For some button collectors, buttons representing the letters Q and X are the holy grail.
Farmington resident Trudy Dawson explained the prestige of both letters as she held up an alphabet card during the Maine State Button Society’s show at the Baptist Church in Springvale on Saturday, July 22. The card is used to display 26 buttons representing the letters of the alphabet.
A glance at Dawson’s collection showed a button resembling a miniature chalkboard, which would sew up the letter C for a collector. One that looks like a soccer ball would end one’s search for an S. Another that is pineapple-shaped would lock up a collector’s quest for a P.
There is some wiggle room here.
“This button that looks like a daisy can represent a D for daisy or an F for flowers,” Dawson said. “I’ll tell you right now, X and Q are the hardest ones to find.”
Buttons in general – thousands of them – were very easy to find on Saturday. The basement of the church was filled with tables at which button collectors displayed and sold buttons to enthusiasts from throughout Maine and New England; one visitor at the show hailed from as far away as Missouri.
Some tables sported special buttons ranging from metal shanks with pearl-based domes to gilt brass ones worn during the Civil War era. Other tables had “pokes,” deep plates of hundreds of buttons through which collectors could sift and pick out their favorites.
Then there was Hollis resident John Markley’s display of button paperweights, created by renowned button-makers Jacques Israel, Charles Kaziun, and Albert Erickson.
Kaziun and Erickson, both of Massachusetts, made their mark in the button world from the 1940s through the 1960s. Erickson, Kaziun’s protege, specialized in button paperweights designed like flowers.
Israel, born in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1889, began making buttons in the 1940s as an extension of his lifelong dedication to the art of glass-blowing. Markley recently bought five of Israel’s buttons, bringing to 175 the total number of the artist’s works that he owns. During his lifetime, Israel crafted 1,200 buttons.
“That’s significant to me, and to the button world too,” Markley said of his collection. “That’s a pretty big deal.”
The collecting continues – Markley spent $250 at Saturday’s show to add 10 more of Israel’s buttons to his treasure.
At another table, Jane Quimby, of Jamaica Plain, MA, displayed hundreds of novelty buttons that took the form of such diverse shapes as the Statue of Liberty, the Idaho potato, dogs, giraffes and more.
“Everywhere I go, I buy buttons,” said Quimby, who frequents button shows and auctions.
Quimby, in particular, finds much “joie de vivre” in collecting buttons resembling the Eiffel Tower.
“I love Paris,” she said. “I have been there more times than I can count.”
Two porcelain dolls, made by Ruth Harju, the society’s president, greeted visitors at the table where they signed the guest book upon arriving at the show. According to Harju, the dolls were created in the likeness of “pearlies,” who were merchants who dressed from head to toe in buttons to attract customers for the needles and thread and other little things they sold during the 1700s and 1800s – right up until “at least the time of the first world war,” Harju said.
Paperweights, Civil War adornments, and buttons of all colors, shapes and sizes – all of them were easy to find on Saturday, with, of course, the exception of ones depicting the elusive letters Q and X.
Actually, one customer – Harriet Davis, of China, Maine – found a Q button, as well as an I she had needed to complete her collection.
“It’s just a fun way to display them,” said Trudy Dawson, pleased by her customer’s rare find.
- 1. Alloy of copper and zinc
- 5. Soft, silvery-white metal
- 8. What 1 or 5 across is
- 13. Opera button
- 14. Related to ships or shipping
- 15. Solitary
- 16. Have understanding
- 17. Run for exercise
- 18. __ Hari
- 19. Mr. __, a talking horse
- 20. Abbreviation meaning the same as et al
- 22. Symbol for the element aluminum
- 24. Initial point (abbrev)
- 25. Automated Merchant Reporting System (abbrev)
- 27. Containing little or no fat
- 30. What you get when testing a button with a hot needle (3 wds)
- 32. Hindu month
- 33. Electronic device
- 35. Japanese button
- 36. With indefinite article, saying attributed to Jesus
- 37. Scum
- 39. City SE of Dresden, Germany
- 40. Fasten a kind of jacket (4 wds)
- 44. Abnormal respiratory sound
- 45. Thomas Hardy’s __ d'Urberville
- 47. Kind of record
- 48. Printer’s measure
- 50. Symbol for the metallic element erbium
- 51. Commanding officer(abbrev)
- 52. Too
- 55. Nail-head __ shank
- 57. The __ Festival (Oriental button subject)
- 59. Small marsh bird
- 60. Relating to an English royal house
- 61. Author __ Morrison
- 62. Common back on a Weinman paperweight
- 63. Last name of a paperweight maker
- 64. Type of carved button
- 1. Pastry chef
- 2. Orange peel
- 3. Much __ About Nothing
- 4. Observed
- 5. __ Mahal
- 6. Thin, stamped, and tinted celluloid button
- 7. Old horse or annoy
- 9. Stately tree
- 10. __ __ tee
- 11. Against
- 12. What a frog does
- 20. Pairs dance on ancient boat (2 wds)
- 21. Sugar suffix
- 22. Pub offering
- 23. First and last name of a Bohemian glass button maker
- 25. First initial and last name of contributor to WTC memorial contribution
- 26. Military Affiliate Radio System’s place (2 wds) (abbrev)
- 28. Musical direction meaning slowly (pl)
- 29. Sign on boys’ tree house
- 30. With indefinite article, southeastern European
- 31. With regard to Yoko (2 wds)
- 32. Conjunction
- 34. Any of various nucleic acids
- 38. Theresa Rarig specialty design
- 41. Original equipment manufacturer
- 42. Consumed
- 43. Kaleidoscope buttons are made of this
- 46. Paperweight maker William __
- 48. Farmers do it
- 51. A thin rod of glass used to trim buttons
- 53. __ Lanka
- 54. Paddle
- 55. The Irish would frequent one
- 56. Prefix denoting absence of
- 57. Dep.
- 58. __ … Riding the Butterfly button
Answers in September issue of newsletter