One Man’s Love Affair With Buttons

By Erika Janik | January 1, 2016


Listen Online

Many of us collect things, from baseball cards to comic books and dolls. Gary Brockman of Middleton collects buttons.

He fell in love with buttons while working in publishing in New York City. Brockman organized an event for science teachers that involved buttons. Attention quickly shifted from the science to the buttons themselves as some of the teachers oohed and ahhed over the collection on the table. Brockman started asking questions and listening to the stories about the buttons on the table.That day launched him on his current path as a button collector and dealer.

Part of what Brockman loves so much about buttons is that they bring together sociology, art history, technology, industrial history, and psychology – just about anything in human history you can think of is reflected in buttons.

“You really have the whole history of Western culture reflected in buttons,” says Brockman.

Brockman’s buttons span centuries and continents. He participates in button shows and speaks and writes about button history. He’s also active in state and national button organizations.

Erika Janik

Erika Janik

Erika Janik is the co-creator and former executive director of Wisconsin Life. She is the author of six books, including Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction, Apple: A Global History, and  Marketplace of the Marvelous: The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine. She’s currently the executive...

Sign Up Form

Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Get your favorite Wisconsin Life stories, meet the crew, and go behind the scenes.

Our Favorite Collections

Storyteller Rodney Lambright II's comic series about the rich relationship between a single father, his young daughter and his retirement-age parents.
For the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, we discover how Wisconsinites experienced the war both at home and on the battlefield.
Ice, cold and winter are an integral part of what it means to live in Wisconsin. "Ice Week" explores the many ways that ice defines us.
Food plays a central part in many holiday traditions. This series honors the foods and meals that make the day.
Escape winter with a look at some of Wisconsin's favorite sports and games.
"Living the Wisconsin Life" is an online series exploring the little things that make living in Wisconsin fun, interesting and meaningful.