A docent's family connection with abalone-shell button-making in New Jersey

I know it’s a cliché to say “it’s a small world” but on a visit to my 93 year old father in New Jersey, I learned how very true this is. As always, I brought copies of the latest Point Lobos magazines , which had some mention of abalone in them. This led my father to tell me a story which I’d never heard before.

I knew my fraternal grandmother’s family immigrated from Austria in 1907. Her father had been an apprentice button-maker in Europe and soon set up a shop in New Jersey. Here’s the part I’d never heard before : he received shipments of very large crates full of abalone shells from California .

The huge shells were cut to make rounds, and drilled and polished for buttons . (picture the buttons in the Cabin ).  Even though this was done using some water, my great-grandfather eventually developed silicosis in his lungs from exposure to the dust . This led to tuberculosis and his death .

My father says that the crates were valuable wood for the family and everything was used - for kindling, in kitchen stoves, making small items , etc . Later on we shared a summer home with my grandparents so perhaps some of the items that were on the workbench and elsewhere were made from the crates .  I remember a lot of things looking “homemade” rather than store-bought. If my grandfather or father needed a tool for a specific task, generally they fashioned it themselves.

I would never have imagined a connection between my family and the abalone fishing in the early 1900’s here in California. Small world, I would say.

Posted by docent June Banks

Comments

Everyone have their problems and should to solve it at any rate because they want to be tension free. It is a good to think to solve the problems that come in the daily routine of the life. The problems of the immigrations are so enough and best resume services which they have no time take attention of other problems.

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