Pushing Out Buttons – Beutron, Chung Wah, Hoover, Union and Wah Hing

York Lo: Pushing Out Buttons– Beutron, Chung Wah, Hoover, Union and Wah Hing

Since the 1950s, Hong Kong have been one of the leading producers of buttons in the world, made fromwide range of materials from metal, wood, leather, animal bone, ivory, porcelain, glass, genuine or synthetic jewels, ocean and freshwater pearl shells, plastics and polyester. Below are the profiles of five firms which were pioneers of the HK button industry in alphabetical order of their names:

Beutron Hong Kong Ltd (彪采香港有限公司)

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Left: Beutron HK advertisement; right: Beutron founder Marshall Ney

The Australian button giant Beutron pioneered the manufacturing of polyester buttons in HK when it established G. Beutron (Hong Kong) Ltd. in 1954 and built a four-story, 12,000 sq. ft. factory at 39, Wong Chuk Hang Road in Aberdeen which became known as Beutron House. (Hong Kong Enterprise, 1968)

Beutron was founded as G. Herring & Co in 1933 in Sydney by George Herring, Marshall Ney and his brother Cornelius F. Ney and the firm started importing buttons in 1936 and acquired Pearl Button Manufacturing in 1939. After the War, G. Herring began marketing its buttons under the Beutron brand and by the early 1950s, the firm was manufacturing one million buttons per week and was exporting overseas.

In 1957, G. Herring set up G. Herring (Export) Ltd in HK, which was renamed Herculoid Far East the next year. Herculoid imported crystalline forms from Japan, US, UK and Germany and converted them into polyester sheets. (FEER, 1960; Australia Trade with Asia, 1962) The directors of Herculoid and Beutron HK included R.A. Wadeson, G.M. Goldsack and Kenneth Fung Ping-fan, the prominent banker and politician while Cornelius Ney was the manager. (Handbook of HK Commerce, 1960)

In 1963, G. Herring was renamed Beutron Australia and F. W. Williams acquired half of the firm.

By 1964, the factory employed about 75 local workers who, on average, were able to produce 25 to 30 tons of finished buttons and button blanks a month. (HK Enterprise, 1968)

In 1968, Beutron, which by then had also established factories in New Zealand and South Africa, was acquired by the Australian concrete giant Pioneer Concrete which has major operations in HK (to be covered) although Marshall Ney and his son David stayed on as director and manager.

By the 1970s, Fung Ping-fan was still on the board of Beutron HK but the other directors were R. E. Moore and T. V. Antico while the manager was R. F. Crocker and the firm continued to operate out of Beutron House in Aberdeen.(Hongkong $ Directory, 1970)

As a firm, G. Beutron (HK) Ltd was dissolved in 1985. In 2001, Beutron Australia was acquired by Leutenegger.

Sources (other than those cited above):

http://www.ausbuttonhistory.com/?page_id=251

Chung Wah Button Factory (中華鈕廠)

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Chung Wah Button Factory on Tung Chau Street in 1965 (Gwulo)

Chung Wah Button Factory was one of the oldest and largest button manufacturers in Hong Kong. The firm was founded by Heung Ping-kwong (香炳光) and was known for its “Double Ten” brands of buttons (HK Chinese Business Yearbook, 1954). Although it was founded earlier, as a firm it was not incorporated until 1958 with $600,000 in capital. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, it was located at 109 Prince Edward Road. (Telephone Directory for HK and Kowloon, 1948). By the late 1950s, the firm had moved to 119-125 Tung Chau Street in Tai Kok Tsui. (CMA Directory and FEER, 1958)

P.K. Heung’s eldest son Leonard K.L. Heung (香國樑) joined Chung Wah as a manager after he graduated from high school, and married Wong Woon-cheung (王煥璋), the daughter of Wong Chuen-chi, the owner of Tai Ming Jewelry and Tai Ming Textile in 1962. The wedding ceremony was attended by leading industrialists such as Wong Kwai and Lau Chi-yuen covered earlier on the website and leading jewelers such as Chow Kwan-ling of Chow Sang Sang. (WKYP, 1962-11-15). He later studied to become a lawyer and was admitted to practice in 1971. He established the law firm of Leonard K.L. Heung & Co which is currently managed by Matthew Heung Man-yick (香文翊). Another son of P.K. – Jason Heung Kwok-kit (香國傑) is a dentist and married a member of the Lo Min-nung family (see article on Yau Yue Bank). Both Leonard and Jason are active investors in the property market and Jason was the owner of 53 Carnavon Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and bought 55 Granville Road in Tsim Sha Tsui for HK$120 million in 2012.

As a firm, Chung Wah Button Factory was dissolved in 1965.

