CHICACO -- When the Busy Beaver Button Co. opened a button museum on Sept. 10, a giant bulk vender from the 1990s, filled with 10,000 buttons, took center stage. The museum is located at Busy Beaver Button's Chicago factory and celebrates the button's role in popular culture.
Regarded as the first of its kind, the museum houses a collection of tin-backed buttons that includes the first patented button produced by New Jersey's Whitehead and Hoag in 1896 and the first band button, featuring the Roney's Boys, made in 1901. Also among the collected works are buttons from famous political campaigns, rock bands and legendary advertising promotions.
Bulk vending is not new for the button company, said Alex White, Busy Beaver Button's marketing and commerce manager. She reports that the firm has been marketing a variety of industry standard bulk venders in its Button-O-matic line since 2002.
The machines dispense a 1.1" capsule that contains a 1" round button. Busy Beaver Button markets its own capsule button series (it has 11) for vending and manufactures custom products. The company can produce character buttons, for example, for a supplier who has the license to manufacture and sell items based properties in the vending channel. Buttons typically vend for prices between 50¢ and $1.
Since its rollout eight years ago, the Button-O-matic has been placed in taverns, record shops, museums and other niche locations. The button company itself was founded in 1995. It has produced millions of buttons in more than 18,000 designs during its 15 years in business.
People in participating Button-O-matic vending locations act as curators for the button museum's souvenir collection. They include Cody Hudson for the Empty Bottle; Tae Won Yu for Land; Angela Finny-Hoffman for Post 27; Edie Fake for Quimby's; Supercorn for Fly Bird; Joe Lauer for Penelope's; Chris Corbalis for Strange Cargo; Jason Hammel for Lula Café; Russell Etchen for Domy; Melissa Grubbs for Reckless Records; Soo Choi for Little Branch Café; Mei Stewart for Art Supply Warehouse; and Alicia Hermanny for Uncle Fun.
Brett Manning of the Busy Beaver Button Co. is also a curator.