This yellow metal buckle is stamped into a rectangular frame featuring a wave design and one decorative prong.
The Waterbury Collection tells the story of an important American manufacturer. As evidence of one company’s diverse output, the collection consists of several thousand metal objects and assemblies made in Waterbury, Connecticut, in the Naugatuck Valley from about 1890 to 1930. During the 19th Century, the Naugatuck Valley became a center of brass manufacturing, drawing heavily on the armory manufacturing practice of interchangeable parts.
The Waterbury Button Company traces its beginning to the War of 1812, when Aaron Benedict began crafting uniform buttons. During the nineteenth century the company grew from a small village shop to a large national manufacturer. Its product line expanded to include machine produced brassware such as knobs, hinges, and buckles. The company also experimented with innovative materials such as celluloid in the 1870s and Bakelite in the 1920s. In the spirit of its founding, the company continued to supply uniform buttons and mobilized to meet wartime demands during major conflicts including the Civil War and World War I.
This rich history of product innovation and machine assembly is captured in the more than 7,500 examples of military insignia, civilian emblems, belt plates, buckles, and machine components donated to the museum in 1975. Varying in size from a thumbtack to a soup can, the majority of these objects are composed of metal such as tin, nickel, brass, and other copper and iron alloys. They originally came to the museum mounted on cardboard display boards. At the National Museum of American History, the collection is divided between the Division of Work and Industry and the Division of Armed Forces History. Additional artifacts can be found at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, Connecticut.