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a cosey way, having no machinery to manage;
and there was no clatter, or grinding, or
stamping of machinery to prevent their gossiping
as much as they liked. Before the
workwomen lay moulds of horn or wood, of
various shapes, but most commonly round,
and always with a hole in the middle. These
moulds were covered with gold or silver
thread, or with sewing silk, by means of the
needle. One would like to know how
many women were required to supply, at this
rate, the tailors who clothed the gentlemen of
England? At last, the tailors made quicker
work, by covering the moulds with the material
of the dress. So obvious a convenience
and saving as this might have been expected to
take its place, as a matter of course, among new
arrangements; but there were plenty of people
who thought they could put down such buttons
by applying to Parliament. A doleful petition
was sent up, showing how needle-wrought
buttons had been again and again protected
by Parliament, and requesting the interposition
of the Legislature once more against the
tailoring practice of covering moulds with
the same material as the coat or other dress.
What would the petitioners have said, if they
had been told that, in a century or so, one
establishment would use metal for the
manufacture of buttons to the amount of thirty-
seven tons, six hundred-weight, two quarters,
and one pound weight in one year! Yet this
is actually the state of things now in
Birmingham. And this is exclusive of the sort
of button which, a few years ago, we should
have called the commonestthe familiar gilt
button, flat and plain.

As for the variety of kinds, William Hutton
wrote about it as being great in his day; but
it was nothing to what it is now. He says,
"We well remember the long coats of our
grandfathers, covered with half a gross of
high-tops; and the cloaks of our
grandmothers, ornamented with a horn button,
nearly the size of a crown-piece, a watch, or
John-apple, curiously wrought, as having
passed through the Birmingham press. Though
the common round button keeps in with the
pace of the day, yet we sometimes find the
oval, the square, the pea, the pyramid, flash
into existence. In some branches of traffic
the wearer calls loudly for new fashions; but
in this, fashions tread upon each other, and
crowd upon the wearer." We do not see the
square at present; but the others, with a long
list of new devices, are still familiar to us.

Some grandmother, who reads this, may
remember the days when she bought horn
button moulds by the string, to be covered at
home. Some middle-aged ladies may
remember the anxieties of the first attempts to
cover such mouldsone of the most
important lessons given to the infant
needlewoman. How many stitches went to the
business of covering one mould! what coaxing
to stretch the cover smooth! what danger of
ravelling out at one point or another! what
ruin if the thread broke! what deep stitches
were necessary to make all secure! And
now, by two turns of a handle, the covering is
done to such perfection, that the button will
last twice as long as of old, and dozens can be
covered in a minute by one woman. The one
house we have mentioned sends out two
thousand gross of shirt buttons per week;
the gross consisting of twelve dozens.

"But what of metal ? " the reader may
ask. " Have shirt buttons anything to do
with metal? except, indeed, the wire rim of
those shirt buttons which are covered with
thread and which wear out in no time?
When you talk of thirty-seven tons of metal,
do you include wire ? " No, we do not. We
speak of sheet iron, and copper, and brass,
used to make shirt-buttons, and silk, and
satin, and acorn, and sugar-loaf, and waistcoat
buttons, and many more, besides those which
show themselves to be metal.

Here are long rooms, large rooms, many
rooms, devoted to the making an article so
small as to be a very name for nothingness.
"I don't care a button," we say: but, little
as a button may be worth to us, one single
specimen may be worth to the manufacturer
long days ot toil and nights of care, and the
gain or loss of thousands of pounds. We
can the better believe it for having gone
through those rooms. There we see range
beyond range of machinesthe punching,
drilling, stamping machines, the polishing
wheels, and all the bright and compact, and
never-tiring apparatus which is so familiar a
spectacle in Birmingham work-rooms. We
see hundreds of women, scores of children,
and a few men; and piles of the most
desultory material that can be found
anywhere, one would thinkmetal plates,
coarse brown pasteboard, Irish linen, silk
fringes, and figured silks of many colours and

First, rows of women sit, each at her
machine, with its handle in her right hand,
and a sheet of thin iron, brass, or copper, in
the other. Shifting the sheet, she punches
out circles many times faster than the cook
cuts out shapes from a sheet of pastry. The
number cut out and pushed aside in a minute
is beyond belief to those who have not seen
it done. By the same method, the rough
pasteboard is cut; and linen (double, coarse
and fine) for shirt buttons; and silk and
satin;—in short, all the round parts of all
buttons. The remains are soldto the
foundries, and the ragman, and the paper-
makers. Very young children gather up the
cut circles. Little boys, "just out of the
cradle," range the pasteboard circles, and
pack them close, on edge, in boxes or trays;
and girls, as young, arrange on a table the
linen circles, small and larger. Meantime,
the machines are busily at work. Some are
punching out the middle of the round bits of
iron, or copper, or pasteboard, to allow the
cloth or linen within to protrude, so as to be

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