THE history of this manufacture is a subject of sufficient interest to claim a place in our pages, although we can hardly agree with the writer of the following,
when he says that iron of the required character can not be manufactured in this country. We lately gave an account of sheets of iron so thin that they were used instead of letter-paper, and we may here add that they were remarkably tough and flexible. Of course it would be an easy matter to give them any required degree of rigidity.
“The manufacture of cloth buttons, which is so extensively carried on, is due to time bombardment of Copenhagen by Lord Nelson. A Mr. Saunders, resident in that city, having lost his entire fortune by the bombardment, came to England and began to make cloth-covered buttons with an iron shank. His son speedily improved on his father’s invention, and devised the flexible shank, or tuft of cloth, which protrudes through the back of the button, and can be pierced in any direction by a needle. This improvement was patented in 1825, and was the foundation of immense wealth for the Saunders family. It was followed by several other important inventions concerning cloth buttons, and gilt and metal buttons rapidly gave place to their more fashionable rivals.
“The most substantial part of the cloth button is a bit of Tagger’s iron, called the back. This iron is all imported in very thin sheets, about ten by fourteen inches. American manufacturers have never succeeded in producing iron possessing similar qualities. One of the sheets is put into a collet-machine, which cuts it into collets, or disks. These are next japanned and dried. The metallic shell of the button, which gives it shape, is cut out in about time same way as time collet, and stamped in various patterns. A third part of a cloth button is a disk of coarse paper, called button-board, which is cut by machinery, and takes its place between the shell and the back. The cloth used for covering buttons is all imported, each piece being perforated with a score or two of holes, so as to render the fabric unfit for any other use, and make it admissible under a ten per cent duty. The cloth–it may be silk, brocade, bombazine, Italian cloth, poplin, or English lasting–is cut into button-covers by hand, the workman using a circular chisel and a mallet. The several parts of the button being now ready, they are taken to a large room, where a row of girls sit before small machines called punches. The different processes requisite in finishing the button are divided among several operators; but, for the sake of clearness, let it be supposed that all are performed by one. In the punch are two dies, one above and one below; into the upper one is put the shell, and into the lower one the collet and button-board; a pressure of the foot on the treadle brings the two dies together with great force, and the several parts are joined. The eye of the button is made by pressing the cloth through a small aperture in the collet or back. The fashions in cloth buttons change annually, and the variety in the goods produced with the last few years is astonishing. This factory, when run at its full capacity, can turn out $125,090 worth of buttons per year.”