100 Years Ago - Los Angeles Company Helped WWI Soldiers Keep Close to Loved Ones
by Geraldine Knatz, LACHS Board Member
In WWI soldiers were forbidden to carry personal information with them into battle, particularly photos or letters that might have addresses on them. But an enterprising Los Angeles business figured out a way to satisfy a soldier’s longing to be near to his loved ones and not get in trouble with the military –using specially designed buttons made by the Liberty Manufacturing Company of Los Angeles. Surprise! These seemingly standard uniform buttons were actually lockets that opened to reveal a place for photos. Known as “liberty buttons” these buttons were indistinguishable from the standard issue military uniform buttons allowing a solider to pass inspection while holding a picture of his sweetheart close to his heart. A May 16, 1918 advertisement in the Los Angeles Times during WWI urges everyone to “send your Sammy” a button with your picture in it.
This has been a month of remembrance of the sacrifice made by the soldiers during the Great War a hundred years ago. How many of them wore Liberty Buttons is not known. Nor how many made it home. Now, 100 years old, the buttons today are quite rare, and very expensive if you can find them. Many old uniforms could have been discarded without anyone being aware the buttons were Liberty buttons. Many too could be still buried on the battlefields of France. Los Angeles’ Liberty Manufacturing Company continued to make locket buttons for WWII.