A bounty of buttons

Irma delights in buttons, the pewter buttons she is given on leaving Opi and the many different and wonderful kinds she sees in Madame Hélène’s dress shop. Which got me thinking in a button way and discovering that . . .

  • The first button-type objects were found in the Indus Valley, made about 3000 years BCE as ornaments and seals.
  • The first functional, fastening buttons were made in Germany in 1200’s, created to serve the new fashion of tight-fitting clothes.
  • Buttons as fasteners swept over Europe in the next century, doubtless hurrying along the Renaissance.

In this country, if you have a yen to see buttons, actually 10,0000 different kinds, go to the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, CT, home to the Waterbury Button Museum. You’ll find diminutive works of art in all imaginable materials: cinnabar from Asia, floral bouquets of human hair under glass, miniature terrariums, even buttons from George Washington’s sainted coat.

Then for true button mania, drive down to the Button Museum in Bishopville, SC, for a button-covered piano, car, coffin, hearse, suit and more, all fashioned by Dalton Stevens, aka the Button King, a man who loves gluing buttons on things.

A final thought. If you want to be happy, just keep repeating the word “button.” I don’t know why, but you can’t be sad saying, “button” over and over. People may look at you strangely but you won’t care.

Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Workshop on Point of View for the Knoxville Writers Guild, Sat. Feb. 18, 2017, 10am to noon

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“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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