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December 20, 2017

Along with being a custom button manufacturer, Busy Beaver is also the home to the world’s only Button Museum— the display cases filled with historical pins line the walls of our office. The Button Museum, a certified 501(c)(3) organization, was created to show how people have used wearable items to chronicle significant events throughout time.

Being one of Chicago’s unusual museums, we understand the importance of spreading awareness of our institute to as many people as possible. We heard from three interesting museums that share this sentiment: The Pizza Museum, Brewseum, and the Chicago Design Museum. They all speak about how their idea for the local museums came to be and how they found the home.

US Pizza Museum

Kendall Bruns, the founder of the US Pizza Museum, was like most kids who start to love pizza from an early age. Her love for the ‘za grew after a trip to New York when she discovered that depending on the part of the country, the style of your pizza slice differed. The collecting portion of her passion began in 2012 when Bruns would take the menus home from the pizzerias she had tried. Fast forward a few years later, and after initially being a pop-up exhibit that opened in October of 2016, Paulie Gee’s in Logan Square is the official home of the US Pizza Museum.

Does the location of the museum influence the variety of people who visit?

Paulie has a policy of having his staff wear hats and t-shirts promoting other pizzerias in all of their locations so it’s a good marriage. I like the idea that diners who don’t know about the U.S. Pizza Museum are getting an unexpected surprise in addition to the great pizza they’re enjoying.

I’ve noticed the Pizza Museum appearing at local events like the Pizza Summit—why is it important to showcase the collection past the walls of the museum?

You have to go where the people are! Some people might not think that they like museums or don’t quite get what a pizza museum might be but are into once they see it. The Pizza Summit events are filled with pizza enthusiasts so it’s a no-brainer. Most of the other events that we’re organized or participated in have been at pizzerias. I love the idea of displaying the collection in context that also allows people to eat pizza because it’s exactly what people want to do after looking at a bunch of pizza stuff.

Why is it important to the community to keep museums accessible and free to the public? 

The items in the museum collection tell the stories of the communities that they came from. These stories belong to them and they evoke memories and encourage telling additional stories. That dialogue and sense of place is valuable and should be protected and encouraged.


Beer has strong roots in this country (before and after prohibition) so it is not surprising that beer historian Liz Garibay cultivated a business “History on Tap” that would eventually transform itself into an entire museum. Brewseum is looking to announce their permanent location in this next year and in the meantime utilizes the bonding effect of beer and collaborative communities to spread their message. 

Why is it important to collaborate and increase Brewseum’s reach?

Our project is extremely collaborative – we have amazing partnerships with fantastic cultural institutions and amazing breweries.  My approach to all of my museum work and work in general has always been rooted in creating strong partnerships with a myriad of amazing organizations all over the world.  There’s strength in numbers and, honestly, beer is everyone’s story. Going to other locations and cities also allows us to not only reach new audiences but it provides the opportunity to learn from others.  We need to do this together.

Why is it important to keep Brewseum free and open to the public?

All cultural organizations and centers of learning need to be accessible to all people. Museums are built by community and supported by community – it’s all incredibly synergistic.

Chicago Design Museum photo:

Like any project, they begin small. The Chicago Design Museum, that now established on the 3rd floor of Block 37, had its humble beginnings in a one-bedroom apartment in Logan Square. A group of 6 volunteers had a vision similar to the Phoenix Design Museum as a starting point, and were crafting their own version in the Windy City. Tanner Woodford, the Founder and Executive Director, explains that the project was worked on the nights and weekends of a 6 month period. The fundraising, installing, curating, and labor were all worth the hard work in the end when the museum had opened its doors to over 1,000 people in June 2012 for the first time. The idea was formed and started to grow.

What came next after Chicago Design Museum’s initial opening?

We started questioning the role of a museum in today’s society. We partnered with Architectural Artifacts on a one-day typography exhibition on a moving CTA Blue Line train, then moved into a 17,000 square foot downtown Chicago. This time, as volunteers, we would build on the knowledge gained in the first round, this time installing electricity, building walls, and getting permits from the city. All-in-all, the second pop-up took about 9 months, but at the end of it, we pretty much had an operational non-profit organization, for one month. At that point, it became clear that Chicago needed a design museum. I left my full-time job, and we launched a Kickstarter for our first exhibition.

