The B. Schwanda and Son Ocean Pearl Button Factory

by Rebecca D.
(Connecticut)

An example of our conch shells, buttons, and button blanks

An example of our conch shells, buttons, and button blanks

An example of our conch shells, buttons, and button blanks
An example of our conch shells, buttons, and button blanks
An example of our conch shells, buttons, and button blanks

A couple months ago my father and I came across some old conch shells,and abalone shells in my grandmother's attic. The shells have drill holes and marks all around them. She also had some button blanks and sea shell buttons. The shells came from an old button factory called B. Schwanda and Son Ocean Pearl Button Factory in Southern New England. In the 1960's the company found themselves caught between conforming with the future of cheap plastic buttons or continuing to be loyal to the beauty and quality of pearl buttons, but as a result the company went bankrupt in 1969.


After doing some research we discovered that his volume of business in 1920 was between $3,000,000 and $3,500,000 and represented about half of the total value of ocean pearl buttons made in the United States.


Some of the facts we found in: "Czech American Tradesmen – Masters of Their Profession" by: Miloslav Rechcígl, Jr.

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Oct 30, 2016
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Employee NEW
by: Anonymous

My dad worked at B. Schwanda button factory when it was located at 36-13 36th Ave. Long Island City, NY. He worked there for five years then left in 1942 to enlist in the army to fight during WW II where he was wounded in Okinawa. I found a group photo of him and his fellow employees at the factory and was wondering what I had till I researched further and found out more about B. Schwanda.

Oct 29, 2014
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B. Schwande factory is still there
by: Anonymous

The button factory is still in use however, it is now being used to manufacture high tech circuit boards. When I visited and learned of it's history I looked it up and found this website. It is interesting to see buttons made from conch being manufactured in central Connecticut.

Aug 25, 2014
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Lineage
by: Anonymous

I'm the grandson of Charles Schwanda (Benedict's son). If you have any questions on the company email me Anderson.Jonathan13@yahoo.com

May 20, 2014
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Happy memories of Schwanda button factory
by: Anonymous

Thank for posting. I played near the factory as a child and remember the discarded shells with the holes where buttons were removed. Do you know what became of the factory site?

Feb 12, 2014
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pearl buttons
by: Anonymous

I live in mass. and one day on my travels, stopped at a yard sale and was so happy I did I found a 15 oz. tin can filled with pearl buttons. I had never seen them only in photos. What a deal I did get on them. I am amazed and tell the story to people that aren't even aware of them. I do quilts and use them on Sun Bonnet Sue to dress up the flowers, bonnets and even use buttons for the wheels. Thanks for your beautiful web. I enjoyed very much

Aug 04, 2012
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This factory was in my hometown
by: Anonymous

This factory was almost across the street from my Childhood home of Staffordville, Connecticut . Many relatives worked there.

Jul 14, 2011
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Shell buttons
by: Kari

Hi Rebecca,

I really enjoyed seeing your photos of the shells and buttons because our city is famous for his shell button history. I know even here they used other types of shells besides those from the Mississippi River in our backyard, but have never seen any other shells after being punched out.

I think it's sad that these companies weren't able to continue with the business. In our city three companies are now making plastic buttons.

If you're ever in our area we have a wonderful pearl button museum you would enjoy.

Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your families history with us. God bless.

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