Thursday, May 01, 2008

2008 - Friday Fun - A history of Buttons

Not a subject that you would think would be very interesting but this is the story of a local firm. (courtesy of The Black Country Bugle)
James Grove and Sons Ltd. was founded in 1857 by James Grove, a qualified die-sinker who, after working in the button industry for a few years, decided that he and his wife Ann Elizabeth should set up their own button manufacturing business at the centre of Halesowen. Dress fashions at the time meant there was a great demand for this important clothing accessory, with buttons needed for almost every garment worn by men, women and children. James Grove faced stiff competition from over a hundred other button manufacturers throughout the Midlands, but he stuck to his convictions, and with his ability as a gifted craftsman he was able to produce buttons of the highest quality, made from horn and hoof, many of them compression moulded, with crests of either fancy or military insignia.
From small beginnings the firm began to increase in size and a potentially huge contract to supply both sides in the American Civil War - Union and Confederates - with military buttons for tunics, etc., was realised during the period 1861-5. A move from the Birmingham Street site in the centre of Halesowen, where room for expansion was impossible, was essential, and in 1866 a site called Bloomfield was chosen on the Stourbridge Road, just outside the town, where the company has been making buttons ever since.

The last 150 years or so have not always been plain sailing, for instance the buttons supplied to for the American Civil War were never paid for, and there have been times when the company has been pushed close to the wire for one reason or another. But the fact James Grove and Sons is still a viable and important player in the Black Country's family of manufacturing industries, is testament to an immensely strong loyalty that has existed between both employers and employees over the last century and a half.

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