In 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes was elected President of the United States. Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, and Benjamin Blumenthal started B. Blumenthal and Co.
Clothing styles were dictated from Paris and corsets and bustles were all the fashion rage.Buttons on clothing were for function as well as decoration. Ninety percent of fashion buttons were imported. Benjamin Blumenthal used his knowledge of importing and distribution to supply buttons to the growing textile trades.
At that time, buttons were made out of natural materials, and more pearl buttons were manufactured than any other kind. Because of the tax on imported ocean pearl buttons, B. Blumenthal opened a plant in Muscatine, Iowa to manufacture buttons from fresh water pearl shells collected from the Mississippi River. Mollusk shells were harvested and buttons made out of the glossy inner surfaces. All kinds of buttons from plain to carved and fancy were carded and sold. By the end of the 19th century, buttons were ornate and made from many types of materials: enamel, cut steel, pearl and shell. Lithographs on buttons were very popular.
During this time, WWI raged, the suffragettes marched, and prohibition was ratified. After the turn of the century, there were rapid changes in materials and methods of manufacture. WWI opened the world to America, and using a variety of those new materials, American factories supplied nearly all of the country's need of buttons. Art nouveau was the design trend. Popular buttons were made of horn, bone, metal, ivory, and pearl. Buttons were covered in fabric, elaborate cording, and hand-stitched needlework. Celluloid was the first synthetic material to be used to make buttons.
During these decades, unemployment was high, the first talking picture was made, and TV was invented. B. Blumenthal continued to be an industry leader. Because of WWII, importing of buttons stopped and American exports of buttons increased. The company continued to send people to Europe to stay aware of the latest fashion trends and designs. Designing of B. Blumenthal's La Mode® line was mostly done in the New York offices by this time.
Growth in the company came because of the use of plastics and from selling to large department stores like Macy's and Marshall Field. This time period saw creativity in button materials as well as novelty designs. There were buttons of wood, Bakelite, cork, plastic, leather, and ivory. One novelty set reflected the circus and had beads of a dog on a bike, a snake charmer, and a strong man.
During this time, the baby boomers get their start, and the credit card makes its debut. B. Blumenthal realized what plastic buttons would do for the industry. Plastic buttons were being molded, stamped, and cut with less waste and more economy. As home sewing became an important market, the company understood the importance of partnering with chain and department stores.
During this period, Lucite buttons were popular, as well as realistic buttons. Realistic buttons looked like fruits, vegetables, and birds, as well as designed around trends or events like the World's Fair. Unlike fun buttons today used in crafting, these realistic buttons were created for the dress trade.
In the 60's, 70's and 80's, B. Blumenthal acquired several other button companies, including Lansing Company. The button industry has shrunk to a handful of companies. Interestingly, the company has come full circle, having returned a major part of its operations to Lansing, Iowa, on the banks of the Mississippi River where it manufactured buttons until the end of the 19th century.Today, Blumenthal Lansing Co. still makes several fashion brands including La Mode®, La Petite and Slimline™ as well as many lines of Crafting and Speciality Buttons.
In 2014 Blumenthal Lansing Co. acquired JHB Button brand and continues to supply their most popular styles of unique buttons. JHB began with a request from a friend to Mrs. Jean H. Barr, founder (1920-2008). Mrs. Barr was preparing to leave on a European buying trip for her family business and was asked to find a specific style of sweater button. She fulfilled that request and began her company in the basement of her Denver home. In 1974, the company, which had outgrown the original basement plus three rental locations, moved into the JHB Imports building, located at 1955 South Quince Street in Denver, Colorado. It resided there until 2014 when Blumenthal Lansing Company acquired their brand and website Buttons.com. November 4, 2015 we launched the NEW Buttons.com and have incorporated JHB into our many lines of button products.
In 2016 Blumenthal Lansing Co. was acquired by CSS Industries, Inc which owns many other craft and gift companies. We look to the future to collaborate with them and bring you pin-worthy inspiration and craft projects!