Button - KP Canada (Kingston Penitentiary)

This button was worn by officers at Kingston Penitentiary during the nineteenth century. It dates from the era before federal penitentiary staff uniforms were standardized across Canada in 1896, but its beginning dates are currently unknown. The first references to uniforms for correctional staff appear to date to c. 1860 at K.P., therefore it is unlikely that this dates prior to that time.  Between 1860 and 1896, seven penitentiaries operated in Canada: – Saint John Penitentiary in New Brunswick (opened 1842, closed 1880); Halifax Penitentiary (opened 1845, closed 1880); Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick (opened 1880); St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiary in Laval, Québec (opened 1873, closed 1989); Kingston Penitentiary (opened 1835, closed 2013); Manitoba Penitentiary in Stony Mountain, Manitoba (opened 1876) and British Columbia Penitentiary in New Westminster, B.C. (opened 1878, closed 1980). Since similar examples of institutional tunic buttons are known from the British Columbia and Manitoba Penitentiaries, it is assumed that Saint John, Halifax, Dorchester and St. Vincent de Paul Penitentiaries may have also had unique buttons, but none have been located to date. The museum is currently seeking examples of these buttons.

Most of the K.P. buttons have plain backs with no maker’s mark, however one has recently been located with a marking reading “RICH TREBLE GILT” and what appears to be the image of a bee. Archival evidence indicates that Waterbury Button Co. may have been the manufacturer.  Silvered versions are also known to exist and it appears in two sizes.

ItemButton – KP Canada (Kingston Penitentiary)
Dimensions2.2cm & 1.3cm diameter
MaterialBrass (also in silvered finish)
Period Madepre-1896
Period of Usepre-1896
MakerNo maker’s mark