I love history, I am fascinated with politics, and I appreciate art. That combination has led to me collecting presidential campaign buttons for almost 45 years. It started with me picking up 5-6 buttons from the campaign of 1968.
After that campaign, I was hooked on the fun of hunting for and collecting presidential campaign buttons. Today (11 presidential campaigns later) I have...well, many more than my wife allows me to display! (Last count was around 200) Care to guess on some of my favorites:
"The best woman for this job is a man" is on vice-presidential campaign button for 1984.
- Most Landon-Knox political campaign buttons (1936) are in the shape of a sunflower - why?
- There is a presidential campaign button from 1992 in the shape of a saxophone - how come?
- The first year that the modern-style (pin-back) campaign button was used, a button featured the presidential & vice-presidential candidates riding their bicycles up to the White House.
Every four years I am in high gear looking for new buttons. In between campaigns, I haunt antique stores and flea markets looking for older buttons that are original and are historically significant. Most are worth less than $5 and yet a few sell for tens of thousands of dollars, and even more.
The use of campaign items go back to the early years of the republic, (many wore clothing buttons at George Washington's 1789 inaugural that read, 'G.W.-Long Live the President') but especially began to flourish especially after 1856. It was not until the 1890's, however, that the modern day pin-back button was invented.
Campaign buttons seem to be everywhere, and for me, they are a fun way to connect with current campaigns (in a positive way) as well as keep a touch with history.
- The first button mentioned above was for George Bush when he was running for re-election as Ronald Reagan's vice-president. His opponent was Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman vice-presidential candidate for a major party.
- Alf Landon was from Kansas whose symbol is the sunflower.
- The saxophone was the symbol of Bill Clinton since he played the saxophone, most famously on Saturday Night Live.
- The 1896 button being referred to is one of the most rare of all political buttons in history. It refers to William McKinley and his running mate Garrett Hobart who were depicted riding a bicycle up to the White House.)
—Cal Habig · PLA Volunteer