Since, we have organized hundreds of volunteers to design and install dozens of exhibitions (from as far as Hong Kong and Dublin), partnered with Cards Against Humanity to release the Design Pack, and opened the Chicago Design Market, an assembly of connected pop-up stores in Block Thirty Seven.

Does the downtown location of the museum influence the variety of people who visit?

Yes, absolutely. Nestled on the third floor of a public shopping center in the heart of Chicago, ChiDM is organized to strengthen design culture and build community. As a nascent museum, it fosters unexpected cultural experiences for its visitors, who more often than not, discover its offerings by chance. A central, fortuitous location attracts the general public as a cornerstone audience, which is comprised of families, tourists, passersby, and students. The museum significantly lowers the barrier to entry, invokes an audience that might not otherwise seek it, then capitalizes by remaining free and open to the public. (It’s worth noting the museum also acts as a destination for designers and creatives, hosting and planning hundreds of events, workshops, and discussions since its founding in 2012.)

In questioning whether a museum needs to be a destination at all, ChiDM posits unexpected cultural experiences as a means to the accessibility of its content, and presciently asks whether people should be attracted to a museum, or a museum should be brought to the people.

 ChiDM also curates and collaborates in other spaces, for example The Clutch Gallery or the window display at the Whistler— why is it important to extend past the physical space of the museum and art gallery?

Design plays a powerful role in our culture: drawing together communities, igniting imaginations, empowering critical thinking, promoting questioning, and encouraging understanding. ChiDM is committed to providing opportunities for everyone to learn about design via active participation and reflection. Beyond its cross-disciplinary exhibitions in a public space, it intends to create unexpected cultural experiences in other contexts and with other audiences.

The Button Museum shares a community with a group of incredible Chicago museums. These establishments are homes of knowledge, regardless of the subject, a museum offers a space of learning and  understanding the past, present, and possible future.

Tell us about the weird museums in your community on Twitter! 

September 13, 2017

With the recent growth of the craft brewery industry, it’s easy to forget that alcohol was actually prohibited for part of America’s history. Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933 and during that time many breweries went out of business. But thanks to the power of the pinback, promotional beer buttons from pre- and post-prohibition provide us with a visual history of those breweries. Here’s our digital tour of the history of pre- and post-prohibition beer buttons, as presented by the Button Museum.

Bunker Hill Brewery

The Bunker Hill Brewery was founded in 1821 by John Cooper and Thomas Gould in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts. In 1860 after the company was acquired by William Van Nostrand he began to expand the brewery’s production and distribution capabilities. Later, William’s son, Alonzo G. Van Nostrand, originated one or Bunker Hill’s most recognized brews the “P.B. Ale”—which stands for “Purest and Best.” Along with the P.B. Ale, the brewery also manufactured Boston Club Lager, Bunker Hills Lager, Old Musty Ale, Owl Musty Ale, and the Van Nostrand’s Porter.

Poth Brewery

This Philly Brewery founded in 1865 gained more fame for the building that housed the brewery than the beer itself. Poth Brewery was established by Frederick August Poth and was later renamed F.A. Poth & Sons. The facility gained press for the architectural details in the structure of the building and is still a notable Philadelphia landmark today. The F.A. Poth & Sons Brewery itself barely made it to the time of prohibition and called it quits in 1920.

Check out another, modern Philly Brewery we included in our Tour de Philadelphia round up. 

Crockery City

George W. Meredith and Joseph Turnbull founded Crockery City Brewing and Ice Company in 1899. The East Liverpool, Ohio brewery faced challenges when the first wave of prohibition hit in 1907-1911. Crockery City stayed afloat by shipping their American beers to nearby towns and counties until 1919 when the entire state of Ohio came under the law of prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcohol. The company was able to reinvent themselves as an ice plant and continued to profit making soda-pop drinks. When Prohibition fell in 1933, Crockery City Brewing began brewing beer once again.

Jung Brewing

Another Ohio brewery on our list of the history of beer pins was the Western Brewery, which was founded in 1857 by Peter Weyand and Daniel Jung. After the death of both partners in 1885, it was decided to rename the Cincinnati brewery to Jung Brewing Company. The brewery operated under that name for five years.

The brewery’s motto, “Sustains Life”, added to the brewery’s claim of being a healthy and nutritious addition to a person’s diet. This was a common promotion breweries would use to counter the legislation and the Anti Saloon League that alcohol was actually harmful to the body.

