The earliest form of button collecting began with young girls in the 1880s to form charm strings. Generations later, housewives were still saving old buttons to use again, for sentimental reasons, or just because they were too pretty to throw away.
But it was not until the 1930s that a collection of buttons was formally organized. Mrs. Gertrude Patterson spoke on the radio about her collection. It was during the Depression, when many people had more buttons and leisure time than they had pennies. Listeners turned to the family button box as the source of an inexpensive hobby.
In 1944, 31 people interested in button collecting met at the home of Herman O. Zander and his wife. They organized a button society. The society's purpose is to study and improve the hobby of collecting, classifying, and mounting buttons for pleasure and educational purposes. Members also work to show the public the art, beauty and history of buttons.
Today, there is a Wisconsin State Button Society with about 130 members and a National Button Society of about 3,000 members, including many from other countries around the world.