More on Eighteenth Century Buttons

by Jean Cascardi Archaeology Crew Chief

The last time we talked about buttons on the blog we briefly discussed the three W’s of the eighteenth century button: Whose clothing were typically made with buttons, what these buttons were typically made of, and where (what pieces of clothing) buttons were worn. We learned that eighteenth century men’s clothing most commonly used button closures, buttons were made of a range of materials including bone, shell, glass, metal, or a combination of materials, and buttons occurred more frequently and at a larger number on clothing that was typically found on the outer layers.

CART archaeologists do not frequently encounter military clothing buttons, but they do occur in Fairfax County. Military clothing throughout history has and continues to use buttons for closures at a high rate. Today’s military buttons are more commonly found on Military Dress clothing then tactical clothing. As women are not recognized as playing a role in the late eighteenth United States Military, our earlier conclusions about buttons being typically worn by men remains true.

Early Continental military buttons did not infer as much information about the soldier wearing them as they did after the end of the Civil War. One military button has been recovered from the excavations at Colchester, a pewter “USA” button. This type of button was likely a one piece, molded button used on military uniforms later in the Revolutionary War. At the onset of the Revolutionary War the army consisted of militia members from colonial cities that had established uniforms unique to their group. As the war progressed, military uniforms gradually became standardized. Popular movies and television programs have made the standardized Continental Army of red, white, and blue uniform easily recognizable to many people. In general, the formal military uniforms of the eighteenth century utilized similar pieces of men’s eighteenth century clothing with added buttons for items to haul equipment.

Further Reading:

Albert, A. H., Family, H., Family, H., Family, A., Stults, J., Shuman, M. P., . . . Hutchinson, C. J. (n.d.). Alphaeus H. and Lillian Smith Albert collection.

Do It 101 Button Collecting Information Links. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from http://doit101.com/Collectibles/buttoncollecting.html

Revolutionary War Uniforms. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2017, from http://www.history-of-american-wars.com/Revolutionary-War-Uniforms.html

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About cartarchaeology

We are the County Archaeological Research Team, part of the Archaeology and Collections Branch, Resource Management Division, Fairfax County Park Authority. We are tasked with understanding and managing the cultural resources on Park land throughout Fairfax County.
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