Excerpt from “Realistics Through the Years: A Fun Collectible for Children and Adults”
By Jane Albanowski
Program for New Jersey State Button Society
September 8, 2018
…. In the 1940s, B. Blumenthal & Company sold Deluxe, realistic Celluloid buttons designed by Marian Weeber of New York City. Made for the dress trade, these buttons appealed to Moms in hard times. They displayed baskets of fruit, crates of fruits and vegetables, fruits cut in half, realistic vegetables, flowers and birds, as well as her now-famous plates of food.
M. W. “Freddie” Speights, editor of the National Button Bulletin, wrote in October 1987: When Marion Weeber’s buttons were sold, “Few button collectors purchased them as they were more expensive than most modern buttons. Early collectors were too engrossed in the accumulation of antique buttons to pay much attention to moderns.
“In the intervening 40 years, these buttons have become very collectible. Although many of the Weeber buttons have survived these 40 years,” he added, “(they) were made of a plastic which because of the chemical content are crystallizing and disintegrating.
Celluloid Hats (Note: rounded self shank. I believe the spool is Celluloid, although it may be bakelite. It is described as “Deluxe,” indicating it was designed by Marion Weeber).
–The next partially-synthetic plastic to appear in the marketplace was Casein, based on a milk protein. Casein had long been used in paints and adhesives, and was first developed as a molding compound by two German chemists, who patented it in 1899 under the trade name Galalith. It was made using milk curd. Once the impurities were removed, it was washed, dehydrated under pressure, ground and dried, then combined with formaldehyde, says NBS Plastics Classification Committee.
Pix 4: Misc. shapes.
Casein was a natural thermoplastic. When cured with formaldehyde, it became a thermo-set, meaning the final product was not reversible upon reheating. It was inexpensive to produce, produced in the form of rods, tubes and sheets. However, it had a tendency to warp, shrink, and was not heat resistant, according to the NBS Plastics Classification Committee. Uncured scraps could be melted and reused, since the casein was still in a thermoplastic state. Individual Casein buttons could be cured in a formaldehyde bath in a matter of days, while it took several weeks to cure a casein sheet.
Pix 6. Stars.
Pix 7. Objects. (Note: the light green dog and acorn are Casein buttons, while the dark green key and red button are probably Bakelite. Casein and Bakelite can sometimes be difficult to distinguish).