Buttons

I learned that there were fable buttons only about three years ago, and have already found 38 distinct buttons. Enjoy them all!

The Crane and the Crayfish

1890? One two-piece brass button, 1 3/8" in diameter, picturing "The Crane and the Crayfish." $25 from Onie Wiedeman, Minot, ND, May, '99.

BBB Plate 154 # 2. For the editors there the identification of the fable is not certain. I am not sure that the brass on my button is tinted, as theirs is. Steel back and wire shank. This is a dramatic button, as the crane has a creature in his mouth, with lush vegetation in the background.

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The Crane and the Fish

1890? One brass button, 7/8" in diameter, picturing "The Crane and the Fish." $8.33 from Robin Larner, July, '99.

I can find this button in neither BBB nor Nelson and Sweat "Fables on Buttons" in The National Button Bulletin (Oct., '86). The button pictures a crane holding a creature aloft in its beak. The creature seems to me to be a fish. In the foreground are reeds and plants. The crane and vegetation are in brass against a black background formed by a hollowed out crater. The rim is serrated. There is a welded loop on the back.

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The Dog Who Carried His Master's Dinner

1890? Two two-piece brass buttons, 9/16" in diameter, picturing " The Dog Who Carried His Master's Dinner." $12 from Joni Goldbarg through Ebay, April, '99, and a gift of Robin Larner, Rochester, NY, May, '99.

This is perhaps the simplest of the buttons I have found. Until the Goldbarg offer, I did not know that this scene found its way onto a button. Almost the full top half of the button's circle is simple darkness. In addition to the dog and the lunch, there is only the raised ground beneath the animal. The button seems to have been constructed of the scene proper and a standard brass backing with a self-shank. BBB Plate 154 #29. In the Larner exemplar, this scene is, as BBB describes, "all tinted in red" (379).

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The Eagle and the Stag

1890? 1 brass button of the eagle and the stag, 1" in diameter for $13 from Robin Larner, Rochester, NY, through Ebay, April, '99.

Though this theme of the eagle and stag is listed as a standard button motif, I have no idea what the fable is that is depicted! This button is a bright, very shiny brass piece folded over a different back with yet a third independent piece forming the shank. Help?! BBB shows a similar motif in an apparently smaller button (Plate 154 #27), and for #5 on Plate 153 describes the following story from Pilpay. A stag led his family on the search for food and water. As the land became unfamiliar, he told the females and young deer to wait in hiding. An eagle called to the stag to ask where his family was hidden, saying he wanted to lead them to food and water. The stag recognized the eagle's intentions of capturing a young deer for himself and declined to reveal their whereabouts. In a footnote, BBB gives Madge Valgamore as their authority and note that they could not find this story in any edition of Pilpay. Regretfully, Mrs. Valgamore had not given a reference. So still I say: Help?!

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1890? 1 brass button of the eagle and the stag, 1" in diameter for $14.99 from Gloria Badger, Franks for the Memories, West Hills, CA, through Ebay, Feb., '00.

See my other button showing this fable for the story. This is a darker button with a stag running left in the foreground and an eagle moving right above. Flora fill in the open spaces around the circumference, with another rim added around the scene. Stamped and tinted brass, with a steel back and wire shank.

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The Fox and the Crow

1890? 1 circular FC button, red tinted brass, 1 1/16" in diameter. $25 from Onie Wiedeman, Minot, ND, May, '99.

Though the image seems very famliar, I cannot place the button in BBB. The scene is basically the same as that on my two Monleón buttons. The button itself is of one-piece construction, with a metal eyelet welded onto the back.

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1890? 1 circular FC button, brass surrounded by metal studs, 1¼" in diameter. $31 from Resa Truslow, Boise, Idaho, through Ebay, July, '99.

The pattern is the same as that on the Wiedeman button of similar proportions, but the button comes from a different mold; that is, two artists worked from the same visual pattern to make two different metal casts. The central circle containing the scene is slightly loose and off-center. Two-piece construction, with a metal eyelet welded onto the back. These studs do not have the luster of the Monleón buttons.

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1890? 2 circular FC buttons, stamped brass, one silvered, both decorated with a border of facetted steels. $40 from Lenore Monleón, Chelsea Antiques, NY, April, '97.

One image is silver in color, the other bronze. Ms. Monleón had lots of animal figurines, and so I came up with a challenge that she must have some fable figurines. She countered that she had buttons of FG but may not be able to find them. Why? She had hid them because she did not want to sell them! After fifteen minutes of searching she found them! This was the start of my fable button collecting! BBB Plate 152 #12 shows the same sort of facetted steels; the design, though distinct, comes closest to that in BBB Plate 152 #10.

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1890? One brass FC button, 7/8" in diameter. $8.33 from Robin Larner, July, '99.

