Button Makers Backmarks
(c) Vin Callcut 2002-2017. Small extracts can be used with acknowledgements to 'Oldcopper.org' website.
Helpful comments are very welcome.
These pages take a look at the backs of brass buttons to see who made them. I am no expert on buttons, especially the faces but welcome additional information and photos regarding makers. Questions should be directed elsewhere to expert 'Button Collectors'. Here are just two links:-
Theses are two pages of what has been noted:
‘Big Book of Buttons’, Hughes and Lester.
‘Discovering Old Buttons’, Primrose Peacock, Shire Publications.
‘Buttons: A Guide for the Collector’, Gwen Squires, David and Charles.
There are also some notes on buttonmakers included in the page Brummagem Brass.
'Brass buttons have been made by the million and in a variety of designs that excites specialisation within the hobby. Many of the buttons made are for military uses and represent every individual regiment. Civilian uses include those used for uniforms for public servants, livery, club and society, schools, colleges, hunts, shipping lines, sporting clubs, corporation, transport and tramway together with those on domestic blazers. Full highland dress for the Scots would be lost without the splendid array of silver-plated buttons used on men’s coats. Collectors of railwayana include buttons covering each of the railway companies of interest.
The most utilitarian button was the ubiquitous brass trouser button. They have a similar date to overall buttons - from late Victorian to the 1930’s. Trouser buttons are one-piece brass and often have a maker’s name on the back. The fronts may have impressed names and addresses of wholesalers and outfitters. The buttons are practically worthless but are nevertheless an important part of our button history.
Birmingham was the centre of the world’s button-making. There are records showing that Birmingham was producing buttons as far back as 1166! In 1700, there were 104 button manufacturers, at a time when men were paid 7 shillings a week (35p) and children one shilling (5p) a week when they reached the ripe old age of ten years.
The main manufacturers at the turn of the last century were probably Firmin, Gaunt, Jennens, Armfield, Pitt, etc. Their names often appear on the backs of buttons. Collectors look for these backmarks because the age of a button can often be determined by the maker’s address on the back. Firmins is a well-known example. The firm’s history goes back to the 18th century and the company had at least 15 different addresses and backmarks. These have been researched and listed by enthusiasts, using old trade directories.
While blazer buttons can be flat, most others have a domed surface stamped from sheet brass using dies that are not difficult to make. This makes personalisation economic for relatively small numbers. The buttons may be left as manufactured and need re-polishing at intervals or be lacquered or plated with chromium or silver. For polishing, it makes life easier to slide buttons in to the slot of a button stick and these are also collectible.
Apart from uniform buttons, there are also buttons made largely from brass such as Czechoslovakian Twinkles, Austrian Tinies, painted metal, metal-mounted, openwork buttons and so on.
These may be a little too specialised for you but there are two categories of utilitarian brass buttons that you might want to include. Both were produced by the billion and were the mainstay of the Birmingham industry. The first are overall buttons for use on work clothes. As the name suggests they were used on workmen’s jackets, tunics and overalls. They have domed japanned tinplate backs and loop shanks. The fronts were usually brass (later, chrome) with slogans and company names on them. There are hundreds of different versions and these are collected, but not avidly!
There are many American books that are about pin-buttons or lapel buttons, rather than buttons as such. The Americans use the word “button” to refer to what we would call “lapel badges”! The “bible” for button-collectors is “The Big Book of Buttons” by Hughes and Lester. It’s available from one or two agents in this country and is the best book by far. I’d also recommend two books by Gwen Squires. They were published in the U.K. The first is “Discovering Old Buttons” published by Shire Publications Ltd. And the other is “Buttons for the Collector”, published by David & Charles (Newton Abbot). Both are now out of print but are much more informative than most of the American publications. Many of the latter consist of a profusion of glossy photographs from an inherited or recently purchased collection of buttons, but with little information or text for the reader. The Sally Luscombe book is the best of a the bunch.'
Manufacturers’ Names that often appear on British Military, Naval, Sporting and Livery Buttons.
(from Hughes and Lester book)
Allen & Moore, Birmingham. 1855-1870.
Armfield, Edward. (also William.) Armfield & Co. Ltd. Birmingham 1763 to date. (Listed as a button maker from 1783.)
Bogget, George. St. Martin’s Lane. London. 1824-35.
Bogget, George & William. 1835-1838.
Bogget & Co. George & William Bogget & Co. 1838-1842.
Bogget & Reynolds. William Bogget & Joseph Reynolds. 1843-1861.
