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Man finds Haitian 'Phoenix Button' from 1800s on Washington state beach

A man using a metal detector on a Washington state beach found a mysterious brass object identified as a Phoenix Button, which was made by an English firm for Haitian King Christophe in the 1800s. Photo by Ben_Kerckx/Pixabay.com
A man using a metal detector on a Washington state beach found a mysterious brass object identified as a "Phoenix Button," which was made by an English firm for Haitian King Christophe in the 1800s. Photo by Ben_Kerckx/Pixabay.com

June 25 (UPI) -- A Washington state man using his metal detector on a beach made an unusual discovery -- a Haitian "Phoenix Button" from the 1800s.

Phil Massie said he and some friends were metal detecting recently on a Puget Sound beach when he found the brass object buried about 6 inches under ground.

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"I pulled it out. And I told the guys, 'Hey, come here and take a look this, I found a button and I've never seen anything like this before,'" Massie told KIRO-FM.

The button bore the image of a bird with some text in French. A few days of research revealed the object was a "Phoenix Button," a military uniform button manufactured by an English firm for King Christophe of Haiti in the early 1800s.

"They usually have the phoenix on the front, the phoenix bird, and a motto in French, which would have been appropriate for Haiti at the time, and that motto is 'I am reborn from my ashes," said Doug Wilson, an archaeologist with the National Park Service at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

He said a number on the button likely refers to the regiment.

Wilson said a number of Phoenix Buttons have turned up in the Pacific Northwest over the past 150 years.

He said historians believe a U.S. man purchased a quantity of the buttons after King Christophe's death and brought them to the Old Oregon Country, where he used the buttons as trading items with indigenous people.

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