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Collected by Victorian girls in the 1860s to early 1900s, charm strings, also known as memory strings or friendship strings, displayed hundreds of buttons. It all started with a 'touch button' a large button tied at one end that started the charm string. Long strings displayed the unique, shiny, beautiful buttons, made of glass, metal, pearl, china, vegetable ivory or hard rubber. Girls kept the strings visible for family, friends, and even suitors to contribute to its growth.
(left): Charm String.
Collecting for love was one reason young girls would strive to collect 999 buttons. The thousandth button was a sure sign of romantic intent from a future beau or even a sign of meeting a future husband. Other reasons for collecting were attributed to a game of rivalry between friends or even a mid-19th century newspaper competition.
Donated by visitors, family, and friends or swapped by fellow collectors, a button was given for good luck or to memorialize an event (e.g. a birth, wedding or even involvement in a war). As well as buttons, some items strung on the charm included meaningful objects, coins, miniature arms and legs of dolls' and religious medals strung along the way.
(left): Annie Catharine MacEdward (1884-1980) stood behind her mother, Mary Catherine (Katie) (1852-1938) in this family photograph. WCMA,
Charm strings today are rarely intact. This charm string was started by Annie (MacEdward) MacIntyre (1884-1980) in the 1890s when she was six years old at S.S. No. 9 in Badenock Public School in Puslinch Township. Later strings were added by her daughters Llewella (1921-2003) and Dorothy MacIntyre (1924-2009) of Puslinch Township in the 1930s and 1940s.