Broughton & Noakes. Fenchurch St. London 1840-45.
Bushby, Robert. St. Martin’s Lane, London. About 1800-1824. Successor to 1. Williams.
Buttons Ltd. Birmingham. Crossed swords trademark. 1907. Formed from a merger of three smaller factories, and now a division of Francis Sumner Engineering Co.
Cairns & Co. Birmingham. Tentatively. 1795-1810. Also Cairns & Frear, 1782-1820, merchants, and Cairns, Frear& Kirmikell. Circa mid 1790’s-18l0.
Clancy, Charles, Dublin. 1817-1847.
Dowler, William. & Sons. Founded 1774. Amalgamated with Firmin in 1969.
Firmin & Sons. The firm was founded in 1677. Backmark changes as follows:
Samuel Firmin (S.F.); near Somerset House. 1770’s to early 1790’s.
Samuel Firmin, Strand. London. 1793-1796...
Firmin & Westall. 1797-1799
Firmin & Co. circa 1800-1811
Firmin, Philip, 1812
Firmin & Langdale, 1815-1823
Firmin & Sons, 1824
Firmin, Robert, 1826
Firmin & King, 1838
Firmin & Sons, 1839
Firmin, Philip & Samuel. 1841
Firmin & Sons. In the early 1850’s, about 1852-3 there was another reorganization, although Firmins themselves do not make any note of the change in backmark in the pamphlet they issued in the 1950’s. Buttons made from the 1850’s to 1875, however, bear the backmark of Firmin & Sons.
Firmin & Sons Ltd. 1875.
Firmin & Sons Ltd., established 1677, 108, 109 St. Martin’s Lane. London, 1894. The company has been based in Birmingham since 1882. Their current address is 82-86 New Town Row, Birmingham B6 4HU. Firmin
Gaunt, J.R. Ltd. Birmingham 1870 to 1973. Manufacturer of military and uniform buttons.
Hammond Turner & Dickenson. Birmingham. circa 1790-1823. Predecessor to Hammond, Turner & Sons.
Hammond Turner & Sons Ltd., Birmingham. Founded in 1717 and in business until c. 1955. Noted especially for tine sporting buttons. c. 1840-50.
Hunwick, Elijah. St. Martins le Grand. London. 1853-1855.
Jennens & Co. London. Maker of military and uniform buttons, early 1800’s to 1924. Backmarks are approximately:
Jennens, Charles. Early 1800’s to about 1825.
Jennens & Co. c. l820’s-1912.
Jennens & Co. Ltd. c. 1912-1924. The firm amalgamated with Gaunt & Son in 1924.
Nortzell & Broughton, Thomas Nortzell & Henry Broughton. Bouverie St. London. 1825-1838.
Nortzell & Son. 1838.
Nutting, I & Son. later Nutting & Co. Circa 1800-1840. Combined with Sherlock & Co. in 1840. Made Other Ranks pewter buttons.
Mann, T. Birmingham. Circa 1800-1843.
McGowan. I. London. Early 1800’s.
Middleton, Littlewood & Co. (M.L. & Co.) Sheffield. Early 1800’s to about 1810.
Moore, 1. & Co. Birmingham. 1790’s to late l82(Ys.
Pitt & Co., Charles. St. Martin’s Lane. London. 1875-1895.
Pitt & Co., C. Maddox St. from 1895-1973. The firm was bought by J. R. Gaunt of London in l973, just before Gaunt itself was taken over by the Birmingham Mint.
Reynolds. J.W. Joseph William. 50 St. Martin’s Lane. London 1861-1870.
Reynolds & Co. 50 St. Martin’s Lane. London. 1871-1873.
Sherlock & Co. London. Fine military and uniform buttons, about 1840’s-80’s.
Smith, Kemp & Wright Ltd. Birmingham. founded in 1840s. they made Other Ranks brass buttons of the pre-1871 patterns. They became part of Firmin & Sons in the early 20th century.
Smith & Wright. See above.
Tait, P. Limerick. Makers of Other Ranks brass buttons.
Twigg, W. & Co. Birmingham. Produced livery, military and uniform buttons. Had been in existence from early 19th century.
Walls, William. Birmingham merchant. Late 1790’s to late 1820’s. Distributor only.
Weldon, C. & J. Charles & Jeremiah. Cheapside, London. 1851-early 1900’s.
Williams, 1. or mo (John) St. Martin’s Lane. London. 179 1-1800.
Williams, Wm Backmark found on top quality, late 18th and early 19th century livery and uniform buttons.
