Buttons of the 17th century were made of a variety of materials including brass, pewter, lead and wood. This example, known as a passementerie button, is wooden and covered with silk thread in a decorative pattern. It has a ground of unspun silk with a design wrapped over it in two types of silk thread. Silk passementerie buttons were expensive and would have been found on dress garments--in this case, perhaps an officer's garment. What is remarkable about this example is that it was recovered from the ship wreckage of a 1690 British colonial militia unit from Dorcester, Massachusetts. The button is one of a number of stylish objects recovered from the site suggesting that civilian status, in addition to military rank, was important to the members of the expedition. The goal of the ill-fated naval expedition from Boston was to take Québec. The vessel was one of four that sank on the return voyage after withdrawing from Québec.
Date: circa 1690