In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Alvia Disbrow Martin

Alvia Disbrow Martin, 85, of Cheesequake passed September 3, 2009 at the Bayshore Community Hospital with her family by her side.

  Buttons:  Alvia Martin served as president of the New Jersey State Button Society (NJSBS) from 1983 – 85, and president of the Jersey Shore Button Club.  She was a NJSBS life member, and member of the National Button Society.

Button Collection being auctioned:   Her button collection will be sold at auction on June 12 and 13, 2010 in Batavia, NY, by MBA Page Button Auctions.

Work Background:  Born in Keyport, a small New Jersey shore town, Alvia was a graduate of Keyport High School and the school of nursing at Jersey City Medical Center, from which she graduated with honors as registered nurse (RN). In World War II, she served in The Public Health Nurse Corps, during which time she met her future husband, Ebner Roger Martin, at a USO Dance in Perry Point, MD.  In 1948, they moved to Old Bridge.  Mr. Martin passed away in 2003 at the age of 82. He was a Navy veteran and a retired NJ State Trooper.

Mrs. Martin worked at three medical facilities:  Riverview Hospital in Red Bank, when it was located in a Victorian house; Marlboro Mental Hospital, and the VA Hospital in Menlo Park.  She was also a member of The Harvard University Nurses’ Health Study, which was begun in 1976 to investigate potential long-term consequences of the use of oral contraceptives.  The study soon expanded “to include diet and nutrition in recognition of their roles in the development of chronic diseases.  The research continues today with over 116,000 women enrolled in the study,” according to the Health Study Internet Website.

Mrs. Martin is survived by her daughter, Susan Martin Maffei of Inwood, NY; two sons who live in Cheesequake:  Roger Foster Martin and Gary Alan Martin and his wife Stacy; six grandchildren and three great grandchildren, and a predeceased son, James Clifton Martin of Manahawkin.

Alvia Disbrow Martin, 85, of Cheesequake passed September 3, 2009 at the Bayshore Community Hospital with her family by her side.

  Buttons:  Alvia Martin served as president of the New Jersey State Button Society (NJSBS) from 1983 – 85, and president of the Jersey Shore Button Club.  She was a NJSBS life member, and member of the National Button Society.

Button Collection being auctioned:   Her button collection will be sold at auction on June 12 and 13, 2010 in Batavia, NY, by MBA Page Button Auctions.

Work Background:  Born in Keyport, a small New Jersey shore town, Alvia was a graduate of Keyport High School and the school of nursing at Jersey City Medical Center, from which she graduated with honors as registered nurse (RN). In World War II, she served in The Public Health Nurse Corps, during which time she met her future husband, Ebner Roger Martin, at a USO Dance in Perry Point, MD.  In 1948, they moved to Old Bridge.  Mr. Martin passed away in 2003 at the age of 82. He was a Navy veteran and a retired NJ State Trooper.

Mrs. Martin worked at three medical facilities:  Riverview Hospital in Red Bank, when it was located in a Victorian house; Marlboro Mental Hospital, and the VA Hospital in Menlo Park.

She was also a member of The Harvard University Nurses’ Health Study, which was begun in 1976 to investigate potential long-term consequences of the use of oral contraceptives.  The study soon expanded “to include diet and nutrition in recognition of their roles in the development of chronic diseases.  The research continues today with over 116,000 women enrolled in the study,” according to the Health Study Internet Website.

Mrs. Martin is survived by her daughter, Susan Martin Maffei of Inwood, NY; two sons who live in Cheesequake:  Roger Foster Martin and Gary Alan Martin and his wife Stacy; six grandchildren and three great grandchildren, and a predeceased son, James Clifton Martin of Manahawkin.

Jersey Shore Button Club members, mid 1980’s. Left to Right: Ann Wilson, Tessi Vitomski, Annette Titmus, Vivian Baird, Marilyn Jost and Alvia Martin.

    Volunteer work:  Mrs. Martin’s great passion was local history. For 41 years she served as  curator of The Thomas Warne Historical Museum & Library, run by the Madison Township Historical Society (MTHS).  She resigned from this position in 2006.  An expert on local pottery, she authored a book in 1979 about Old Bridge Township, entitled “At the Headwaters of the Cheesequake Creek.”  Later, she co-authored with Michael Launay, MTHS vice president, a second book about Old Bridge Township, entitled “Old Bridge.”

