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From Ken Sequin’s Badge Collection

April 17, 2016
by the gentle author

From hundreds of badges in his magnificent collection, Ken Sequin kindly selected those for me with a local connection – and they comprise an unexpected history of the East End.

Button badges were invented in 1896, when Benjamin Whitehead of Whitehead & Hoag in New York filed a patent for a celluloid-covered metal badge, swiftly opening offices in London, Toronto & Sydney as the craze went global.

Adopted first as a means of advertising by tobacco companies, button badges were quickly exploited for political, religious and fund-raising purposes by all kinds of clubs and organisations.

Kingsland Rd Costermongers Association manufactured by E. Simons, late nineteenth century – one of the rarest badges, possibly a unique survivor

Souvenir of Dirty Dick’s in Bishopsgate, twenties or thirties

St John at Hackney Parochial School founded in 1275 is one of the oldest in the country, early twentieth century

Woolwich Arsenal Football Club, 1907

Hackney Band Club, hat badge c1873, one of the most radical Working Men’s Clubs

Boer War, 1900 – one of the very earliest button badges in this country

Reverse of previous badge, note local manufacturer

Royal Eye Hospital, Moorfields – early twentieth century

Lea Bridge Speedway Supporters’ Club - 1928-32

Dartford Pageant, 1932

Possibly the Regal Edmonton, 1934

Bethnal Green Men’s Institute, Gymnastics, Turin St, early twentieth century

Temperance and Salvation Army buttons, early twentieth century

Dockers Trade Union Badge, established 1889

A cache of badges found in an allotment shed in Walthamstow

World War II propaganda badges

Salvage. Dulwich Council

St George’s Sunday School, Weslyan Mission House, in the eighteen-nineties it took over Wilton’s Music Hall

Reverse of previous badge

WWII National Air Raid Precautions Animals Committee, dog’s identity badge

World War II badges for fundraising clubs to build airplanes

WWII Fundraising club to buy a destroyer

First Labour Mayor of Poplar, Will Crooks was elected MP for Woolwich in 1902

Reverse of buttons above

Dulwich & District Defence League, a Home Front battalion established in 1915

The Mildmay Hospital in Shoreditch was named after Francis Bingham Mildmay in 1890

Early twentieth century silver badge rewarding service in hospital ‘meals on wheels’ service

Barnado’s Young Helpers’ Badge with a portrait of the founder, early twentieth century

Tilbury Seamen’s Hospital, ‘For services rendered’ – possibly thirties

John Groom’s Crippleage & Flower Girls Mission, fund-raising rosettes, c 1900

Photographs copyright © Ken Sequin

You might also like to take a look at

John Gillman’s Bus Ticket Collection

Viscountess Boudica’s Domestic Appliances

Libby Hall’s Dog Photography Collection

Clive Murphy’s Matchbox Label Collection

Stephen Killicks’s Truman’s Beer Label Collection

Philip Mernick’s Cartes De Visites

13 Responses leave one →
  1. April 17, 2016

    All of these are wonderful, but I especially like the “dog’s identity badge”. Of course Miss P’s badge says “princess”.

  2. Robert Green permalink
    April 17, 2016

    These are very nice, and very interesting to, they also give an important insite into social history, the message that many of them promote give a real sense of felling for the period in time, I have a Lea Bridge Speedway badge exactly the same that my mother bought when she went there following West Ham in the 1930s, I was very amused by the ‘Vote for CROOKS’ badge I think that one is very apt, and particularly relevant today in a different way, in fact I think someone should produce a copy of that one and send one to every voter in the country before EVERY General Election ! ! ! !

  3. François permalink
    April 17, 2016

    Thank you for these badges — they are absolutely wonderful. So much history in such a small package!

  4. April 17, 2016

    Good to see all the badges, I still have a box full I collected as a kid from jumble sales etc. Valerie

  5. April 17, 2016

    The NARPAC badges of National Air Raids Precautions Animals Committee , the umbrella body that including government reps, vets, and animal charities such as the RSPCA, PDSA and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, were for cats as well as dogs. They were used to help reunite companion animals lost after bombing etc – and this did seem to work! However, the fact that so many of the badges still exist suggests that the complaints I have discovered around NARPAC not sending out badges quickly enough and many lying around the admin offices seem to be valid. There will be more about this in my book on animals and people on the Home Front out next year.

  6. Ron Pummell permalink
    April 17, 2016

    Very interesting.

  7. April 17, 2016

    Wonderful! “Made in Germany” was at first a negative feature, then a quality feature — now again it’s very doubtful … regrettably!

    By the way: I wear my Peace Sign Badge every day!

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  8. Helen Breen permalink
    April 17, 2016

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, another great piece. And these badges supported such a variety of causes. I guess I think of these buttons as primarily statements of political support for various candidates during election time.

    I also learned another word: “Costermonger, coster, or costard is a street seller of fruit and vegetables, in London and other British towns. They were ubiquitous in mid-Victorian England, and some are still found in markets. As usual with street-sellers, they would use a loud sing-song cry or chant to attract attention…. a costermonger sells from a handcart or animal-drawn cart, while a hawker carries his wares in a basket.”

  9. April 17, 2016

    Fascinating collection. I wonder though if St George’s S.S. does not stand for St George’s Sunday School. That would be the more usual meaning of the letters in this kind of context, whether Methodist or C of E.

  10. pauline taylor permalink
    April 17, 2016

    Very interesting, it must make some of us wonder how many of our ancestors would have worn a badge like one of these or indeed one that was exactly the same.

  11. April 17, 2016

    Fascinating.

  12. Stephen Barker permalink
    April 17, 2016

    Apart from the obvious social history, I am struck by the quality of the enamel badges. Very interesting post.

  13. Suzanne Keyte permalink
    April 18, 2016

    Great post – thank you.
    I love these badges and for something so small they are a fascinating insight into local and national history.

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