Lion Button (Asia) Co Ltd.
Lion Button (USA) Co. Inc.
246 West 38tth Street, 8th Fl,
NewYork, NY 10018-5895
Tel: +1 (212) 768-7090 (Mr Michael Chan)
Lion Button (Asia) Co. Ltd.
Room M2, M/F, Sun Cheong Ind. Bldg,
Cheung Yee Street,
Lai Chi Kok, Kowoon,
Tel: (852) 2345-2666
Guangdong DC Buttons Co. Ltd.
No.9 North First Street, Xiang West Road,
Qing Xi Town, Dong Guan City,
Guang Dong Province
Tel. +86 (769) 8681 8188
Time： 2019-08-16 13:06:40
When it’s this cold outside, everyone is “buttoned up.”
But the term takes on a different meaning for a pair of siblings who run what’s believed to be the world’s only museum devoted exclusively to political and other custom buttons.
Christen Carter still has the very first button she ever bought: A small holographic-gold button featuring a cartoon drawing of Snoopy and Woodstock.
“When I was 12 I bought that button,” she says. “It was affordable. I really liked Snoopy.”
Little did she know then that it would one day be displayed in her very own button museum.
The Busy Beaver Button Museum in Logan Square is believed to be the world’s only museum devoted exclusively to pinback buttons: political buttons. Buttons featuring boy bands of yesteryear (Chicago’s Roney’s Boys is believed to have been the first band to promote itself with buttons in 1901) to the New Kids on the Block. Buttons about buttons, Chicago sports teams, schools, festivals and buildings.
The museum’s librarian, aided by university interns, tags buttons in the collection. About 4,500 are on display and 6,000 are cataloged online but thousands more – an estimated 25,000 – are part of the collection, and in storage.
The lineage of pinback political buttons in the U.S. traces back to the inauguration of President George Washington, an event so popular that an industrious entrepreneur made souvenir buttons modeled to look like the brass buttons hand-engraved with eagles that Washington wore on his coat.
But the U.S. didn’t really have a two-party system until the 1830s, so Carter says it wasn’t common for people to sport pins backing their favored candidate.
Plus, buttons – like one in the collection from 1864 with a photograph of President Abraham Lincoln affixed to a brass button – were relatively expensive to produce. Early incarnations kept artwork behind glass.
In the 1880s, inventors replaced glass with flat celluloid sheets. A patent from 1896 allowed button-makers to do away with a brass ring, by wrapping celluloid around the artwork.
Thus was born the button as we know it today.
Buttons may seem like a very specific item to collect; a niche. But bet your buttons that an event, quote, movement or memory – a state fair, a roller coaster ride, the “Smoking Stinks” motto, an election – is commemorated on a button.
“There are very few major things that happen without buttons and a lot of minor things that happen with buttons. It covers so much,” Carter says. “It’s a cool kind-of like person-level of history too. It’s not necessarily just big history book.”
Her own history, told through buttons, reaches from Snoopy to her teenage years, when she would buy buttons featuring her favorite bands: X, Adam and the Ants, the Sex Pistols, Punk Panther.
Eventually, she joined a punk band and moved to London, where she met a man who taught her to make buttons. When she moved back, she didn’t know what else to do. She knew a lot of American bands, though. So she started a button company.
Guided by Voices (“still one of my favorite bands,” she says) was her first customer.
In the early days, Carter would make buttons by hand: 10,000 a year, until her arms were so sore she’d pay her friends to help her make them.
“And then you have to put the pins in the backs of the buttons, so that would be like TV-watching and putting pins in buttons,” she says.
The company upgraded to electronic machines in 1999.
Since its founding in 1995, Busy Beaver has produced more than 42 million buttons, featuring some 90,000 designs (the company keeps one of each for its archives).
Visitors are welcome to stop on by to place an order (a sample costs $5, otherwise a minimum order requires a 50-button minimum; they’re offered in a variety of sizes and shapes), or to peruse the nonprofit museum that operates out of the same recently renovated building in Logan Square (admission is free, though donations are appreciated).