Live-in Servants – Call Buttons
It was highly common in 1911 for families of substance to have one or more live in servants.
History of Domestic Servants in the Home
If you live in a larger house built before about 1920, it is very likely that the early homeowners had at least one servant or possibly even a small domestic staff. Many homeowners had a servant or servants that were employed in their home full-time and provided them with a living space of their own, which was often a good deal for the servant, as many servants were either young, unmarried women or immigrants who had recently relocated to the United States - people who would have had a harder time providing for themselves during those times. Female servants usually had duties that consisted of cooking, housekeeping, caring for children, and preparing the home for entertaining guests. Male servants' duties usually included gardening, grounds-keeping, and chauffeuring. In later years when the automobile was gaining popularity, the male servant usually served as a driver and mechanic.
Starting around 1917, when the United States entered into World War I, new opportunities opened up for people who came from what was previously known as the "servant class". An increase in the need for supplies to support the war effort with many employees off serving in Europe meant that many women and immigrants were able to pursue jobs in factories, thus reducing the amount of potential maids and butlers. After the war ended in 1918, there was a resultant economic boom that lasted for the next decade. The job market continued to grow and the pool of servants continued to dwindle. Most upper middle class homeowners went from having a live-in servant or servants to having a single maid who came in during the day and did the cooking, cleaning, and laundry during the 1920s. As a result, accommodations for servants were no longer being included in the construction of new homes and those in many existing homes were removed.
Lawson, T., & Lawson, J. (2003, March)
Restoring a 1915 Colonial Revival House.
Retrieved December 1, 2014 from
Examples of servant buttons exist in the Dillon House in several locations. Prior to restoration, evidence of wiring that led to the servant quarters on the third floor was noted.
This button is located just left of the main vestibule door as you enter the Grand Reception Hall. Located just left of the butler closet, it would allow the Dillon family to indicate that service or assistance was needed and where it was needed.
They appear to be mother of pearl, surrounded by a brass ring. While inactive today, they surely were often used during the many events and galas hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Dillon.
More examples of the Servant Buttons located throughout the Dillon House.
Main Library- Right of Fireplace
North East Bedroom
South East Bedroom
South West Bedroom
Servant Quarters - Before
After Restoration (2015)