Sunday, June 2, 2013

"Button, button,

who's got the button?"

Actually, we do...lots of them...but I was wondering how many children would be amused by this game today.  Do you remember it?   From my research, here are the rules.  Children form a circle with their hands out, palms together. One child, called the leader or 'it', takes a button (usually provided by an adult) and goes around the circle, putting their hands in everybody else's hands one by one. In one person's hands they drop the button, though they continue to put their hands in the others' so that no one knows where the button is except for the giver and receiver.

The leader (or alternatively all the children in the circle depending on your preference) starts the other children guessing by saying, "Button, button, who's got the button?" before each child's guess. The child guessing replies with their choice, e.g. "Billy has the button!"  If you have the button, haven't been guessed yet, and it's your turn to guess, you choose someone else so that no one knows it's you.  Once the child with the button is finally guessed, that child is the one to distribute the button and start a new round.
No app for that...no Angry Bird Button so I imagine this is part of the "other" lifestyles of the non-tech children.   We have some real unique buttons...a couple of these have the Star of David on them...
If you are into Game of Thrones, how about this collection?
Buttons, dating back to 2000 BC, were originally used as decorations since pins and belts held clothes together (I must confess pins still work on some of my outfits!).   By the early 1200s AD, clothing styles and finer fabrics required a better way to close garments.  The button seems to orginated in France...bouton for bud or bouten to push...and so the button and buttonhole (actually button hold) that we know are born.

A Button Makers Guild, organized in 1250 AD, is documented.  The guild produced magnificent buttons, but they were only for the wealthy, and laws were passed to keep the commoners from owning any buttons other than thread or cloth covered ones.  As time went on, the button craze continued, but each button had its own buttonhole, and the professional dresser position was born.  I am sure you may have wondered how women got into those dresses with all those tiny buttons!  Alas, the zipper replaced the assistant!

In the 17th century, French tailors began making thread buttons for military uniforms, but French button makers were outraged, convincing the government to actually pass laws forbidding these thread buttons to be used!  Homes were searched and even fines levied on tailors that made and used these buttons. 

By the 19th century, button manufacturing came to the U.S.   In 1802, Abel Porter established a company in the northeastern United States that began making metal buttons.  He saw an opportunity for big business as the imported ones were scarce and expensive.  There were also challenges with the types of metals used, but, when Porter created them, he used brass loops cast in the back of the button and solved those previous problems. This company became the famous Scovill Manufacturing Co. whose name we still see on the backs of many old buttons today.
But, the most popular button of the 19th Century was the black glass button.  These were made for the masses in replication of Queen Victoria's fashioning of black jet buttons.  These were also referred to as mourning buttons, following the death of Prince Albert.

I found some neat 50s style buttons...

And these are sweet...encased Lucite...

So, for the artisan, the collector, the creative spirit, we have some neat button bags...reasonably priced...$1-$2 (I have seen buttons in thrift shops priced by the piece-talk about pushing buttons!). 

And speaking of word evolution...the word button has evolved..a button can be something you push to create an effect by closing an (electrical) circuit--that is from 1840s. Button-pusher as a "deliberately annoying or provocative person" is a reference to Bill Gates in a 1990 article.  There are others...button one's lip, button up, have all one's buttons, on the button...but I like this line...

"Once you have missed the first buttonhole you'll never manage to button up”

 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
 

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