    Thomas Warne Historical Museum & Library:  Thomas Warne was one of the 24 original proprietors of  “East Jersey” in the Raritan Bay area.  In 1682, he and his father purchased 1000 acres of land between the Cheesequake and Matawan creeks.  This acreage, originally called Madison Township, is today’s Old Bridge Township.    In 1820, a one-room schoolhouse, the Cedar Grove School, was built on two acres of the Warne property, to educate first through eight-grade students.  When a new school was constructed 65 years later, the one-room schoolhouse was moved to an adjoining farm.  Today, the Cedar Grove School building is home to The Thomas Warne Historical Museum & Library, run by the Madison Township Historical Society.

Located at 4216 Route 516 (Old Bridge Matawan Road), Matawan, NJ 07747, the museum contains contains many original schoolhouse elements–desks, slate blackboards and a  pot-bellied stove used for heating–in addition to old maps, early photographs and genealogy data.  Further acquisitions include a 1912 movie, a wax cylinder gramophone, various pottery and beach artifacts as well as Native American artifacts.  Local tours can be arranged by telephoning (732) 566 – 2108.

From the Star Ledger

 “When you’re hooked on buttons, it takes keen eye and dedication”
By Lois Maples 

The Sunday Newark Star Ledger, January 1, 1989

During the 19th century there was the romantic notion that if a young girl strung 1,000 buttons onto a string, the next eligible young man to make his appearance would be her husband.

These strings of buttons were called “charm strings.”   Alvia Martin of Old Bridge Township already had a husband when she began her charming string, but she has the string and hundreds upon hundreds more buttons than the number required for the string.

In her 15 years of serious button collecting, Martin has assembled buttons of all descriptions, ages, and materials.

“Button collecting involves a little bit of everything–history, archeology, art, metallurgy, ceramics, textiles and crafts,” she said.  “I have a little bit of everything in my collection, although many people specialize.”

Over 400 categories of collecting are defined by the National Button Society which also regulates the size and types of the “trays” and “cards” upon which they must be displayed at the society’s annual shows and conventions. They are categorized by names such as “butterflies,” “heads of famous people,” “Confederate military buttons,” or by material (such as glass or steel) or by size.

“I like everything.” Martin said.

She is a past president of the New Jersey State Society and also of her local group, the Jersey Shore Button Club, both affiliated with the National Button Society.  She is also curator of the Thomas  Warren (Warne) Historical Museum and Library of Old Bridge Township, and often lectures to clubs and groups about buttons.

She maintains that button collecting is a relatively inexpensive hobby made all the more popular because the collection takes up very little room.  Trays of buttons can be displayed on the wall or stowed away in large boxes.  They don’t easily break and usually don’t easily deteriorate.

Her collection includes military buttons and commemorative buttons,glass buttons and steel buttons.  There are diminutive glass shoe buttons and decorative Limoges buttons from France,  Satsuma buttons from Japan, wooden buttons from Russia and “Bethlehem pearl” buttons from Israel.  There are buttons from the pre-revolutionary war era and buttons made by contemporary craftsmen.

There are buttons with secret compartments called “smuggler’s buttons” which Martin says have been around for centuries.  Soldiers in the Civil War carried gold coins in them in order to buy favors should they be captures.  World War I soldiers carried diamonds and precious gems, spies carried poison, and World War II fliers carried compasses in case they were shot down.

“I suspect they are used even today in the smuggling of cocaine,”Martin said.

Gold and silver buttons were quite common among the wealthy she said, and were often passed own along in wills.  She noticed that Philip Ringo, for whom the New Jersey town of Ringoes was named,made mention in his will of “the gold and silver buttons being now attached to my britches.”

New Jersey was one of the button-making centers during the 19th century when there were over 40 button manufacturers in the state, the majority located in Newark making pearl buttons.  William Crompton of Burlington was one of the state’s earliest button makers, specializing in military buttons in the early 1800s.

Martin  recalled that the Goodyear Company (Novelty Rubber Company, using the Goodyear patent) in the New Brunswick area once made hard rubber buttons and that the old January Button Company, also in New Brunswick, was eventually taken over by Johnson & Johnson.

She explained that regardless of predictions, the zipper has never been able to replace the buttons.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s