BLUMENTHAL LANSING COMPANY
BUTTON BUTTON WHOâ€™S GOT THE BUTTON???? If you live in Allamakee County, you should know the answer to that question. It is the Blumenthal Lansing Company, formerly known as the Lansing Company, Inc. or as many locals say â€“ the Button Factory. This company has been in existence in Lansing, Iowa since 1877 (138 years).
Upon his retirement, Steamboat Captain, Jeremiah M. Turner started the button business in Lansing. His plan was to cut button blanks from the Mississippi River clam shells for factories back East. Housed in a little frame building on Center Street in Lansing, he called his business Turner Button Company. At this time he employed approximately forty people. The hand-polished, carved and drilled unfinished buttons was a very labor intensive process. Mr. Turnerâ€™s grandson, Leo Hufschmidt, joined the company in 1904 and within a few years was made a business partner and the name of the company then changed to Lansing Button Works.
After Mr. Hufschmidt became President of the company, the business focused on button processing and carding. In 1906, girls were employed to punch and finish buttons at the Lansing factory for the first time. At this time, the Company expanded to include jewelry items producing pearl belt buckles, cuff links, stick pins and other small jewelry items. This line flourished until 1916 when it was discontinued due to the changing fashions. In the mid 1930â€™s the jewelry line was back at the Lansing Button Works but at this time only plastics were used. It was also at this time that the first button carding machines were installed.
In 1942, Mr. Hufschmidtâ€™s nephew, John Brophy joined the company as a partner and the name was changed to Lansing Company, Inc. At this time the company began buying, grading and carding buttons for sale directly to dealers. By now buttons were being made from every conceivable material imaginable â€“ Bakelite, metals, crystal, wood, acetate, bone and of course in every color, size and shape. Pearl buttons were no longer being made at the Lansing Company, but were now being produced as finished buttons at Washington, Iowa for the Lansing Company to sort, card and out source.
The company started a sideline business in 1942, a toy business called Slik Toys. The machinery on hand did lend itself to toy making and was welcomed with the war shortages affecting the button business. At first the toys were simple models of wood cars and trucks. Between 1942 and 1945, 30,000 wood toys were turned out daily. After the war, wood toys became metal toys.
The business expanded and grew out of several different locations from the original site on Center Street, to the former Lansing Ford Garage building, to the Spinner Building and they even rented storage space in the old Allamakee County Courthouse. Within a few years, a new building became imperative so a new structure with 30,000 feet of floor space was started on the west side of Lansingâ€™s Main Street. In 1969 space again was crowded and a new 80,000 square foot building was constructed on the west edge of Lansing, which is the current site today.
In 1978 Mr. Brophyâ€™s nephew, Bob Scarpino, became president of Lansing Company, Inc. During this time, the Company grew to become the second largest button wholesaler in the country behind only to the B. Blumenthal Company of Carlsbad, NJ. Then in 1986 Lansing Company, Inc. was purchased by B. Blumenthal Company, a subsidiary of Belding Heminway. !n 1993 the Belding Heminway was purchased by the NOEL Group. With the NOEL acquisition, plans were made to consolidate B. Blumenthal and Lansing Company, Inc. making the company the worldâ€™s largest button wholesaler. With the decision to keep the company operations in Lansing, came the need for more space so a 20,000 sq ft. addition was added to the main structure and all of that space is still utilized today.
The Blumenthal Lansing Company is a manufacturer, importer and distributor of buttons, buckle, appliquÃ©s and more to the retail and wholesale markets all over the world. Corporate sales and marketing offices are located out in Fairfield, NJ and Customer Service and distribution is all done in Lansing. The Blumenthal Lansing site is currently managed by Kevin Hanson, Vice President of Iowa Operation and Controller. He has been with the company for the past fifteen years. Mr. Hanson grew up in the Decorah area and worked in Des Moines, but had the opportunity to move back to Northeast Iowa and he stated that he and his family love it here.
Blumenthal Lansing Company currently employs seventy people, many of whom have been with the company for a long time. They work four ten hour days, 6:00 â€“ 4:30, Monday through Thursday. Many employees wear several hats while on the job â€“being cross trained to handle different machines and duties. â€œThis makes for an efficient workforceâ€ stated Mr. Hanson.
In taking a tour of the company, I couldnâ€™t have imagined so many buttons â€“ millions - both cataloged on shelves and in HUGE boxes all over the place. It reminded me of corn in a grain wagon and I just wanted to jump in and play. The carding of the buttons was fascinating including the printing and cutting of the cards themselves and the process for filling and shipping orders was unbelievably smooth. The next time you are in a Wal-Mart, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Hancock Fabrics, Michaels and many other independent fabric and craft stores, check out the button cards and you will notice that the majority all come from Blumenthal Lansing Company, Lansing, Iowa. How proud can we all be of that product and this Company. So again, I say BUTTON BUTTON WHOâ€™S GOT THE BUTTON and believe me, I now know the answer â€“ Blumenthal Lansing Company has millions of them!! Thank you for being a long-standing and integral part of our Allamakee County Business Family.