Wise, Beilby, Hyde & Co. Birmingham. Probably distributor, 1820’s.
Wm Anderson & Son, Edinburgh.
McClymont Dewar & Co., Glasgow, Scotland.
Perfectionne Paris AQ-18. The manufacturer of this button is unknown, albeit the Parisian firm of Viette & Gourdin did use the term "PERFECTIONNE" on their button backmarks during the early 1840s
O. W., details wanted. Possibly William Oldbury, 109-110 New John St., Birmingham 6.
Unknown Trademark, details wanted.
Mark on reverse of a livery button by Henecy & Son, Dublin. Information regarding likely dates would be welcomed by 'Ralph'.
Backmarks on British Buttons and the Dates UsedBackmark list ©2000-2007 by Bob Dunn and Diana Hefti, with THANKS to Roger Millward and Peter Nayler. Last Updated January 31, 2007
Copied for comment with thanks from: http://www.angelfire.com/wa/dianaspage/BritishButtonBackmarks.html
Allen & Moore. 36 Great Hampton Rd. Birmingham (1855-1870)
W Anderson & Sons. Edinbourgh. (Circa 1870-?) Military Outfitters & Tailors.
Armfield & Co. Birmingham (1763)
Armfield & Co. Holloway Park. (1790)
Armfield & Co. Newhall St. (1891)
Armfield & Co. St. Pauls Square, Birmingham (1891)
Armfield & Co. Bombed out. (1940)
Army and Navy Co-Operative Society, 105 Victoria St. (1889-1934)
Aston (William). Princip St. (Pre 1876)
Baddell. Old Square. Birmingham (Pre 1739)
Barwell, Beck & Thomas. (1800s)
Boultotn (Matthew) Soho Works, Staffordshire (1756-1759)
Broadbottom Buttonery Studio Buttons available at The Shire Store, (2006-on)
Buttons Ltd. (1907)
Carlyle (Thomas) Ltd. Birmingham (1875)
Chatwyn J & T. (1851)
Deakin, Duncombe & Egginton. (1800s)
Durcombe, Eggington & Bingley, Lesdam. (1800s)
(Messers) Dain, Watts & Manton. Regent Works. Birmingham (1850s)
Elliot (William) & Son. Regent St. Birmingham (1717-1800)
Elliot (William) & Son. Frederick Street (1837)
Addresses in parentheses are listed for ownership of the firm, but may not appear on the actual back of the button.
Thomas Firming. (Pre 1770)
S. Firmin Strand (1771-1780)
Firmin & Westall. (53 The Strand. London.) (1794-1812)
Firmin & Langdale. (53 The Strand. London.) (1811-1824)
Firmin Strand London (c. 1825)
Robert Firmin. (Clare Court & Drury Lane.) (1826)
P & S Firmin (1837)
Firmin & King. (13 Condiut St.) (1838)
Firmin & Sons 153 Strand (-1875)
Firmin & Sons 153 Strand London (-1875)
Firmin & Sons 153 Strand & 13 Conduit St. London (1852-1875)
Firmin & Sons 13 Conduit St. London (date ?)
Firmin & Sons LD 153 Strand London (1876-1894)
Firmin & Sons LD 135 Strand London (error) (1876-1894)
Firmin & Sons LD 153 Strand, 47 Warwick St. London (1880-1894)
Firmins 47 Warwick Street W London (1879-1904)
Firmin & Sons LTD 6 Warwick St., Regent St London (date?)
Firmin & Sons London (late 19th Century)
Firmin London & Birmingham (1882-)
Firmin's London & B'ham (1882-)
Firmin LTD London & Birmingham (1882-)
Firmin & Sons LD Birmingham (1882-)
Firmin & Sons LD Halesowen (1882-)
Firmin & Sons LTD London Patent 2346 (1884-?)
Firmin & Sons LD St Martins Lane London (1895-1915)
Firmin & Sons LD 108 St Martins Lane London (1895-1915)
Firmin & Sons LD London (early 20th Century)
Firmin & Sons LTD London (early 20th Century)
Firmins LTD London (20th Century)
Firmin London (mid 20th Century)
Firmin England (mid 20th Century)
In 1875 the firm became a Ltd Co with these addresses:
Firmin & sons. 153 The Strand. (1875-1894)
Firmin & sons. 13 Condiut St. "
Firmin & sons. 20 Stanhope St. "
Firmin & sons. St. Martins Lane. "
Firmin & sons. Globe Works. "
Firmin & sons. Cork St. (1915)
Firmin & sons. 81 Ford St., London. (1968)
Firmin & sons. Newtown Row. Birmingham. (from 1971)
Interesting Firmin Tidbits, provided directly from Darren Reynolds of Firmin!
