Right on the ButtonBISHOPVILLE, South Carolina— Having checked South Carolina off our list of capitol buildings left to see, we set our sights for North Carolina's seat of government in Raleigh, a 200-mile drive northeast. Seeking an excuse to break up the trip, we consulted our Roadside America app, a treasure trove of quirky museums, odd collections, and folksy monuments. Our search was rewarded when we discovered not one but two must-see attractions in Bishopville (pop. 3,471), a quaint hamlet founded in 1790, just a few years after Columbia was established, 50 miles and a two-day wagon ride to the west.
Seven miles outside the town, along a narrow rural road, a faded sign announced that we were approaching the Button King Museum, our first stop. Beside a cornfield, we led a cloud of dust down a sandy lane until we arrived at the site of two quonset huts, the near one identified as our target. A tired mongrel dog ambled over to greet us with a half-hearted sniff. Though no vehicles were in sight, a sign on the door indicated the museum was open, so in we went, switching on the lights as we entered.
|Thousands of buttons await inside.|
While his wife slept soundly, Dalton pulled out an old denim jumpsuit and began sewing buttons on every square inch of the garment. Where he obtained all those buttons is not clear, but he kept sewing for nearly three years until the suit was covered with 16,333 buttons and weighed more than 16 pounds. Though Mr. Stevens considers this first work his masterpiece, he still couldn't sleep, so he rummaged around for other items that might be improved by the addition of a few buttons.
|The first Button King creation|
|Mr. Stevens buttoned up so his wife could sleep.|
|The vehicle for the Button King's final journey|
|The Button King|
With a bit of marketing and a good dose of folksy charm, Dalton Stevens has parlayed a most unusual insomnia-generated pastime into a cause for acclaim. Just think, if he had come along a few years later, TLC would have been knocking at his button-clad door with an offer for a reality television show.
More Cute as a Button Photos
|Where the Button King will finally sleep uninterrupted|
|Newspaper and magazine articles about Mr. Stevens|
|Some of the Button King's celebrity memorabilia (Letterman advised: "Dalton, cut down on salt!")|