Archive for Monday, July 29, 1991


July 29, 1991


— Button, button, who's got the button? Lane University in Lecompton has hundreds.

The historical museum recently received an extensive button collection from the family of Nellie May Neal Banks, who died in 1962. Her grandchildren, Betty Banks Howe, Rita Banks and John William Banks, donated the buttons in May.

"We figured this is the safest place for them," Howe said. "They can be seen and enjoyed by everybody."

Nellie Banks, who lived near Lone Star, started collecting buttons when her husband died in 1936. Friends and family members knew of her collection and frequently contributed. In fact, she even wrote to people in foreign countries and traded dishes for particularly beautiful buttons.

"We'd go to grandma's house after school and she'd be so excited about the latest button that came in the mail," Howe said. "She would pull out a map and show us where the foreign buttons came from."

Miss Banks said she occasionally went to the five-and-dime in Lawrence, where a bowl held mismatched buttons. "The saleslady would tell me to go ahead and take them, no one else would want them," she said. "I'd take them to grandma and she'd tell me what they all were before she'd sew them on a card."

MRS. BANKS sewed her buttons on any stiff backing she could find cereal boxes, calendars and book covers often did the job. The cards were then stored in stocking boxes from J.C. Penney Co. and Weaver's Department Store Inc.

She categorized the buttons by card, labeling the ones that were old or unique or given to her by someone special. One card features all handpainted buttons from Czechoslovakia. Buttons made from nutshells cover another card, while another displays glass buttons from occupied Germany.

On some cards, she arranged the buttons in a pattern. For example, many tiny buttons make up "Mary's Lamb," dated 1951. Mrs. Banks created a diamond-shaped design on another card with buttons "from the button factory at Knoxville, Tenn."

Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society, said he was excited to have the collection in the museum. "Every card that was brought out, I became more intrigued and interested in the shape and color of the buttons, just the beauty of the collection," he said.

THE FAMILY also was pleased to have a permanent home for their grandmother's buttons. "This way she'll always be remembered as the button lady," Miss Banks said.

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