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The Most Famous Political Campaign Button

Some people collect stamps or coins, while others invest in baseball cards or Barbie® dolls. But there is also a whole world of collectors whose item of choice is the political campaign button. One appraiser said that political buttons are like a “microcosm of political history for the 20th century”, with many treating them with the same reverence given to the first American flags, the Declaration of Independence, and other artifacts from America’s past. It does not matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, campaign buttons are invaluable pieces of American history.

Early Political Campaign Buttons

George Washington wore the first political button, a clothing button made of brass, in 1789 at his first Presidential inauguration with the phrase “G.W.-Long Live the President.” The slogan was based off the British’s “Long Live the King” cry. An original George Washington cloth button could now easily be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

In 1860, Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin ran for the Presidency. Many believe that Lincoln was the first president to use buttons as a true campaign tool. Political button pins during this era started to feature daguerreotypes of the candidates and is the first time portraits ever appeared on campaign buttons. One of these buttons, in perfect condition, would be worth over $1000 to most modern collectors.

Photo of Abraham Lincoln political button
Photo: Library of Congress

The first mass production of metal buttons, the design we are familiar with today for most campaigns, happened during the 1896 William McKinley campaign for president. These campaign buttons were “celluloid” buttons, with one side of a metal disk covered with paper containing the printed message, and protected by a layer of clear plastic.  It’s ironic that campaign button pins haven’t changed much over the years; political buttons are still produced with a metal casing, covered with paper and protected by clear plastic we call mylar. The only difference is that we now have a jewelers safety pin attached to the button back.

One of the most famous uses of campaign buttons occurred during the 1940 U.S. presidential election, when Wendell Willkie’s campaign produced millions of buttons in response to news stories about President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It reads: “That’s right Franklin, Spinach is Spinach”. According to NPR, this button can be traced back to a New Yorker cartoon, where a mother and daughter are sitting around a dinner table. The mother says “It’s broccoli, dear”, while the daughter pushes away the plate and responds, “I say it’s spinach and I say the hell with it.” This is to suggest Willkie’s nature it to “tell it like it is”, while Roosevelt is guilty of spinning the truth.

Political Campaign Button Prices

Aside from the Washington button, the price of past campaign buttons doesn’t always rise in relation to its age. Some of the most popular buttons have sentimental value attached to them, such as buttons created for the Kennedy Presidential campaign. “A Kennedy-Humphrey button can be worth $300-$500. This outranks even Lincoln, Roosevelt and Huey Long memorabilia,” said collectibles writer Joyce Worley. Obviously the more obscure buttons, such as those with spelling errors, are considered more collectible simply because they are harder to come by.

“Since the turn of the century, the political button has just dominated the political advertising, until television came in. Now it’s a dying art.” Political campaign button collectors are hoping to preserve the art and the history that is inherently a part of those buttons for generations to come. Whether it’s for President, Governor, Mayor or local election campaign, button pins will stand the test of time.  

Showing support (or disdain) for presidential candidates through button pins is a practice nearly as old as the office of the 1st U.S. President George Washington, and over time it has evolved with the changing political landscape we are living in today.  Campaign Button Pin history may be hundreds of years old, but still remain wearable signs of the times.  Even today’s COVID-19 themed campaign buttons will become part of a collection one day.

Button pins are now making a comeback as they can be seen from a safe 6 foot distance and can be customized to your needs. Who knows, the buttons we make for you might become collectable 100 years from now!

Questions?

If you have any questions about your custom button order or the ordering process, you can always give us a call at 623-445-9975, or send us an email at sales@custombuttons.com. You can also reach us through the chat feature on our website during business hours (8am-5pm Arizona Time). We are here to help in every step of your button ordering process, from beginning your order to shipping your buttons for delivery.

As always, we are in this business because Everyone Loves Buttons®!

Connect with us:

Twitter: @LuvMyButtons

Facebook: Everyone Loves Buttons

Instagram: Everyone Loves Buttons

Happy Birthday to the Pin-back Button!

Every year when July 21st rolls around, we remember at Everyone Loves Buttons® where the pin-back button craze began. 

