INFORMATIVE HARD RUBBER BUTTONS ARTICLE
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"GOODYEAR" HARD RUBBER
"American as Apple Pie" is one of the nicest ways I have heard Goodyear Rubber buttons described. These buttons were strictly made in the United States. No other country in the world made Goodyear buttons.
Amasa Goodyear was a button maker until 1830. Two of his sons, Charles and Nelson, were involved in the vulcanization (or hardening process) of rubber. Nelson was the banker and money backer, and Charles was considered one of America's inventive geniuses. During Charles' lifetime, he acquired 60 patents for inventions. His life was spent defending each one with every penny he had. His vulcanization of rubber in 1849 made the use of rubber buttons posible. In 1851 Nelson acquired a patent for hard rubber buttons also, overriding Charles'. Charles died pennyless at the age of 60. His family did profit from a few of his patents many years after his death, but none were for the rubber buttons. The 1849-51 patent date is of particular interest to collectors, as it is rare.
India rubber (also known as gum elastic) is what was used in the hard rubber buttons. The chief sources were from Brazil, Peru, Java and Singapore. It is a milk juice tapped from trees (similar to maple syrup). Dried over a mold and exported; when received in the U.S. it was vulcanized (hardened) and poured into button molds. Today, rubber buttons are still being made through a chemical process and not from the gum elastic as before.
The sizes of Goodyear buttons is also very interesting. There was no universal size. The smallest being a diminutive (under 3/8") and the largest known is 1 3/4". A collecting tip is that any button over 1 1/2" is becoming a real collectible for the future.
The colors are usually basic black, but are also found in brown. Rubber tends to tone to a brownish hue, this should not be mistaken for a button made brown from the start. You can tell by looking at the back, if it is not the same tone of brown, it became brown over time on the front and is not a "true brown" hard rubber button. There are limited numbers of dull red, black speckled orange, orange and tan is scarce.
Will be same shade
on back as front.
toned (over time) button:
it is not brownish:
Goodyears that are extremely unusual and are found to be nearly one of a kind are: inlayed steel or brass cross or star, disc of mother-of-pearl, a glass bead, steel stud, and even a brass escutcheon of a woman's head. There is also a brass-rimmed example. Collectors also seek different shanks and back marks. Rubber pad backs are very rare, to find one with the back mark is a treasure.
There are three political or campaign buttons that are very rare. The rarest being Grant and Colfax and Seymour and Blair (shown below) jugate (two heads on button) busts. The Dancing Frogs (shown below), which represent the Greenback Party and the free currency movement came in two sizes. One collector reports that there's a version where one of the frogs seems to have a fish head.
U.S. Sharp Shooters
"Berdans" Gen. Service Eagle Design