Identical in design with the two 5/8" FC buttons. BBB Plate 154 #6. Let me quote from there: "Stamped brass, cut out and backed by a painted metal liner, with a narrow, white metal underliner showing under the rim; brass back with self shank."

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1890? Two small brass FC buttons, 5/8" in diameter. $10 from Joni Goldbarg through Ebay, April, '99, and $3.25 from Darlene Focazio through Ebay, May, '99.

This button, by contrast with the Monleón exemplars, puts the fox on the lower right and the crow in the upper left. Tree branches shape the scene--and even make it hard to read on this small button! Closest in design to the larger button pictured in BBB on Plate 154 as #6. Like it, this button has a brass back and a self-shank.

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The Fox and the Goose (?)

1890? One large button, 1 5/8" in diameter, showing a running fox (or dog?) and a fowl in flight just above it. $35 from Bruce Beck, Cedarburg, WI, August, '99.

This is the largest button I have found. The two figures are surrounded by reeds, branches, and at least one blossom. There is a thick floral border around the perimeter. Three-piece construction. I have no notion what scene may be portrayed.

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The Fox and the Grapes

1890? Two large FG buttons, 1.5" in diameter. $50 from Joyce's Jems at the Dulles International Antiques Show and Sale, April, '97 and $20 from Onie Wiedeman, Minot, ND, May, '99.

The Big Book of Buttons (Elizabeth Hughes and Marion Lester, Second printing: 1991, Plate 152, #4). The depth of this button makes the rubbed high points of its scene stand out in lovely fashion from the dark background on the Joyce's Jems exemplar, while the Wiedeman is much brighter throughout. A real prize!

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1890? 2 matched FG buttons, .6" in diameter. $25 from Joyce's Jems at the Dulles International Antiques Show and Sale, April, '97, and $12 from Joni Goldbarg through Ebay, April, '99.

The same scene as in the 1.5" Joyce's Jems large button. Apparently they were meant to be used together. The buttons seem to have a circle of metal shaped around the hook-bearing metallic or celluloid base.

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1890? A brass FG button 7/8" in diameter, showing somewhat less of the scene than the Joyce's Jems buttons. $12 from Joni Goldbarg through Ebay, April, '99.

A tree with a high picket fence replaces the grasses on the left, there is nothing on the ground in the foreground, there is less of the scene pictured on the right of the fox, and the fox has his left paw on the first step of a simple ladder leading toward the grapes. BBB Plate 154, #20, which says that the button was reproduced in the 1950's.

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1890? A brass FG button 7/8" in diameter, with no dark background. $8.33 from Robin Larner, July, '99.

Identical with the Goldbarg button of the same dimensions, except that this one shows only the bright brass color. See my comments there. Like that, this has a patterned design on a separate metallic back with a self shank. Might this be an exemplar of the modern reproduction?

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1890? One one-piece FG stamped-brass button, 1 3/16" in diameter, showing the fox looking back at a cluster of applied steel grapes. $46.50 from Robin Larner, Rochester, NY, through Ebay, April, '99.

This button takes a different artistic conception of the theme. BBB Plate 153, #8. The button is unusual among those I have not only for the applied grapes but also because it is of one piece (with no added back or shank) except for the grapes.

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1890? One silvered brass FG button with cut steels, slightly over ¾" in diameter, showing the fox looking back at a cluster of grapes. $10 from David Conway, Hooksett, NH, Feb., '00.

This button follows exactly the pattern of the Larner button (BBB Plate 153, #8) just above, but is half the size and therefore less well defined. It also has a silver rather than gold sheen. A shank is welded onto the back.

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1890? One large dark red-tinted brass Victorian button, 1 3/8" in diameter, showing the fox looking up at a cluster of grapes. $24.99 from Robin Larner, Rochester, NY, through Ebay, July, '99. Extra exemplar without the reddish tint for $25 from Bruce Beck, Cedarburg, WI, July, '99.

Perhaps the defining mark on this lovely dark button in fine condition is the curled tendril just above the fox's head. The red tint in the Larner exemplar is unmistakable here. BBB Plate 153, #3. Steel back and wire shank.

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1890? One smaller brass Victorian button, 5/8" in diameter, showing the same scene of the fox looking up at a cluster of grapes, including the curled tendril. Acquired during summer, '99.

This button was clearly meant to be a match to the larger Larner/Beck button. I cannot pick up any tint. Three-piece construction.

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1890? One small FG brass button, 5/8" in diameter, showing only a close-up of the fox's head, a couple of pieces of wood crossed, and grapes and leaves hanging overhead. A P & Cie, Paris. $10 from Joni Goldbarg through Ebay, April, '99.

This button again takes a different artistic conception of the theme. It can be hard to read except up very close, partially because of its smaller size. BBB Plate 154 #19, which says of it "The well defined brass design is cut out and mounted over a background of grey pearl; tinned steel back and brass wire shank" (378). The BBB illustration may actually show the button upside-down, since it ends up with the grapes below the fox!

