The Manufactories and Manufacturers of Pennsylvania of the Nineteenth Century
(Philadelphia: Galaxy Publishing Co., 1875)
Available at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the Library Company of Philadelphia

Text (no images), Pages 255-256:

"The Hosiery Mills of Conyers Button & Co., Germantown, Philadelphia.

"This extensive establishment was founded by John Button, the father of the present principal proprietor, in 1831. He was a native of Leicestershire, England, and emigrated to this country in 1830. His father, Joseph Button, was a lace manufacturer of that section. The son, at the time of his leaving England, was the owner of two small machines for knitting hosiery, which, under the then existing laws, he succeeded in having passed through as 'tools.'

"On arriving in Philadelphia, he at once put his machines into operation, and for twelve months manufactured children's socks. These, being made in a superior manner and being much less expensive than the hand-made article, commanded a ready sale. Being the only manufacturer of hose by machinery, he enjoyed a monopoly of the trade for a number of years.

"Attracted by the natural advantages of Germantown and the low rates of living in that rural district, he removed thither. Renting a small building on the brow of 'Negley's Hill, near the site of Henson Brothers' present mill, he set up his two machines, to which he soon after added eight others. His great success in the manufacture of children's socks induced him to undertake the manufacture of men's hose. This enterprise was equally fortunate in its results.

"Not only was he the founder of a large establishment of his own, but now under his instruction many of those now at the head of similar industries learned the art of making knit goods by steam power. In fact, John Button's little factory was the nucleus of the great hosiery manufactories of the present day. The echoes he awoke with his two small machines in the then wooded village of Germantown gathered strength, and are still reverberating far and wide. 'Germantown knit goods' are familiar to the inhabitants of every city and village in the United States.

"In 1835, his increasing business demanded more room and greater facilities. He purchased three acres of land at the corner of Main street and Walnut lane, and erected a building of sufficient capacity to accommodate his machinery. At that time he employed about twenty five hands and produced goods annually to the value of $20,000. It soon became necessary to enlarge this building, and its present dimensions are evidence of how often this necessity occurred in the ensuing thirty or thirty-five years. "In 1861, the father retired from the business which he had so successfully prosecuted for thirty years. He lives in retirement, in a substantial old-fashioned house fronting the mill property, a dwelling that is admired for the strong growth of hedge surrounding it. He is very vigorous for his advanced years, and still takes a lively interest in the business he founded.

"In 1865, Joseph Button withdrew, and his brother, Conyers Button, became the sole proprietor of the business, and to this day maintains the position which his father secured for himself and the manufactory. Four years later he admitted his nephew, Theodore A. Fleu, into partnership, and the firm now has the style and title of Conyers Button & Co. These gentleman avail themselves of every improvement which may from time to tome enter into the manufacture of woollen knit goods, and conduct their business on careful but liberal principles.

"Their manufactory comprises a handsome group of buildings covering a large extent of ground. These buildings are kept in the neatest order as to exterior, and in this respect vie with the many handsome residences with which they are surrounded on all sides, while the interior is a model of perfect system and cleanliness of appearance. The counting-house is one of the finest in Philadelphia, while the engine room is a marvel of new- pin brightness and studied ornamentation. The mills give employment to a large number of hands, male and female, and the amount and value of the goods manufactured is very great.

"The proprietors are gentlemen of culture and refinement, and the senior partner contributed largely of his means to the building of the handsome church of the Unitarian Society, at Germantown, and is a prominent supporter of that congregation."

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