Celluloid Medallions & Buttons
Large Photographic Buttons were popular from 1900 to 1930. In their time the large buttons were commonly referred to as medallions and plaques. Most incorporate a photograph into a decorative border and the back has either a hook for hanging or an easel stand for propping. The borders were mass-produced and handpicked by the customer from samples and sample sheets. Buttons that are small enough to fit in a closed fist are most often true buttons with a pin-back, or have mirrors on the back and are referred to as pocket mirrors. Buttons of all kinds were purchased from door-to-door salesmen, photography studios, and through catalogs.

The process for making these objects is the same as that for making pin-back buttons. A photograph, supplied by the buyer, is reproduced and cut to the desired shape and size. The trimmed photograph and border design (if a border design is incorporated) are mounted to a sheet of celluloid using heated rollers. The celluloid-covered photograph is then placed in a press and the outside edges are crimped over an aluminum shell. Lastly, a metal retaining ring is secured over the crimped edges. The Cruver Manufacturing Company from Chicago was the most popular supplier of the materials used to make buttons. Cruver produced border designs, press machines, celluloid sheets, and even sample cases for salesmen.

George Eastman House collects photographic buttons because they are part of photographic culture. These objects demonstrate some of the many ways in which vernacular images were displayed in the early 20th century. Pocket mirrors and pin-back buttons were very commonly produced to advertise companies and political campaigns. The large buttons were most popular in America, yet were also made in Europe. The buttons in this set depict a range of subjects, including everyday snapshots of pets and children, wedding portraits, nudes, and occupational portraits.
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