smallest things done so thoroughly, as if to remind the careless, that whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well. . . It is wonderful, is it not? that on that small pivot turns the fortune of such multitudes of men, women, and children, in so many parts of the world; that such industry, and so many fine faculties, should be brought out and exercised by so small a thing as the Button.” Household Matters . 1852

Button, Button — They’ve got ’em in Titusville

Brighten up a gloomy weekend by visiting a button show — yes, a button show. Bet you didn’t know that folks collect buttons like they collect stamps, postcards, coins, and matchbooks. But I venture that buttons are prettier than any of these. You can choose Victorian black glass buttons, or metal picture buttons (think Aesop’s fables), or uniform buttons, or china buttons, or plastic buttons, or celluloid buttons, or horn, or ivory, or …. any of dozens of categories.

Some cost a lot of money, some don’t, but all are fun to look at.

Today (Saturday, September 10, 9 to 4 p.m.) the New Jersey Button Society puts its best buttons forward in a show in Titusville (at the Union Firehouse, 1396 River Road, at the intersection of Route 29 and Park Lake Avenue, Titusville 08560). Admission $2.

What will you see? At 1:30 a glassblowing demonstration is scheduled, subject to the weather of course. The chief attraction however is cards and cards and cards of buttons. Dealers from all over the East Coast set up their tables and button-eers peruse their wares, looking for just the right button to add to their collection — or to enter in the next contest. (Image courtesy of the National Button Society.)

Winners of the contests will be on display at 1:30 p.m. Among the contests — Alternative Energy: buttons that picture windmills, water mills, and the sun. Who said that button collecting was old fashioned?

It’s a little tricky to get there, because Route 29 (River road) is flooded in parts, so take Exit 3 at Scotch Road, then turn left on 546, and right on Route 29. Pass It’s Nuts (it’s a restaurant) and a stand of trees and the Union Firehouse will be on your right.

Escape from 10th anniversary broadcasts and travel back in history, through the history of buttons. I’ll see you there!