Fonds 962.016 & 971.032 & 972.050 & 973.022 - Dominion Button Manufacturers Limited fonds

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Dominion Button Manufacturers Limited fonds

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  • Textual record
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  • Object

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Reference code

CA ON00094 962.016 & 971.032 & 972.050 & 973.022

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

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  • 1872-1942, predominant 1891-1924 (Creation)

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Physical description

.75 m of textual records 7 photographs Several hundred artifacts Ledgers and notebooks are worn, paper is yellowed and ink entries are faded but legible.

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Archival description area

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Administrative history

The Shantz Button Manufacturing Company of Berlin, Ontario (a.k.a. Dominion Button Works) was established in 1871, after Jacob Y. Shantz assumed ownership of its precursor company, the Pioneer Button Works, which was begun by Emil Vogelsang and H.S. Huber, ca. 1866. This was the first button manufacturing factory in Canada. In 1871, the business employed 27 workers, mostly women and children. The company was variously known as the Dominion Button Works and the Shantz Button Manufacturing Company in the 1870s and 1880s. In 1891, the business was incorporated as the Jacob Y. Shantz & Son Company Limited, and by 1910, was the largest employer in Berlin, Ontario, with a workforce of over one hundred men, women and children. At this time, Berlin was also known as "Buttonville" because of its many button factories, of which Shantz's was the largest. Jacob Y. Shantz was also active in many other business interests, and was instrumental in promoting immigration to Manitoba among the Canadian Mennonite community. He served briefly as Mayor of Berlin in 1882. Dilman B. Shantz, Jacob Y. Shantz's son and successor, was widely known for innovation and efficiency in the button manufacturing process. Natural materials such as vegetable ivory (from tagua nuts imported from South America) and mother-of-pearl (from fresh water shells harvested from the Grand and Thames rivers) were the raw materials for most buttons made in the Berlin factories. Other natural materials used included wood and horn. In the twentieth century, the company began to use other materials such as casein and bakelite and later, plastics. In 1912, the company was renamed Dominion Button Manufacturers Ltd. under the new ownership of David Gross as President. He was succeeded by his son, Mervin Gross who introduced the production of plastic buttons in the 1940s. Dominion Button Manufacturers Ltd. closed in 1964, by which time most other Canadian button making companies had also closed, because of the emergence of new materials, new technologies and greater competition from foreign manufacturers.

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Custodial history

Fonds was in the possession of the Mervin Gross family.

Scope and content

The Dominion Button Manufacturers Ltd. fonds consists of records pertaining to the Shantz Button Manufacturing Company, a.k.a. Dominion Button Works (1872), the Jacob Y. Shantz & Son Company Ltd. (1891-1912) and the Dominion Button Manufacturers Ltd. fonds (1912-1935). These include price lists, plant and materials inventories, order books, general business accounts, production notebooks, dyeing recipes notebooks, salesmen's order notebooks, a work diary, salesmen's sample cards, photographs and greeting cards.

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Immediate source of acquisition

Gifts of Mr. Reuben Oberholtzer, Mr. Mervin Gross and Mrs. Mervin Gross


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Restrictions on access

Access to archival materials in unrestricted within the museum's Research Policy and its Library and Archives Policy. Materials may be used in reading room by appointment.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

The museum's Library and Archives Policy states conditions for making reproductions of archival materials. The museum's Research Policy states other conditions regarding publication.

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A finding aid is available.

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No further accruals expected.

General note

Six inventory ledgers (1891-1924) Ten general business journals and indices (1891-1921) Eleven notebooks: recipes, order books, work diary (1872-1932) Seven photographs: ca. 1880, ca. 1905, ca. 1942 Three sales sample cards, ca. 1935 Large collection of artifacts: button cutters, cased and framed displays, raw materials in various stages of production.

General note

"Dominion Button Factory," ARCHEION Virtual Exhibit

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