Today I learned something important. Why is a policeman called a cop? Police were called Coppers in days gone by because they wore copper buttons. This delicious fact comes straight to you from the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, CT.
Mattatuck is several museums under one roof: a transcendent button museum, a history of industrial Waterbury, and an art museum. I went for the Connecticut WPA (Works Progress Administration) exhibit. The Federal Arts Program that ran the WPA had a goal of educating the public regarding American art and cultural history. I was educated by the chance to meet new artists from one of my favorite periods of American art–the 1930s. There were the American scene painters, the urban realists, and the painters of Connecticut beaches, farms, and factories. There were women, as well as men. And it was good.
Check out some highlights in this slide show, along with a taste of the button collection.
While surrounded by displays of buttons from around the world, as well as those made in Waterbury, I thought about my grandmother Nettie who saved buttons in a jar. She was a seamstress to my grandfather Bernard’s tailor. My mother said Nettie made all her clothes and that they were beauties. Sadly, none have survived. But my mother did keep a jar of Nettie’s buttons. Closing up my parents’ house, I had to throw them away because when I opened the jar, they stank. A shame, because like the buttons in the museum, you don’t see anything like them now.
So after a wistful moment or two in the Button Museum, I rejoiced again in the Art for Everyone. This mosaic of the past is worth calling out, “Hey Copper!”