Pushing Out Buttons Image 3 York Lo

Left: wedding picture of Leonard Heung and Wong Woon-cheung in 1962; Right: Leonard Heung (left) receiving the Rotary pin from Wong Po-yan (黃保欣), president of the Rotary Club of Kowloon West as he became the newest member of the club in 1975 (工商晚報, 1975-04-26)

Sources (other than those cited above):

http://www.hklawsoc.org.hk/pub_e/memberlawlist/member.asp?id=938938

Hoover Button Factory (豪華鈕)

Founded in 1955 (although as a firm it was not incorporated until 1968), Hoover Button Factory is one of the leading button manufacturers in HK. In the late 1950s, its office was located at Alexandra House in Central while its factory was located at 193 Fuk Wah Street in Sham Shui Po and its manager was Fu Hsueh-i. (A Handbook of HK Industry and CMA Directory, 1958; Directory of Industry, Commerce and Finance, 1957)In 1957, H.I. Fu (who lived in 25 Shun Ning Road) formed Hong Kong Button Manufacturers Ltd (香港聯合製鈕有限公司) with James Wang Koh-sing (of 3 Osmanthus Road) but the firm was dissolved in 1962.

In the late 1960s, its directors included P.S. Fu who was manager of the firm, K.L. Mei, Frank Chen and W.L. Wang (王華霖, native of Jiangxi). (Xianggang Shikuang, 1968) From the late 1970s to the 1990s, its factory was located at the 9th floor of Fu Hop Factory Building at 209-211 Wai Yip Street in Kwun Tong and its manager was Frank Chen. (Business Directory of HK, 1977; World Business Directory, 1994)

In 1990, the firm moved its factory to Ping Hu in Shenzhen which is fully equipped with all kinds of production tools, skillful technicians and advanced technologies with monthly production capacity up to 26 million buttons.

Today the firm’s main products are polyester button, ABS button, natural button, cuff link and metal button and it counts Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle Outfitters, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Calvin Klein, Express, Esprit, French Connection, Hugo Boss, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Oshkosh, S. Oliver, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger and Uniqlo as its clients.The firm is managed by Arthur Fu Sun-kun (傅森根) and Alice Fu Lai-wah.

Sources (other than those cited above):

http://www.hkhoover.com/index.php?m=content&c=index&a=lists&catid=81

Union Button Factory (合衆鈕廠)

Union Button Factory was founded in 1955 (although as a firm it was not incorporated until 1984) and has been one of the leading manufacturers of polyester buttons for over 50 years and known for its “Duck” brand of buttons. Its founder W.H. Wong came from Shanghai and was described as the largest Chinese-owned button company in the late 1960s, making buttons of all colors, designs and sizes using machines imported from Japan, Germany and Italy while moulds and tools were made locally.(HK Enterprise, 1968) Chung Ling, the managing director of Astor Jewellery (see article on jade industry) and director of Oceanic Cotton Mills (see article on M.C. Oung) was also a director of the Union Button Factory (HK Album, 1967)

The firm had its office out of903 Man Yee Building in Central from the 1960s to 1980s while its factory was located at 95 How Ming Street in Kwun Tong. (HK Economic Yearbook, 1964; Trade Bulletin, 1967; HK Fax Directory, 1991)

In 1988, the Japanese button giant Kanase (金清工业株式会社,founded in 1919) acquired Union Button Factory. The same year, the firm developed its own brand of imitation shell buttons under the “Union MAK” brand and achieved success in 1993. In 1991, the firm moved its factory to Guanlan Town in Shenzhen where it operated until 2008 when it moved to a 30140 square meter site in Gaoyao in Guangdong with total investments of US$10 million. The firm’s annual production is over 5.4 million gross of buttons.

Sources (other than those cited above):

http://www.unionbutton.com.hk/en/company.html

https://www.kanase.co.jp/en/en_history.html

Wah Hing Button Factory (華興鈕廠)

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The abandoned Wah Hing Button Factory building in Tai Kok Tsui

Wah Hing Button Factory was one of the leading button manufacturers in Hong Kong which operated out of 114 Lai Chi Kok Road in the 1950s and its manager was Lam Man-wai (林文偉). (A Handbook of Hongkong Industry, 1959) Buttons made by the firm at the time included Trocas Shell Buttons, Fresh Water Shell Buttons, Mother of Pearl Buttons, Acrylic Plastic Buttons & Polyester Buttons (CMA Directory, 1958)

In August 1950, a strike broke out at the Wah Hing factory when the management tried to cut the wages of its 100 workers. (WKYP, 1950-8-16) In the mid-1950s, the factory had its own mini soccer team (KSEN, 1954-9-3).

Wah Hing later moved to 103 Tung Chau Street in Tai Kok Tsui next to Chung Wah Button Factory profiled earlier and the building was abandoned for many years after the firm vacated the premise. (Xianggang Nianjian, 1971; Business Directory of Hong Kong, 1985) As a firm, Wah Hing Button Factory never appeared to have incorporated and it is unclear if Wah Hing Button Factory that can be found online which states that it was founded in 1998 is connected to the firm being profiled here.

This article was first posted on 14th May 2021.

Related Indhhk articles:

  1. King of Plastic Beads and Buttons –Shen Bing-su (沈炳樞) of Yee Sing Industrial (義生實業)
  2. Lau Chi-yuen (柳子元) of Wilman Rubber (惠民橡膠廠) and South Ocean Rubber Works (南洋橡膠化工廠)
  3. Yau Yue Commercial Bank (有餘商業銀行)
  4. Hong Kong Jade Industry and some of its pioneers
  5. M.C. Oung (翁明昌) – the Shanghainese tycoon in Taiwan and his industrial enterprises in Hong Kong

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