Phoenix button found at Little Proulx house site
June 29, 2012
This week we had our first major find - a phoenix button found on the house site of Little Proulx.
Phoenix buttons - which have a phoenix design in the center and French text around the edge - were originally manufactured in England to fill an order for military uniform buttons by King Christophe of Haiti. However, they were never delivered due to Christophe's suicide in 1820. As a result, the buttons entered the open market.
It is believed that Nathaniel Wyeth, an American trader, brought phoenix buttons to the Pacific Northwest. Wyeth challenged the Hudson's Bay Company's dominance as the primary trader in the area, and the HBC rose to this challenge - eventually running Wyeth out of business. Chief Factor John McLoughlin wrote of Wyeth, "We opposed him as much as was Necessary...we may be certain Wyeths losses are Great, and though he still keeps up Fort Hall yet he has very few Goods."
Not long after this, McLoughlin purchased Fort Hall and bought out Wyeth's stock of goods, which likely included these phoenix buttons.
From an item manufactured in England for a Haitian market, to an item brought to the Pacific Northwest by an American, then sold to the British Hudson's Bay Company, and finally left near the house site of a French Canadian fur trader in the Fort's employee Village, this button is truly a symbol of the vast international trade networks that existed during this period.
In the photograph above, you can see our newly discovered phoenix button held by Archaeologist Doug Wilson. Below, you can see four other phoenix buttons in our collection, which have had conservation treatment.