Greetings from Max Forton, in the lab!
This week I’ll be telling you about one of the many clothing buttons we have been analyzing in the lab. In all there have been 282 clothing buttons unearthed by this project! You might ask why I’m so interested in buttons? After all, buttons may seem like pretty boring and useless things to study. Actually though, there’s quite a bit that buttons can tell us about the lives of the people of Castroville. Depending on the button we can learn about what types of clothing were being worn, where they were choosing to shop, and even about major events in people’s lives.
To demonstrate the usefulness of buttons, I’d like to tell you about one of the more exciting buttons we found last fall. It is small, made of metal, with a loop attached to the back called a “shank”. This metal loop is where the button would have been attached to the garment.
This button was found beneath the floorboards of one of the front rooms of the house, at the bottom of a posthole from an earlier structure. We think the first Alsatian settlers built and disassembled a series of structures in the 1840s/50s before finally building the house that sits on the site today. The posthole where this button was found is from the earliest structure built on the site.
This particular button is made in manner that dates to the late 1700s to early 1800s. Rather than being two pieces soldered together, the button is made from a single piece of metal. It seems probable that the person wearing it would have been among the first settlers of Castroville. This is further supported by the button being found at a bottom of a post hold from a possible early structure. The button may have even come directly from Alsace! This would make it a unique item that was present for the founding of the Castroville community. Thus an object as small and everyday as a button is simultaneously a window to an important chapter in the history of Castroville.