Ronda Pearl Button Company 1948 Article from the Muscatine Journal

What improvements did the Ronda Pearl Button Company bring to the pearl button industry?

Muscatine Journal (Muscatine, Iowa) Aug. 12, 1948
Photo of Claus Schmarje

Ronda Button company Pioneers Drastically Improved Button Cutting Methods in “ Proving Ground “ Plant Here

(Editor’s Note: Following is the 29th in the series of “Made in Muscatine” articles, describing local industries and their products.)

The title of “Button Factory of Tomorrow” might well be applied to the Ronda Pearl Button Company.

For in the Ronda plant at 109 Pine Street, newly-perfected machines and tools of a revolutionary design are leading the way to new achievements in speed and quality of production.

Serves As Pilot Plant

The Ronda firm enjoys its unique place in the button industry because it is a pilot plant for an affiliated enterprise, the Schmarje Tool and Engineering Company. In its role as pilot plant, Ronda Pearl Button Company is serving as a proving ground and as an exploiting agent for the inventions of the tool and engineering firm.

Clarence Schmarje heads the Ronda Pearl Button Company as president. His uncle, John Schmarje, is vice president; his wife, Doris I. Schmarje, is secretary-treasurer; and his father, Clause Schmarje, plant superintendent.

Named for Sons

The name Ronda is coined from the first letters of the names of the sons of the founders, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Schmarje. The sons’ names are Ronald and David.

Patents have been applied for, and while the machines in use in the Ronda plant are now well beyond the experimental stage and are available for purchase, inspection of the plant by the general public is still subject to some limitations, members of the firm said.

Saw Is Vertical

Techniques drastically different from those employed in other factories are embodied in the machines designed for cutting button blanks from clam shells. Two new types of cutting machines were perfected. One is semi-automatic. The other works some-what like the traditional button cutting lathe except that the operator is seated and the saw functions on a vertical rather than on a horizontal plane.

Important features of both types of new cutting machines are saws that have for their cutting edges an extremely hard metal known as cemented tungsten carbide. The carbide-tipped tools are superior to steel tools because they retain their cutting edge longer, reduce shell flaking, are more accurate, and give a higher yield of perfect blanks.

Little Change in 40 Years

It was explained at the Ronda Pearl Button Company plant that until the introduction of the new machines, very little change had been made in the method of cutting blanks in the last 40 years, although large sums of money had been spent in trying to improve the method of cutting. Most button blanks are still being produced on the same kinds of cutting machines which were in use 40 years ago.

The button cutting trade, it was pointed out, has not kept pace with the automotive, farm machinery and various other fields in which tremendous advances have been made in recent years. Economies were badly needed because cutting costs represent a major part of the total cost of the finished button, plant officials asserted.

Blanks of High Quality

Ronda does not make finished buttons, and is solely a cutting plant.

Blanks are sold to the various finishing plants. Plant officials said blanks turned out by Ronda Pearl Button Company are of a particularly high quality because of the supe4rior wok performed by the newly-devised cutting machines. Shells processed in the local plant come from a variety of sources, including the Arkansas, White and Tennessee rivers. The firm has a production capacity of two million blanks per week, and will require between 1500 and 2000 tons of shells yearly.

Ronda Button Company ordinarily employs between 15 and 50 persons, and has had as high as 75. The plant is equipped with 30 vertical-type cutting machines, on which production per operator is said to be several times greater than on the older-type cutting machines.

Read more about Ronda Button Company here.

See photos of Ronda Pearl Button Company factory here.

See photos of shell and button blanks here.

Read more history of Schmarje Tool Company here.

NOTE: This old pearl button factory is a “PEARL” in our midst.

Continue the Ronda Pearl Button Tour

Now…I know you’ll enjoy seeing some close up photos of the shells and button blanks from the pearl button factory tour… click here to continue.

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