National Button Day
annually on November 16th
Although there are many kinds of buttons, by most accounts National Button Day celebrates buttons that are used on clothing, for ornamentation or as fasteners. The first buttons were used for ornamentation and seals, and have been found in the Indus River Valley (c. 2800-2600 BCE), China (c. 2000-1500 BCE), and ancient Rome. The oldest known button—dating to 5000 BCE—was made from a curved shell and found in the Indus River Valley. Buttons that function as fasteners, along with buttonholes, didn't come about until the 13th century, where they first appeared in Germany, and spread throughout Europe. They have been made from almost every material, their composition often reflecting the popular materials of the era in which they were made. Today they are most often constructed out of hard plastic, metals, seashells, or wood. They have been created by artisans, artists, and craftspeople, out of raw materials or found objects such as fossils, or from a combination of both. They have been made in small quantities, or in large scale quantities at factories.
Button collecting, which is most popular in the United States, varies from people having buttons in a container for future use, to casual collecting, to competitive collecting. The National Button Society was founded in 1938. Hobbies magazine had organized a hobby show in Chicago in 1938, and button collectors participated in the show. Later that year they formed the Society, and held their own button show the following year. Many state and local button clubs were formed the following decade, and they also put on button shows. Today the National Button Society has over 3,000 members in four continents. The Society focuses on educational research and exhibitions, the publication of materials about buttons, and the preservation of the importance of buttons.
How to Observe
The easiest way to celebrate the day is to wear something with buttons. If you have a container where you keep spare buttons, you could compare the different types of buttons you have in it, or you could compare the variations of the buttons you have on different pieces of clothing. If you are an avid button collector, you could take out your collection to look at, and could show it to others. If you have interest in button collecting you could become a National Button Society member, and see if your state has its own button society. You could plan ahead to attend an upcoming button show, and learn more about the hobby by purchasing something informative from the National Button Society store.
Going to a museum that showcases buttons is a great way to spend the day, and some museums even display some of their collections online. The Victoria & Albert Museum has buttons for view online. Many Smithsonian museums have buttons, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Hammond Turner & Sons in England has an online museum. There are a handful of button museums in the United States, including the Waterbury Button Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut, and the Keep Homestead Museum in Monson, Massachusetts. If you can't make it to a museum, you could also explore some links on the National Button Society's Button Gallery page.