A Centennial reminder… WW1 on the brain

Posted on February 10, 2013 by

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Just last week, while going through boxes still remaining from my move, I came across a small bag of buttons.

WW1 era buttons atop my copy of the book about the Twenty-Ninth Division in World War I.

WW1 era buttons atop my copy of the book about the Twenty-Ninth Division in World War I.

I was glad to find them, and they served as a reminder that the centennial of the First World War (though I can’t say for sure that some aren’t vintage WW2) is not too far off… not to mention, the Mexican Border Crisis, in which U.S. forces were deployed en masse, to deal with Poncho Villa. Overkill in dealing with Villa, in my opinion. That said, however, it wasn’t just about Villa. Despite Woodrow Wilson’s promise of neutrality, the US was gearing-up for war. Interesting times. Anyway…

I actually used to have more of these buttons, but I don’t remember where they might be. My memory of these goes back a way… and I recall seeing them, before I was in my teens, hanging on a hay bail string, in one of my grandfather’s outbuildings. In fact, I recall seeing a pair of spats (I think they were WWII era, however) with them. No, they aren’t passed down from family members who were “over there”, but, naturally (well, knowing me), I was drawn to them, and they ended-up in my possession.

At first, they may all appear to be the same, but they aren’t. For one, all are not US Army buttons… there is one US Marine cuff button.

Cuff buttons... one Army, and one Marine.

Cuff buttons… one Army, and one Marine.

Also, there are three manufacturers represented in the lot. The most common buttons in the group are the Horstmanns (see here for a good early history of Horstmann’s business in Philadelphia).

Horstmann button.

Backing of the  Horstmann button.

Then we have this button from Liebmann, of Newark, New Jersey…

Liebmann Button

Liebmann Button

And, last, but not least… this button from the Charles Fischer company…

Fischer button

Fischer button

I’m particularly interested in the Fischer button for the wear on the front…

Fischer front

Fischer front

Did the Fischer button see active service on a tunic… in France? Who knows.

Of course, while we’re midway through the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War (and actively assessing the popularity of it), I wonder what sort of activity we’ll see for the Centennial of the First World War, in 2017 and 2018. Since the war was literally “over there”, I realize the volume of activity will be much less. Perhaps we’ll be confined to seeing nothing more than lectures. I sincerely hope we see more creativity than that. As for me, I’m seriously contemplating a trip to France to see the ground over which some folks (in particular) tramped. Specifically, I’d like to follow in the footsteps of the 116th Infantry (Virginians), 29th Division; 318th Infantry (Virginians), 80th Division; 314th Infantry (Pennsylvanians), 79th Division; and the Marines at Belleau Wood.

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