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1950? One small FG Czech glass moonglow button, 1" in diameter, showing a fox, a trellis, a leaf, and grapes. Wire loop shank. $6 from Kathy Hoppe at B'gosh Buttons, Oshkosh, WI, Feb.,' 00.

The background of this unusual button is a milky blue. Out of it is a raised scene painted in gold. Other buttons bought in the same Dutch auction include Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and Frogs and a Cart. The latter has at least three frogs. So, apparently, it is not the Aesopic fable of the two frogs, one of whom lived on the road.

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The Fox and the Stork

1880? Large FS button, 1.5" in diameter, pressed wood set in a realistic twig-like brass rim. $50 from Robin Larner, Rochester, NY, through Ebay, May, '99.

A really striking button! As Robin noted, there is a small sliver missing at high noon. The motif is well known to The Big Book of Buttons (Elizabeth Hughes and Marion Lester, Second printing: 1991, Plate 152, #5) but not in this unusual material. A wonderful acquisition!

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1880? Small FS button, 11/16" in diameter, pressed wood set in a brass rim. Perhaps meant to match the 1.5" button I have from Robin Larner? $9.95 from Pam Drake, Canaan, Maine, through Ebay, April, '00.

This exquisite little match to the larger button is a three-piece button at least. It is hard to believe that wood could have been carved or molded so intricately for a button! As so often happens on Ebay, this button came with three others that do not fit into my collection.

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1880? One large FS button, 1 3/8" in diameter, brass repousse over a celluloid base with a circular metal loop shank. $25 from Onie Wiedeman, Minot, ND, May, '99. Extra for $4.05 from Bruce Beck, Cedarburg, WI, through Ebay, August, '99.

Identical in motif with the other FS buttons I have. This is a dramatic button! Slightly larger than, but identical in motif to, BBB Plate 152, #5.

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1880? Two small FS buttons, 5/8" in diameter, brass repousse over a celluloid base with a circular metal loop shank. $16 each from Marsha BonForte, Mine Hill, NJ, through Ebay, May, '99.

Basically the same motif as the large 1.5" Larner FS button, but done in metal. Ms Bon Forte offered a dozen, but I could afford only two at this time. This particular button, aptly named "Tit for Tat" by Marcia, seems not to be listed in BBB.

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1890? 2 FS buttons, 1" in diameter, with celluloid background. $7.99 through Ebay from Maryalice Ditzler, Delta, PA, April, '99. Extra copy, cleaner and brighter throughout, for $12 from Robin Larner, Rochester, NY, through Ebay, April, '99.

Here a brass-colored band seems to be folded over the hook-bearing celluloid back and the bronze and black metallic front of the button. The stork has its long beak in the vase while the fox looks on. Apparently in the same set as the two 3/4" FS buttons. Apparently #16 on Plate 152 in BBB.

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1890? 2 FS buttons, apparently matched, 3/4" in diameter. $9 from Joyce's Jems at the Dulles International Antiques Show and Sale, April, '97, and $9.95 from Gary McWilliams, Arroyo Grande, CA, through Ebay, Feb., '99.

As with the 1" buttons with which these seem to be matched, a brass-colored band seems to be folded over the hook-bearing celluloid back and the bronze and black metallic front of the button. The stork has its long beak in the vase while the fox looks on. These two smaller buttons seem identical to me, though I do not think that they are identical with the slightly smaller FS button.

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1890? One FS button, 5/8" in diameter. $12 from Joni Goldbarg through Ebay, April, '99.

The conception of the scene seems slightly different here from both the 1" and the 3/4" FS versions. The defining line at the bottom of the scene is higher. The strong set of defining masses at the lower right seems to have been lost. It is not as clear that the fox grasps the neck of the vase. The fox sits back here, and the stork is well removed from the button's right rim. The whole rim has a copper hue. As with the other exemplars of this scene, that copper-colored band seems to be folded over a hook-bearing celluloid back and the bronze and metallic front. In all three types of button, a silverish circle surrounds the button's scene inside the enclasping ring. Wonders never cease! Apparently not in BBB.

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The Lion in a Lush Valley (The Lion and the Goat)

1890? 1 brass three-piece button of the Lion in a Lush Valley, 5/8" in diameter. Gift of Robin Larner, Rochester, NY, through Ebay, May, '99.

The goat seems not to be pictured, instead there is a crag that sticks out almost directly above the lion who wants to beckon him down to the lush valley. BBB shows an apparently larger button with almost the same image on Plate 152 #7. Do I pick up some tint in this brass? The button may even have four pieces, since a very pleasant shiny rim encircles the whole scene and may be independent of the button's facing.

