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William Button Diaries

The diaries - part of the M. Button and Sons fonds - were authored by William Button, son of Moses, who managed the firm after his father's death. Moses Button (-1901) was a schoolteacher, fisherman and Methodist lay preacher at New Melbourne, Trinity Bay. By 1893 he had opened a general store and was involved in supplying the fishery and general trading. In the mid-1890s, Moses' sons, William (1871-1938) and Elisha, (1868-?) became partners in the business along with their father.

Under William's management, Moses Button and Sons grew to include a lobster canning factory, cod-liver oil factory, saw mills, several wharves, stages, and other auxiliary buildings in addition to the general store. At its peak, the firm had the largest general store between Hant's Harbour and Old Perlican. In addition, the firm had two schooners and up to 26 cod-traps which it leased to fishermen. The firm suffered financial decline in the 1930s but continued until 1953. The family closed the business after the death of William's wife, Lucy Button (1877-1953).

William maintained a regular diary in the firm's ledgers. In it he chronicled daily life around the business, community and home. There are thirteen volumes, 1908-1925: the bulk of the entries relate to business matters such as the volume of trade at his premises, the amount of fish landed by local fisherman (his clients), freight received and shipped by the firm, and work carried out by the firm's employees. Many entries also concern local social and economic conditions, including church, lodge and school affairs. He also recorded domestic matters such as the movements of family members and visitors to his house. The Button diaries provide a good insight into the life and business of an outport merchant family in early twentieth century Newfoundland.

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The Diaries

William Button Diary, 1908William Button Diary, 1920

William Button Diary, 1911William Button Diary, 1921

William Button Diary, 1913William Button Diary, 1922

William Button Diary, 1914William Button Diary, 1923

William Button Diary, 1915William Button Diary, 1924

William Button Diary, 1918William Button Diary, 1925

William Button Diary, 1919

 

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