"There is surely something charming in seeing the smallest thing done so thoroughly..." - Charles Dickens on Victorian Buttons
The Grandmother’s Buttons headquarters are located in a restored historic bank building in St. Francisville, Louisiana. A retail store and button museum occupy the first floor and our jewelry production studio is on the second.
The button museum is located in the old bank vault which is entered via two suitably massive metal doors. Once inside your eyes are immediately drawn to a quote by Charles Dickens stenciled in gold plaster on the wall which says, "There is surely something charming in seeing the smallest thing done so thoroughly." In this quote, Dickens was speaking of Victorian buttons. Our wee button museum displays an impressive collection of these “smallest things”, every single one extraordinary in its detail and craftsmanship.
Grandmother’s Buttons’ founder Susan Davis opened her tiny museum in 1995, shortly after she and her husband Donny bought St. Francisville’s most prominent historic commercial building. They’d just finished renovating the main floor into a gift shop and installing their offices and production studio upstairs. By adding the museum the couple created a unique space that today receives thousands of out of town visitors annually and has been featured in magazines like Country Living, Country Home, and Southern Living.
The museum contains eight wall-mounted display cases together containing hundreds of antique buttons and fasteners dating from the 1760s to the 1940s.
One case features ornate, finely crafted eighteenth-century men’s buttons including a rare GW created as swag for delegates attending the inauguration of the first president of the United States. This men’s case also holds a set of hand-painted buttons commemorating the French Revolution, a delicate Wedgwood, and an unusual ‘habitat’ button featuring bits of seaweed and shell trapped under glass. Imagine how odd any of these would look on a contemporary man’s coat?
The museum features five cases containing late-nineteenth-century Victorian era buttons. Most of these are larger, more deluxe versions of the ones we most commonly use in our jewelry. They’re organized by material such as carved pearl, jet glass, enamel, porcelain, cut steel, and by subjects like roses, animals, Shakespeare, nursery rhymes, myths, and operas. We’re endlessly fascinated by the themes Victorian women found interesting and appropriate to sew onto their gowns - everything from spiders to dragons and castles to Greek temples.
The museum also contains two cases filled with colorful, cheerful buttons from the early twentieth century including Bakelite and celluloid “goofies” in the shapes of fruit, flowers, hats, and other whimsical objects. This case also displays buttons with some striking abstract, art deco linear designs, and a set of buttons created to commemorate the New York World’s Fair in 1939.
Our favorite case in the museum holds buttons with the least monetary but most sentimental value - those from the tins belonging to Susan’s mother and both grandmothers. These buttons inspired Susan to launch Grandmother’s Buttons more than thirty years ago. A portrait of each woman at the age of nineteen is displayed beside her button tin. Under each portrait is a card written by Susan in tribute to these strong women whose love, creativity, and can-do spirit imbued her with the characteristics necessary to grow her business.