Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Henry Button (1829–1914)

by J. C. Horner

This article was published:

Henry Button (1829-1914), journalist and author, was born on 22 March 1829 at Sudbury, Suffolk, England, third of the ten children of Thomas Button, tanner, and his wife Harriett, née Lloyd. In 1833 his parents and some of the family sailed for Van Diemen's Land in the Forth; Henry followed in the Andromeda and in December 1837 arrived at Launceston, where his father had established a tannery. For about a year Henry attended the grammar school of Rev. Charles Price, then had occasional instruction from Rev. John West and later went to Peter Kelly's school in Cimitiere Street. At 11 his formal schooling ceased and thereafter his educational attainments were the results of his own efforts.

After brief employment in his father's tannery, he became an apprentice printer to the Examiner on 19 June 1844, and in March 1849 was appointed a reporter. He resigned in January 1852 and went to the Victorian goldfields. He returned to Launceston and in February was a compositor on the Examiner. He resigned in March and in August moved to Hobart Town to take charge of the Colonial Times. After a year he returned to Launceston and by March 1855 was again a reporter on the Examiner. After his uncle, J. S. Waddell, a founder and proprietor of the Examiner, died on 9 December 1857, Henry bought one of the paper's two proprietorships and in 1887 he became sole proprietor. He retired from active association with the Examiner in 1898.

In 1879-88 Button was an alderman of Launceston, and mayor in 1885. He was a president and life member of the Mechanics' Institute and in 1892 published a pamphlet on its jubilee. Throughout his life he was closely connected with the Congregational Church; for thirty years from July 1866 he was secretary of the northern branch of its union and once chairman. He wrote several minor poems, some of which appeared in the Examiner and others in his Memories of Fifty Years of Courtship and Wedded Life 1847-1897; published by the Examiner in 1899, this sentimental record was dedicated to the memory of his wife. In 1909 his Flotsam and Jetsam, Floating Fragments of Life in England and Tasmania. An Autobiographical Sketch with an Outline of Responsible Government was published in Launceston; it also included much information and comment on Tasmanian social history.

In 1856, disturbed by Tasmania's declining economy, Button petitioned the House of Assembly to amend the regulations for disposal of waste lands and so increase funds for immigration; his major argument was that 'increase of population was indispensable to prosperity'. On 14 August 1852 he had married Emma, daughter of Henry Glover of Patterdale and granddaughter of John Glover. Emma died on 17 November 1897; they had four sons and six daughters. Henry Button died at his home in Lord Street, Launceston, on 11 May 1914.

Citation details

J. C. Horner, 'Button, Henry (1829–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 23 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 March, 1829
Sudbury, Suffolk, England


11 May, 1914 (aged 85)
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

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