The Ups and Downs of the Northern Button Co. in Smiths Falls

The Ups and Downs of the Northern Button Co. in Smiths Falls


Photo-The Smiths Falls Heritage House Museum
Northern Buttons Limited was located north of the Gould foundry building on Mill Street and it was founded before 1924 by local businessmen: They were: Claude A. Patterson, M.D., was president, George B. Frost, Treasurer; Fred C. Clayton, secretary; and William S. Murphy, M.D., and Milton F. Davidson, vice-presidents. All had good intentions this was going to be the cream of the crop of Smiths Falls industry. In the Glenn Lockwood book,“Smiths Falls” he writes that in 1920 the International Button Co. persuaded the town of Smiths Falls to grant by the way of a bonus– exemption from taxation for over a period of 10 years and to provide a factory free of rent for a period of 5 years. They had high hopes that never materialized.

Mr. Arthur Vogelsang the manager, expertise was largely experienced in the button industry. The sales organization was handled by Mr. Fred Hunter of Montreal and R.W.
Faber and Company of Toronto both connected with the Canadian textile industry. His father was a button pioneer owning the Ivory Button Manufacturer of Canada beginning his business in Kitchener in 1867.

The factory employed about thirty people, about 25 of them women. There was variety of buttons made, but the ivory button business was priority for the Northern Button Co. The main building was used as the “Machinery Hall”, but additions were made to the rear of the structure and a two storey 60 ft. by 40 ft. addition was added to the rear of the main factory, as well as a 40 ft. by 20 ft. one storey stone structure. The factory operated until the mid-1930’s.

Smiths Falls at that time had a lot of employment for men, but the local women found difficulty in finding part time employment  to help out the family. Even though the ivory button was their key product they tried to find another niche product as soon as they realized other companies were nipping into their business. So they began to create buttons for coats: mens and women’s along with vests, cloaks, trousers, vests and shoe buttons. One would think that they had a plan for success, but sadly the company closed down less than 10 years later.

Nothing is without controversy, and after the button company had closed Smiths Falls town councillor T.C. McNabb was charged for theft of machinery in 1935 from the now closed button factory. But, all seems to have been forgotten in the matter, as no other mention of T.C. McNabb and his issue with the Northern Button Co was recorded in the media. In fact  he was still “taking care of business”  in Smiths Falls business as  councillor in 1936 and 1937 and so on and so on.

As Ottawa historian Jaan Kolk said: “I guess the prosecutor didn’t have the case sewn up after all”.


 Jane (Skinner) Reinecke married W.C. Thompson and they lived in Smith Falls and owned the button factory around 1915.

Do you have any buttons from the Smiths Falls Northern Button Company? 

This company began in Smiths Falls in 1922 on Old Mill Road. Featuring ivory buttons at a time when plastic manufacturing was just taking off, is presumed to be the company’s primary downfall when it closed in the 1930’s.

We are trying to find some of these buttons, even photographs to help us record this story from our town’s past. If you have any information, please contact us. Any help is appreciated.

Pictured here: plant building and staff in 1923 as printed in the “Who’s Who” of Smiths Falls in 1924.

#Buttons #HeritageHouseMuseum #SmithsFalls#NorthernButtonCompany #NorthernButtons#CanadianIndustry #History #IvoryButtons#CanadianArchitecture


About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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