Doublet Buttons
Doublet Buttons

Of a total of more than 850 buttons recovered from Jamestown Rediscovery’s excavations, approximately two-thirds are classified as “doublet” buttons. Commonly found on 17th-century sites, doublet buttons were made of glass, copper alloy, silver, pewter, iron, thread, wood, or a combination of these materials. See the variety recovered from Jamestown in the chart below.

Doublets were worn by men from the 14th through the late 17th century. By the founding of Jamestown in 1607, doublets were typically short, tight-fitting jackets or vests worn by all ranks of society. While originally designed to be worn underneath other layers of clothing, doublets were frequently worn as outerwear by the early 17th century. Among the elite, doublets worn as outerwear were a highly visible opportunity to convey one’s status. This was accomplished through the quality of the fabric and weave, the presence of gold or silver lace, and the relative expense of the buttons. It was quite common for a doublet to have 20 or more bulbous buttons for securing the front of the jacket. While many of the buttons in the Jamestown collection are quite plain, there are several that likely belonged to elaborate garments.

Though we call this style of button “doublet,” here at Jamestown, they were used to secure a variety of garment types, including jerkins and breeches. A similar button in the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection is found on a woman’s jacket! Because many of the colonists would have worn doublets or jerkins, it is likely that most buttons in Rediscovery’s collections are from these garments.

A startling number of doublet buttons in good condition were recovered from some of the fort’s earliest features including the First Well, Pit 1, and the Factory. Archaeologists believe that these early features were filled in after the Starving Time during the cleansing of the fort. At this time, many items that may have typically been recycled or salvaged were thrown into spoiled wells, cellars, and pits. Over 130 doublet buttons were found in the First Well alone — suggesting that this cleansing included a number of garments.

doublet buttons in the jamestown collection

(Manufacture, shape, decoration)
Copper AlloyCast, domed, some have evidence of tinning -- size variesBy far the most common button type in the collection
Copper AlloyCast, domed with knop
Copper AlloyCast, biconvex
Copper AlloyCast, domed, relief decorated -- Many are tinnedWe have approximately ten of these in the collection, representing a few motifs.
Copper AlloyCast, domed, gadroonedOnly one in the collection!
Copper AlloyCast, domed, gadrooned with flat rectangular shankOnly three in the collection!
Copper AlloyCast, flat head and flat rectangular shank with basketweave patternFour in the collection -- all from the First Well and likely part of the same garment.
Copper AlloyCast, domed with loopless shankOnly two in the collection!
Copper AlloyCast, domed with extra vertical bar in shank before loopOnly two in the collection!
Copper AlloyMostly cast round head, with shank inserted into slight hollow portion at bottom of headOnly two in the collection!
No photo available at this timeCopper AlloyMostly cast domed head, with shank inserted into slight hollow portion at bottom of headOnly one in the collection!
Copper AlloyCast, domed, enamel paintedOnly two in the collection and they're identical!
Copper AlloyStamped, round
Copper AlloyStamped, round with knopOnly three in the collection!
Copper AlloyStamped, round face is decorated with a series of concentric circles and five perforated lines which gives a floral appearance.
Copper AlloyStamped, biconvex
Copper AlloyStamped, biconvex with star motifOnly one in the collection!
Copper AlloyStamped, floral shapeOnly one in the collection!
SilverStamped, biconvex with knopJust four in the collection and only one is complete
IronRoundOnly one in the collection!
Tin/Copper AlloySmall, round tin head with copper alloy shankOnly 2 complete ones in the collection, but about 11 in total
No photo available at this timeTinned copper alloy, pewter, or leadDomed headThis variety comes in all three material types, but they were grouped together for the purposes of this website page as there are so few of them.
Glass/IronWound, black glass biconvex head with iron shankTesting has shown that these were likely produced at a glass manufacturing center in Bavaria. It is the second most common button type in the collection.
Glass/IronWound, black glass round head with iron shankMuch smaller than the similar biconvex buttons above
Glass/IronWound, black glass biconvex head with iron shank. Decorated with pale green dotsSimilar buttons found on 17th century sites in Maryland have an additional outer dot and painted petals expanding from the central dot out to the edge, between the outer dots.
Glass/Copper AlloyWound, black glass round head with copper alloy shank and a small gilt circle on topOnly one in the collection!
Glass/Copper Alloy/IronCinquefoil lobed, enamel painted glass body with decorative copper alloy top and iron shankThirteen recovered -- all likely belonged to the same garment. Click here to learn more.
GlassFloral-shaped, octofoil domed glass body with decorative inset glass paste gemJust two in the collection, but they are slightly different.
Glass/IronWound, white, domedParallel example found in Amsterdam dating to the mid-17th century.
Glass/Copper AlloyWound, Robin's egg blue, round
Wood/Thread/SilverSilver threads wrapped around wooden coreAlso have examples with plain threads. Click here to learn more.