Friday, February 17, 2017

Singer & Kantor: A Tagged Button

One of my best-loved rarities, here's a two-tone button that boasts a top section made of cherry red Bakelite featuring nine carved rings. A little scuffed here and there, this old baby has seen better daysmost likely going back to the 1930's. Though off-center, the red top piece is attached to a larger black section, which has also tested positive for Bakelite. When my friend Doreen found this button a few years ago on one of her quests for exotic buttons, she was kind enough to let me purchase this very special discovery for my own collection.

What's really exciting about this button is the small (now rusted) plaque located above the shank on the back. The metal plaque reads: "SINGER&KANTOR 498-7th AVE. NY." and is firmly attached to the black Bakelite, though no screws are visible. Since adding this unusual button to my collection, I've been able to do some research over the years and here's what I know about Singer & Kantor: The company first opened in 1900 as "Isser Singer and Son" with their principal retail chain located at the above-mentioned address in New York City. Store merchandise at that time primarily focused on jewelry (i.e. ornate pins and signature brooches). Most of the shop's jewelry was imported from Czechoslovakia. In 1930 the company changed its name to "Singer & Kantor" and expanded their product line to company-designed buttons, which were mainly manufactured in the United States. The Great Depression set the company back financially, though it stayed afloat through the 1930's until finally going bankrupt in 1941. Today, Singer and Kantor brooches and buttons are considered collectible mementos of a short-lived franchise that decorated the elitist scene of NYC for over 40 years. And so this button carries a bit of its own history on a rusty badge.

Visit Doreen's online store  

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Rootbeer Architecture

What I love about Art Deco buttons is the heavily stylized angularities that often crop up in the geometric contours of 1920's craftsmanship. This mondo knockout in chocolate Bakelite has a rootbeer banister winding up its middle like a zigzag serpent. Terribly luxurious and layered with metropolitan flair, it's less a button than a strangely bewitching edifice.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Buttery Sqaure Button

It's an extra bright day outside and here's an example of sunshine meets Bakelite in the form of this square-cut button with carved slats. This is that soft shade of creamed corn Bakelite that I always compare to butter. Wouldn't this button look right at home on a piece of toast? It looks like someone literally took a stick of margarine, shaved the end off and sculpted this fetching rarity. circa 1930.  

-Sherbert McGee

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Royal Suit

Old buttons from the 1920's and 1930's are hard to find on their original cards, but here we go: spades, hearts, clubs and diamonds. The paper's frayed, stained and wrinkled, but these eight buttons tested positive for Bakelite and have never been used. I'm no gambler and I know zilch about playing cards, but someone dealt me a good hand when I bought these last year from an antique shop in Wisconsin.

Happy Valentine's Day!
-Sherbert McGee

Monday, February 13, 2017

Herculean Chocolate

Last year my friend Doreen sold me this Herculean button in chocolate Bakelite with brass bands and epic eye-appeal. The side sections of this old baddie sport a craggy texture that's carved like rough-hewn stone. Considering its heft and feel, this could be the rock that David used to take down Goliath. On the top of the button (inside the laced brass) the Bakelite sections run smooth. Dramatic and lionhearted, this brawny treasure must've belonged to one helluva a dashing gladiator.

Visit Doreen's online store  

-Sherbert McGee   

Friday, February 10, 2017

Green Ribbons/Mental Health Awareness Buttons

It's awards season and celebrities are wearing all kinds of ribbons on their designer lapels to bring awareness to AIDS, breast cancer, Hodgkin's disease and countless other rampant maladies of the 21st Century. On that note, today I'm posting a set of bright green ribbon-shaped buttons from the early 1930's and boy are they spiffy! (SIDE NOTE: Later this month I'll be spotlighting an entire week's worth of Bakelite buttons that take on specific shapes, i.e. screw-shaped buttons and buttons shaped like salt shakers and so on). I should point out that these antiquated greenies were not made to tout awareness for any specific cause, but having done a little research on the subject, I've learned that nowadays green ribbons are the symbol for mental health awareness. So if you're a sane person, here's an idea: be grateful for your sanity. Try not to throw the word "crazy" around too mindlessly out of respect for people who struggle with certifiable mental instability. To wrap things up, I'll end today's post with a poem, which touches on the topic of dementia and grand hysteria. Titled, Lost Myself Again, I wrote this poem when I was in high school after reading the book "Sybil" by Flora Rheta Schreiber.

I think I've lost myself again.
My train is off its track.
I've scooted off to who-knows-where?
I hope that I'll be back.

I must have slipped away from me
While gazing at the moon
And now I don't know where I've gone.
Perhaps I'll find me soon?

For all I know, I'm on a bus
Or maybe I'm at sea?
I'm not sure where I put myself
Or what's become of me.

Here's hoping if I close my eyes
And slowly count to ten, 
I'll turn the key that opens me
And find myself again.  

-Sherbert McGee

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Israelite

Thou Shalt Polish Thy Buttons! So complex and biblical, I've named this button "The Israelite" since it looks like a holy relic from the ancient Hebrew nation as described in the Old Testament. Forming the base of this button is a slab of tortoise Bakelite (aka rootbeer). The middle piece that resembles an ice cube is made of Lucite, which is the same plastic as Plexiglas. Finally, this anomalous button is decorated in three strands of brassverily bestowing this oddity with a Babylonian frill.

-Sherbert McGee

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Bulletproof Jellyfish

This isn't the first time I've compared a button to a jellyfish, but this is the first time I've compared a button to a jellyfish that's sporting a metal breastplate. Apple juice Bakelite forms the body of this vintage curiosity, but what really sets this button apart is the swirled dome of armor that's secured to the Bakelite like a bulletproof parasol. Made in the 1930's, this ironclad delicacy is something else.

Visit Doreen's online store  

-Sherbert McGee  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Toggle Tuesday: Red Ridges

Some buttons invite themselves to be photographed quite easily and then there are buttons like this. In today's episode of "Toggle Tuesday" here's a toggle that refused to cooperate in the way of picture-taking until I finally settled on this tolerable image with the button tilted upwards. A cherry red toggle in tested and confirmed Bakelite, this ridged rascal is vaguely shaped like a hotdog bun.

-Sherbert McGee   

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Panther Paw

Last year I purchased this button from my friend Doreen, who never runs out of luck when it comes to finding the best of the best (vintage) black buttons out there. In our correspondence, she named this one "the panther paw" and that's definitely a fitting description of this primitive beauty in licorice Bakelite. An art deco button without doubt, the four lobes alternate between smooth and chiseled. It's a wild zinger from the Roaring Twenties and by "roaring" I'm talking about a panther's holler.

Visit Doreen's online store  

-Sherbert McGee