by Jill Holt, Curator of Textiles
The buttonhook was a common household item in the past. It consisted of a metal hook and shaft with a handle that was usually made of metal, wood, bone, or celluloid (an early day form of plastic). The buttonhook was used to fasten the multiple buttons on shoes, gloves, and dresses. Buttonhooks were frequently included in manicure and toiletry sets along with files, buffers, and cuticle tools. Also, department stores and shoe stores gave away buttonhooks that advertised their businesses.
I recently came across a type of button fastener in our collection that I had never seen. This button fastener was designed in the style of parallel action pliers. It was invented by William Bernard and patented in 1914 by the William Schollhorn Company of New Haven, Connecticut. Bernard invented numerous types of pliers,
nippers, and punches for the company. With today’s fashions, there is no longer a need for buttonhooks and button fasteners. Discovering the history of the Bernard fastener is just one of the reasons why I love my job!