Are you one of the 25 percent of adult Americans who develop insomnia every year? Not being able to sleep may make some of you feel like you’re going to lose your buttons. Speaking of which, one man in South Carolina had a rather unique way of handling his insomnia, and his obsession eventually led to today’s road trip story destination — the Button King Museum in Bishopville, South Carolina.

Image: Stuckey’s Corp / Stephanie Stuckey

Driving down a South Carolina country road on the way to the Button King Museum, it’s hard to imagine how anybody could have a hard time falling asleep in such a peaceful and bucolic setting. Yet, for most of his adult life, Dalton Stevens couldn’t get to sleep — often for days at a time. When his insomnia was at its peak in 1983, he knew he had to find something to do — something quiet, so as not to wake his wife. Consequently, one night he began sewing buttons on a pair of his old denim overalls to pass the time. Nearly three years and several sleepless nights later, Dalton had covered his overalls in more than 16,333 buttons.

Some people might have found all that button sewing relaxing or even tiresome, but not Dalton. He found it quite the opposite, actually. While other insomniacs spent their nights tossing and turning, Stevens spent his nights sewing and gluing buttons on anything he could get his hands on. After his overalls, he moved on to his shoes, then his guitar. With each sleepless night, he just moved on to bigger things: an outhouse, a car, and a hearse complete with two button-covered coffins (one for display, and the other for Stevens when it was time to go to that big buttonhole in the sky).

Image: Stuckey’s Corp / Stephanie Stuckey

After a short stint as the bland-sounding “Button Man,” Stevens dubbed himself “The Button King,” and national fame soon followed. He toured the late-night talk show circuit, where he showed off his creations and sang his original songs to Johnny Carson and David Letterman.

In 2008, the Stevens’ kids built their father a hangar where the Button King could share his works of art with the public. Today, visitors can see nearly everything Dalton bedazzled with buttons — from the 1983 Chevy Chevette (covered with 150,000 buttons) to that aforementioned hearse (covered with 600,000 buttons).

Unfortunately, these days you’ll now only see one of the two button-covered coffins. “The Button King” passed away in November 2016 and was buried in the other one, just as he’d wished. 

Image: Stuckey’s Corp / Stephanie Stuckey

The Button King Museum is still open; however, its operating hours are rather sporadic, so it’s best to call ahead. Their number is 803-428-3841. Admission is free, but donations are gladly accepted to help maintain the museum.

Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!

www.stuckeys.com