Week of October 20th the OVBC received an inquiry from a button collector in NYC, Bob writing: "I posted a button I found on the Canadian Button Collectors page seeking info on it. It was recommended by one of the followers that I contact you."

"Attached is a photo of said button and info on the Grosse Island Quarantine I was able to find online.I'm a collector from NYC. I know the date of the button because of the backmark, but I have never seen one before and can not find an image of it anywhere."

This is what Bob has found on the internet:


Sue Farrah, OVBC member, did some research and discovered:

To me the button looks like one used on a shipping line uniform or even a port authority or police uniform. I did contact Waterbury but unfortunately, they were unable to assist."


This Catalogue of Waterbury(above) currently at the Smithsonian shows a police button on page 23 and a Fire Department button on page 28 and both appear to use the same design so that may provide a clue to use. The only other thing the button may be used for would be an inspector or port authority. So likely a uniform button but I am not sure what kind.

As far as value, I really cannot assist with this part , however I have never seen/ heard of this button, nor have the members that were consulted, so It may be scarce. Of course, it would be important to know what uniform it was worn on to assist with value estimation.

There is no question that it is historically significant, and I do believe there is a museum at Grosse Isle, a companion museum in Ireland, as well as a museum of Waterbury Buttons. Possibly one of these museums or Parks Canada/Historic sites division could shed more light on how it was used. It seems Grosse Isle ceased being a quarantine station in 1932.

One of our members has confirmed the dating of 1890, saying the button would not date from the time of the great epidemics, but would still date from a time when there was a human quarantine at Grosse Isle. She goes on to say that she owns a gilded unform button made by Scully in Montreal with a King's crown surrounded by "Quarantine Canada". Could it have been worn by officers at Grosse Isle in the 20th Cent.?

It is such a tragic story and I am providing some links below for further interest.There is an article here written by Ms, M Forester. It gives more detail and a report on the medical aspects of Grosse Isle


I am wondering if someone from National Historic Sites/ Parks Canada is continuing Ms. Forester's work and might be interested in the button. They must have archives.You can find  the names of the lost ones below.


Also Parks Canada link:https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/qc/grosseile/culture/histoire-history/1847


Here is an excerpt of information the OVBC received from

From Parks Canada/ Government of Canada

Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic site

"We have consulted with great interest the page detailing the searches carried out by your collaborators.  We confirm that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, quarantine officers working at the Grosse-Ile station, including doctors, wore uniforms similar to those worn by naval officers.  

[photo courtesy Parks Canada / Government of Canada]

For most of its existence, from 1832 to 1937, the station was under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture.  We also have some pieces preserved in our collections as well as several photos of these uniforms, such as those from the 1930s appearing as attachments.

[photo courtesy Parks Canada / Government of Canada]

About the buttons, it is likely that several models have been used over the years, but the main one that is listed is a model from the early twentieth century, bearing the inscriptions Quarantine and Canada (see photo attached).  These buttons were provided by N. Scully and E. J. Scott.

[photo courtesy Parks Canada / Government of Canada]

We will submit your letter to one of our historians to determine if we have more information about the older Waterbury Button Company model.  In the event that we have more information, we will be happy to share it with you."


The Ottawa Valley Button Club certainly thanks everyone who helped in this dectective work including the original mystery writer, Bob and our OVBC member, Sue Farrah and Micheline Gravel. and to those at Parks Canada to helped provide the answers.