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 bygone franchise that decorated the elitist scene of NYC for over forty years. And so this button carries a bit of its own history on a rusty badge.

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-Sherbert McGee

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