African textiles, £10.99
Diameter: 22.000 mm
Gift of Dr F. Parkes Weber
Coins and Medals
Boer War Badge
United States of America, around AD 1900
An early button badge for export to Britain
This badge is one of many made by the firm of Whitehead & Hoag in New Jersey, USA, and exported to Britain at the time of the Boer War of 1899-1902. Many carry patriotic messages, such as 'England expects every man to do his duty' and 'Only one order, forward!' Others show portraits of the generals who were leading the British troops. The patriotic fervour evoked by the war meant that there was a ready market in Britain for such items. The labels indicating foreign manufacture are only visible when the badges are turned over.
The button badge was developed in the United States in the 1890s. Its production was made possible by the development of celluloid in the 1870s. They were cheap and simple to make; no soldering or screwing were required, and the celluloid-covered paper resembled enamel-work. The same technique is still used to produce badges today. Some of the earliest examples to arrive in Britain celebrated the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, and the Boer War badges followed a few years later. The earliest button badges actually made in Great Britain date to the early years of the twentieth century.
Frederick Parkes Weber presented a group of Boer War badges to The British Museum in 1906 along with a large collection of coins, tokens and medals. He recognized that cheaply-produced badges had begun to take over from political medals as popular vehicles for political propaganda.
F.R. Setchfield, The official badge collectors (Harlow, Longman, 1986)
P. Attwood, Acquisitions of badges (1983-1, British Museum Occasional Paper 76 (, 1990)