YKK Stories

Universal Button’s Original Investor’s Family visits YKK

October 2, 2019
YKK
Author: YKK
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On September 30, 2019, William Beresford Palmer III and his daughters, Marlene Palmer Lawrence and Valerie Palmer Albright, visited YKK (U.S.A.) Inc.’s Lawrenceburg facility, the company that his grandfather, Dr. Howard W. Longyear, and his uncle, John M. Longyear, originally founded in 1895 in Detroit, Michigan.

William Beresford Palmer III holds a copy of the patent for the two-prong fastener. He is pictured with his daughters Marlene Palmer Lawrence and Valerie Palmer Albright and Ethan Sakamaki, Chuck Lecompte and Aza Shumate from YKK.

Dr. Howard Longyear had the responsibility to oversee the investment and progress of inventor Franklin S. McKenney’s development of the company’s two-prong fastener, used then for the manufacturing of high top shoes. The two-prong fastener eliminates the need for sewing or pre-punching, and with it, the button can be machine attached, resulting in a stronger and faster application process. This product and manufacturing equipment took three years to develop and was awarded a U.S. patent in 1896. Although modified, the original two prong concept is still in production today at YKK’s Lawrenceburg manufacturing facility and used worldwide to fasten apparel snaps and jeans buttons.

William’s father, William Beresford Palmer Jr., worked at the factory when it was located in Detroit Michigan, and married Margaret Longyear, the daughter of Dr. Howard Longyear.

Great granddaughter Marlene Lawrence reached out to YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. Snap and Button Products to request a visit and a factory tour for her father, who is now 95 years old.

About YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. Snap and Button Products

YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. Snap and Button Products first came into being as McKenny Button Fastening Company, which opened in 1895 in Detroit, Michigan. In 1905, McKenny Button Fastening Company changed its name to Universal Button Fastening and Button Company and moved to a tiny factory in Detroit, Michigan.

After World War II, Universal Button Fastening and Button Company had to struggle to regain market position, attempting in the process to produce zipper components. In so doing, the company attracted the attention of Talon, the zipper industry’s big player at the time. In 1954, Arco, a division of Rockwell, acquired Universal Button Fastening and Button Company and immediately sold it to Talon the following year. The company, now named Universal Button Company, relocated to Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, shortly thereafter. In 1959, Universal Button Company obtained the assets plus a profitable hook and eye product from Steinmetz Corporation. These acquisitions introduced the company to machine specialists who had worked on Steinmetz’ equipment and who later became invaluable in the development of superior Universal Fasteners Inc. attaching machines. In 1973, to handle an increasing number of high volume orders, Universal Button Company opened a major, highly successful manufacturing facility in Centerville, Tennessee. In 1981, the company again emerged as an independent company, and in 1984, adopted the name Universal Fasteners Inc.

Meanwhile, YKK had become the undisputed leader in the American zipper marketplace. To hasten its way to leadership in metal notions as well, YKK acquired Universal Fasteners Inc. in 1987. With this acquisition, YKK gained not only products and expertise, but the most innovative attaching machines in the business. At the same time, YKK placed its world class, worldwide network of fastening companies at Universal Fasteners’ disposal. The company name was eventually modified to become YKK Universal Fasteners, and then several years later it became YKK Snap Fasteners America. More recently, when YKK Snap Fasteners America merged with YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. in 2013, the company’s new name became YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. Snap & Button Products.

Today, YKK (U.S.A.) Inc. Snap & Button Products provides metal snaps, hooks, buttons, and other metal fastening products to the apparel (denim, infant wear, jacket, etc.), footwear, boating, sporting goods, government, safety, medical, and transportation industries, among many others.