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1890? 1 brass three-piece button of the Goat on a Cliff, 5/8" in diameter. Acquired during summer, '99.

The goat (or stag?) stands perched on a rock. There seems to be no other figure in the picture. He faces stalks or limbs of trees. Behind him seem to be further rocks. A braided sheath pattern runs around the perimeter of this brass button.

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The Little Fish and the Fisherman

1890? One one-piece pressed brass button with a silvered finish depicting Doré's illustration of "The Little Fish and the Fisherman," 1 1/8" in diameter. $27 from Onie Wiedeman, Minot, ND, through Ebay, March, '99.

This is a pressed, one-piece silvered brass button in excellent condition. The illustration adapts Doré's illustration of La Fontaine's V 3 ("Le petit Poisson et le Pêcheur") well to the circular form, changing some things around the man, who is clearly in the posture and attitude that Doré had given him. BBB Plate 153 #12. I continue to be amazed at what people have made out of fables!

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1890? 1 button depicting Doré's illustration of "The Little Fish and the Fisherman," 3/4" in diameter. $12 from Joni Goldbarg through Ebay, April, '99.

This is a pressed, one-piece silvered brass button in fair to good condition. Like the larger Wiedeman exemplar of the same scene but less distinct, this button adapts Doré's illustration of La Fontaine's V 3 ("Le petit Poisson et le Pêcheur") well to the circular form. In fact, even the backs of the two buttons are remarkably similar.

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1890? 1 button depicting Doré's illustration of "The Little Fish and the Fisherman," 3/4" in diameter. Gift of Robin Larner, Rochester, NY, May, '99.

This is a one piece pressed brass button with a silvered finish and a loop shank. At first it appears to be identical with the Goldbarg button of the same dimensions, but it includes so much more detail that I think it might have been produced independently.

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1890? 1 brass button depicting Doré's illustration of "The Little Fish and the Fisherman," 3/4" in diameter. $6 from Cindy Fortier, Tacoma, WA, through Ebay, April, '99.

Identical with the Goldbarg button described above, except that this lacks the silvered finish. Like the Goldbarg button, it is sketchier in design than the Larner button of the same size; and of course it lacks the silvered finish.

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The Wolf and the Crane

1890? 1 two-piece silver WC button, 1 1/16" in diameter. A P & Cie Breveté, Paris. $24.99 from Gotbuttons, Vista, CA, through Ebay, May, '99.

Developed from J.J. Grandville's illustration, I believe, because the doctor's pan is visible near the wolf's back paw. The stance of the figures is that of Grandville's illustration. This and the following three buttons from the same manufacturer are remarkably similar despite their different colors and sizes. The stamped metallic front seems to have been folded over the back, which is lifted at its center to form a tunnel-hole, where others have an implanted hook or circle. BBB calls this a "self-shank" (371). Around this raised mound one can read the manufacturer information quoted above.

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1890? 1 bronze WC button, 7/8" in diameter. Paris: Solidaire Bte SGDG, A P & Cie, Paris. $12 from Joni Goldbarg through Ebay, April, '99.

The same in motif motif as the Gotbuttons larger button with these differences: this is brass, smaller, and marked with "Solidaire Bte SGDG" rather than "Breveté" on the back. The metal of this button shows less relief than that of others I have, and the button is thus considerably brighter. This button has the same construction as that, including the self-shank. This specimen seems to be that presented as #11 on Plate 152 of BBB.

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1890? 1 bronze WC button, .6" in diameter. Paris: Solidaire Bte SGDG, A P & Cie, Paris. $10 from Joyce's Jems at the Dulles International Antiques Show and Sale, April, '97.

Clearly the same scene as the larger Gotbuttons and Goldbarg versions of WC. Thus it is also developed from J.J. Grandville's illustration. The doctor's pan is not so easy to identify here. The stance of the figures is that of Grandville's illustration. The stamped metallic front again seems to have been folded over the back with a self-shank surrounded by the manufacturer information quoted above.

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1890? 1 silver WC button, .6" in diameter. Paris: Solidaire Bte SGDG, A P & Cie, Paris. Gift of Robin Larner, Rochester, NY, May, '99. Extra for $3.25 from Darlene Focazio through Ebay, May, '99.

Identical with the bronze button described just above. Might this button be slightly larger than that? The silver buttons in this series are harder to read than the bronze.

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Two Monks Relaxing

1890? 1 two-piece brass button, 1 1/16" in diameter, picturing two monks. Steel back, wire shank. $10 from Onie Wiedeman, Minot, ND, May, '99.

Might this be someone's conception of the story of the two monks from Bidpai? In any case, there is a large stein or pitcher to the right of the right monk, who clearly holds a drinking vessel. As I study this button more closely, I am not convinced that the two men must be monks. If I keep this button in the collection, I will at least know where to find it when I learn that it really is a fable button!

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