Firmin was located at Conduit Street from 1838 to 1879.
In 1882 Firmin and Sons opened a factory in St Paul's Square in Birmingham which remained there till 1892.
In 1892 the factory moved to Globe Works in Villa Street, Aston, Birmingham.
In 1971 the factory moved from Aston to Newtown Row where Firmin continues to manufacture buttons today.
In 1981 Firmin became Firmin and Sons, PLC.
In 1994 Firmin's London office closed.
Firmin from then on based solely at Firmin House in Newtown Row, Birmingham.
In 2006 Firmin reverted to Firmin and Sons Ltd.
J R Gaunt and Son was bought by Firmin and Sons in 1991 and remains part of Firmin and Sons Ltd today.
Thanks so much for this great information Darren!
Firmin's current address:
Firmin & Sons, Ltd.
82-86 New Town Row
Birmingham B6 4HU
Tel: 0121 380 0806
Fax: 0121 359 3321
Green, Cadbury & Richards. Friday Works. Summer Row (or Sumner Row). (1860-1876)
Green, Cadbury & Richards. Great Hampton St. (1876)
J R Gaunt & Son Birmingham (1870-1973)
J R Gaunt & Sons London (1884-1899, but also used well after this date)
J R Gaunt & Sons LTD London (1899-1991)
J R Gaunt & Sons LTD London ENG (1899-1991)
J R Gaunt & Sons LTD London ENGLD (1899-1991)
J R Gaunt & Sons LTD London England (1899-1991)
J R Gaunt & Sons LTD NY & London (after 1900)
J R Gaunt & Sons Montreal (dates?)
J R Gaunt & Son LTD Montreal Made in England (c.1901-c.1939?)
J R Gaunt & Son LTD Montreal (c.1914-c.1939)
J R Gaunt & Sons LTD Late Jennens London (1940-1948)
Gaunt London (1950's/60's on)
Gaunt London Eng (1950's/60's on)
J R Gaunt & Sons purchased by Firmin and Sons, Ltd. (1991)
Sydney Griffith, Birmingham. (Circa 1900-1925)
Hammond, Turner & Sons. 100 Snowhill. Birmingham (1717-1800)
Hammond, Turner & Dickinson. (H.T.D.) (1800-1812)
Hammond, Turner & Sons. (1850s)
Hammond, Turner & Bates. (H.T.B.) Manchester. (1850s)
Harris (William). Halesowen. Birmingham (1840)
Harrison & Smith. Birmingham (1875)
Hardman & Illife. Birmingham (1800s)
Joseph Harvey. Park St., Birmingham. (1815)
Charles Jennens. (1800-1832)
Jennens & Co London. (1832-1912)
Jennens & Co Ltd London. (1912-1924)
Then amalgamated with J.R.Gaunt.
Lesdam, Bratt & Co. (1800)
Monnery & Gieve. A military tailor not a button maker.
Morten & Crowder Ltd, Birmingham. (Circa 1900-1925)
Nutting (I) & Sons, later Nutting & Co which combined with Sherlock & Co. (1840-1912)
Neil & Tonks. 13 Charles St., Birmingham. (1855-1875)
Plant, Green & Manton. (1907)
D W Pigott Ltd. 8 Lad Lane, London. (Button with this backmark from 1880-1900)
Piggot or Piggott & Co. Birmingham. (1800s)
Rawley (Charles). Birmingham (1800s)
Sclater & Sons. Edinburgh. (1900s)
Stephen Simpson. Preston. (Circa 1870-1900)
Smith, Kemp & Wright Ltd. Brearley St., Birmingham (1840)
Stewart & Co. (1900s)
E Stillwell & Sons, London, Little Britain & Barbican. (Circa 1900)
Thomas, (Sir) Edward. (1800-1850)
Thurkle (Edward) taken over by Gaunt 1920s
Twigg (W). 12 St. James St., Birmingham (1840)
Twigg (G). Powell St., Birmingham (1853)
Twigg (Sylvester). Powell St., Birmingham (1855)
C&J Weldon, London. (Circa 1880-1910)
Backmark list ©2000-2007 by Bob Dunn and Diana Hefti, with THANKS to Roger Millward and Peter Nayler.
Last Updated January 31, 2007