This wooden button box belonged to a successful local dressmaker. The box is under 5 inches tall, 9 inches deep and 14 inches long, with three drawers containing various sizes of bone and shell buttons stored on wire rods.
Augusta Dobe Beutler was a lifelong resident of La Crosse.
In 1909, she opened her own dressmaker’s shop, where she employed six to eight women.
Her dressmaking shop was successful and prosperous.
She was known for her skill of creating a pattern from only a rough sketch or a brief description from a customer.
Most of her business came from wealthy women of the city. Besides creating fancy dresses for special events, she would produce outfits for young women going off to college, sometimes living in their home for several weeks while working on a wardrobe.
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In 1914, Augusta, or Gussie, married Arthur Beutler, a local grocer. Since she was a dressmaker, Beutler made her elegant wedding dress of organza and eyelet lace. After her marriage, Beutler’s life became one of the domestic duties: child care, cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing.
She continued with her sewing, as evidenced by this button box. For many years after her marriage, Augusta’s favorite social gathering was a sewing club at First Lutheran Church. As they worked on their sewing projects and made items for the church bazaar, the members became close friends.
Gussie Beutler’s only daughter, Elizabeth “Betty” Mittelsteadt, saved mementos of her mother, such as the button box and her wedding dress, both of which are now in the La Crosse County Historical Society’s collection. In February 1943, Betty Beutler had married Karl Mittelsteadt, who lost his life on a ship that was sunk in the Pacific Ocean during World War II that same year.
After her husband’s death, Betty returned to her family home and lived with her widowed father. Mittelsteadt remained in the family home for nearly the rest of her life, working as a teacher and playing the organ in her church.
She passed away in 2012, and her longtime neighbor and friend Mary Wente oversaw the donation of several items, including this button box. It can be seen in our online database.
Augusta Beutler’s wedding dress and button box are on display at “Juxtapose,” the La Crosse County Historical Society’s exhibition of local history and fashion on display in the Swarthout Gallery of the La Crosse Public Library through July 13. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.