A pen knife/button hook

These days we are used to quick fix Velcro or zips as ideal and convenient ways to fasten clothing and shoes. But the humble button still reigns supreme for some items. In times past, clothing, particularly lady’s clothing, was done up very tightly to ensure people had the shape required by fashion. Buttons could be very hard to do up in these circumstances, so enter the button hook.

A button hook was, essentially, a steel hook on a handle. You put the hook through a button hole, used it to grab the shaft of the button and then pulled the button through the hole. They were essential items and very common.

We are also accustomed to the boy scouts pocket knife with a tool for everything, including the one for getting stones out of horse hooves. Ladies would not have wanted anything so bulky, but a pretty, delicate knife with a button hook attachment – now that could be useful. The pen knife could be used for its purpose, keeping a quill pen in good order, and the hook was there as well.

We have such an item at Market Lavington Museum.

Early twentieth century penknife/button hook at Market Lavington Museum

This item is made of steel with the sides of the handle made of bone which is riveted to the steel.  It all folds up to be a small neat item, easily carried. When folded it is about 5cm long. We believe this dates from the early years of the twentieth century. It was given to the museum by a White Street (Market Lavington) lady.

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