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The Origin of Political Buttons


Click on the MEDIA ITEMS below for more information

   



The Origin and Predecessors of Today's Campaign Buttons - A Brief Overview

Political campaign buttons as we know them today were first used in the 1896 Presidential election campaign between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. These are commonly referred to as celluloid pins or buttons, and it is the reason this website begins officially with the campaign of 1896. The process was patented in 1896, and basically involves printing an image on a piece of paper, and then covering it with a slightly larger thin, clear piece of celluloid (acetate used mostly now). The edges were then secured with a metal ring or collar pressed into the back of the pin or button.

It was sometime during the administration of Woodrow Wilson, in 1916, that lithograph buttons also came into use. This involves printing the image onto a piece of tin and stamping out the button from the lithographed tin. No protective covering or collars are used and the pin or button is thus more likely to become scratched because of this. These types of buttons are also prominently used in this exhibition.

Prior to this time, there was a very wide variety of campaign items used. Metal clothing buttons were used as far back as 1789 to commemorate the election of our first President, George Washington. Small metal disks, or "medalets", are considered the forerunner of modern campaign buttons and first used in Andrew Jackson's unsuccessful 1824 initial bid for the Presidency. A hole was often punched through the disk and they were worn from the lapel on a string. Other campaign items included studs, which were designed with a metal shank to be worn through a buttonhole on the lapel, ribbons (first used in about 1840 and mostly made of silk), jewelry, banners, bottles, china, cardboard-back photos, metal tokens or other coin-like items of various types, fobs, and ferrotypes, which is simply a photo produced on tin and enclosed in a brass shell with a pin attached.

Yes indeed, "Political Americana" and campaign items took many forms, and still do, long before the advent of today's modern campaign buttons, graphics, yard signs, television ads, blogs, websites, and bumper-sickers.




ID:
acpb048

Creator:
Al Feldstein

Rights:
Al Feldstein

Notes:
The paper campaign item promotes the 1888 national and Western Maryland's Sixth Congressional District Republican ticket. Along with the Presidential and Vice-presidential candidates, Benjamin Harrison and Levi P. Morton, the item also seeks voter support for various Presidential Electors, as well as Louis E. McComas to the U.S. House of Representatives on election day, November 6, 1888.

The pin is also from 1888 and depicts candidates Harrison and Morton. Some refer to this as a "Portrait Badge", with the candidate's photo placed within a fancy frame.

Collection Location:
LaVale, Maryland

Subject:
Campaign paraphernalia, United States, History; Presidents, United States, Election, History..

Coverage:
United States, 1896-2008

 
 
Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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