Quirky collection and a one-of-a-kind character in Bishopville, South Carolina.
By Hope S. Philbrick
What would you do if you couldn’t sleep?—and we’re not talking about the occasional inconvenience of waking up in a panic about a nagging to-do at 2 a.m., we’re talking about insomnia that endures for years. Yes, years!
Dalton Stevens’ insomnia began in the 1980s and endures to this day.
In the wee small hours, he keeps himself occupied with buttons. He sews and glues buttons onto everything he owns.
Dalton Stevens is “The Button King” and the proprietor of a one-of-a-kind museum near his home. His creative work has landed him on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The David Letterman Show and in the Guinness Book of World Records as owning the largest collection of buttons.
Among the button-covered items on display: an outhouse, a hearse, a Chevrolet car, a guitar, a piano, two caskets—one of which he wants to be buried in when he passes away—a suit and a bathtub that’s also overflowing with buttons.
We were able to chat with “The Button King” briefly during our recent visit.
What made you decide to quit?
I ain’t got no room no more. All the clothes they’re sewed on, all the wood and other surfaces they’re glued on.
Where do you get the buttons?
Japan’s Iris Button Company supplied most of them. An outfit out of Pennsylvania sent me a bunch. People give them to me. I haven’t had to buy any of them.
What got you started?
I have insomnia. I haven’t been to bed at all. I started in 1983 sewing buttons on that suit over there, 16,333 buttons sewed on it and it took me 2 years 10 months to complete.
Since the ‘80s you haven’t slept a wink?
A little bit but not much. I’ll go four to five days with no sleep. I get exhausted. It’s bad. They told me there’s nothing they can do for it.
So you work on button projects instead? But if you stop after the banjo what will you do instead?
If I would find something unique enough that it would get attention I would do it, but so far I haven’t thought of anything.
Well, this lamp doesn’t have buttons on it yet…
Maybe I’ll have to do that next.
Do you get a lot of visitors?
I get more and more.
South Carolina Button King Museum
55 Joe Dority Rd.
- There is no admission fee to visit the Button Museum, but donations are welcome.
- On Friday evenings the museum turns into a music hall hosting local bluegrass or gospel performers.
– Photo Credits: top image courtesy Visit Florence, remainder © HSP Media LLC