Old Dutch

Old Dutch Brewery began under the name Brilliant City Brewery in 1891 and survived Prohibition by a long shot– the brewery remained open for a total of 75 years. In the early years of the prohibition laws, Old Dutch produced prohibition drinks  like root beer, birch beer, and ginger ale. In 1923 the brewery took a ten year hiatus throughout the hardest times of Prohibition. Reopening in 1933, with another name change in 1936 to Krantz Brewing Corporation, the company eventually merged with International Breweries Inc. of Detroit in 1957.

Canadian Ace

Originally the Manhattan Brewing company run by Charles Schaffner, the brewery was sold in 1919 to Johnny Torrio and Al Capone. The name was changed to Canadian Ace in 1947, to dissolve any post-war image of the brewery and refocus their marketing onto the well-established Canadian Ace brand. The brewery was still linked back to being involved in organized crime, as Lou Greenberg was a principal owner of this brewing industry. In 1968 Canadian Ace Brewery was closed down.


In 1890 Monarch Brewing was founded by Josef Hladovec and soon merged with the United Breweries Company in 1898. The brewery stayed in operation throughout the Prohibition Era by brewing soda and near-beer (a low-alcohol brew), but was suspected of making alcoholic beer for the underground market. After Prohibition was repealed, they struggled to keep up with big name breweries and other American beer companies during the time of The Great Depression. In 1958, the brewery was sold to Al Capone and Lieutenant Joseph Fusco and was renamed to Van Merritt Brewing to only be shut down a few years later in 1967.


Edelweiss, the very same Chicago Brewery to have created Green River Soda during the Prohibition, was started by a Prussian immigrant named Peter Schoenhofen. The company went through many hands before and after Prohibition, before finally returning to the Schoenhofen family in the early 1900s. When Prohibition laws were lifted a couple decades later,  the company focused on their best-selling brew the “Edelweiss” and the brewery was renamed again to Schoenhofen-Edelweiss Co.


Started under the name Los Angeles Brewery, they had their trucks loaded with beer ready to distribute at 12:01 the day Prohibition was repealed. Originally opened in 1897, the company boasted about using the water from the LA River (near where the factory was located) as an ingredient in their beer. In the height of Prohibition, the brewery was sold and renamed Eastside Brewery and grew to be one of the largest breweries in the country at the time. Eastside paid their bills by producing near-beer and soft drinks during the alcohol ban. In 1948 Eastside was purchased by Pabst, where they continued using the LA based plant until 1979.

Prohibition became law under the notion that it would clean up America’s obsession with alcohol and political corruption. It’s made clear by reexamining these historic beer buttons that even when the laws were in place, the breweries were still operating by producing near-beer, sodas, and malts. Most breweries were able to stay in business as they waited for legislation to change, however knowing the effects of prohibition, many breweries took to secretly selling beer in the underground market. This makes these buttons that survived prohibition that much more special and valuable as a part of America’s diverse and complicated past.

Click here for more history lessons from the Button Museum.



August 2, 2017

Just like buttons, streaking holds a special place in the heart of Americans. Which makes sense why streaking is the subject to so many wonderful (and slightly ironic) buttons in the Button Museum. Our Director of Operations, Joel Carter, is a bit of a streaking aficionado and is always on the look out for buttons to add to the collection. Not that he’s ever partaken in the “sport” (to our knowledge), but he is our foremost expert on the subject around the Beaver Dam.

The act of streaking has been popular since the mid-1960s in the aftermath of the free love youth movements in the 1960s. The term streaking was first used in 1973 during a mass nude run at the University of Maryland. A common misconception is that streaking is a form of nudism, however the two are differentiated because the streaker intends to be noticed by an audience. This intent can be spawned for a variety of political, social, or enthusiastic reasons with the main goal of streaking to be to disrupt.

The years between 1972-1974 were difficult for US President Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) Adversely, 1972-1974 we’re some of the best years for streaking culture. After 1973, when the truth about the tape recorders in the Oval Office came to light during Nixon’s testimonies in front of Congress  Nixon resigned his presidency in 1974, amidst impeachment proceeding in the House of Representatives. Streaking became a part of American protest with this button shows Nixon partaking in the fad, his hands in the V-sign.

Though streakers are still in the news here and there, the heyday of the phenomena was relatively short-lived from 1973-1974. Looking at the Button Museum’s collection does beg one major question, though: Where exactly does a streaker wear a button?

See more cheeky buttons from the 1970s from the Button Museum collection.