Pin-back Button Beginnings

While the official birthday is credited to be July 21, 1896, the history goes beyond that date. Buttons were historically used to display political affiliations. This includes George Washington in 1789 for his inauguration, and Abraham Lincoln in 1860, who had his photo on his buttons. These buttons were sewn onto clothing or worn as a pendant.

The button was then modernized by a gentleman named Benjamin S. Whitehead. He had the first patent on the transparent film you see today that protects the button from scratching. Then on July 21, 1896, Whitehead & Hoag were granted a patent for the metal pin that goes on the back of the button. Whitehead & Hoag, based out of Newark, New Jersey, was the first button maker. 

Diagram from the Pin-back Button Patent

Even in the late 1800s, buttons were seen as a way to help companies and political candidates alike, advertise. 

While the printing methods and the way of creating the buttons may be different, the original design is what is essentially used today. 

Pin-back Buttons in Advertising

While they were used as political displays, buttons made their way into pop culture at the turn of the century. In 1898, buttons were used as prizes included in tobacco and chewing gum products. This was the beginning of using buttons to bump up sales. Buttons were also used as prizes in various Kellogg’s Pep Cereal.

Buttons over the years have certainly become collectibles and are able to mark moments in time. They are able to communicate what people may have been advocating for, supporting, or just what they found cool to wear.

Our History

Our button story began in 1997 in San Diego, CA., and has grown to become one of the top custom pin-back button manufacturers in the country. In March 2005 we expanded our button manufacturing capabilities and relocated to Phoenix, AZ. In 2008 we became a Nationally Certified Women Business Enterprise (WBENC). In September of 2017, we moved into our NEW modern button facility where our legendary customer service approach and production capabilities help you get the custom button size and qty. you want when you need them, on time all the time. “American Made Matters”, so we only use quality made in USA button parts along with state-of-the-art electric button machinery which is also made in the USA.

The button is apart of American culture. Join on in by saying Happy Birthday to the button by ordering some today

Button pile showing different custom designs

Questions?

If you have any questions about your custom button order or the ordering process, you can always give us a call at 623-445-9975, or send us an email at sales@custombuttons.com. You can also reach us through the chat feature on our website during business hours (8am-5pm Arizona Time). We are here to help in every step of your button ordering process, from beginning your order to shipping your buttons for delivery.

As always, we are in this business because Everyone Loves Buttons®!

Connect with us:

Twitter: @LuvMyButtons

Facebook: Everyone Loves Buttons

Instagram: Everyone Loves Buttons

Happy 122nd Birthday, Pin-back Buttons!

On this day back in 1896, Benjamin S. Whitehead patented a design that led to the pin-back buttons we know and love today. His design featured a cellulose cover to protect a photograph that would be attached to a badge backing, ensuring it would not be torn or ruined by the elements. This was an innovative design that helped ensure the future success of pin-back buttons to the present day.

 

 

But did you know buttons predate this patent? George Washington used buttons with a flat metal face embossed with a slogan for his presidential inauguration back in 1789. These buttons would be sewn into a coat lapel, or worn as a pendant on a string.

 

Since Whitehead’s patent, pin-back buttons have been used to help promote comic characters, company products, and political campaigns. The Kellogg Company famously used them as cereal box prizes in 1945, developing a collectors series that quickly gained popularity in the United States.

 

Pin-back buttons have helped people and companies share their message with others, offering everyone a durable method to promote what they believe in. Here at Everyone Loves Buttons®, we believe in helping you share your message with the world. From advertising your business, spreading the word about your campaign, or even sharing your personal catchphrase with friends, we offer a variety of sizes and styles to suit all your button needs.

 

We can provide full service with your order, from helping you design the perfect button, full-color and top quality printing, and our legendary customer service to help you each step of the way. As a Certified Women Owned Business that has been active for over 21 years, nobody knows buttons better than us!

 

Celebrate with us online by ordering your very own set of custom pin-back buttons today, and use code 122YEARS for 15% off your button order! Be sure to show us your button love with the tag #WithAButton!

History of Pin-Back Buttons

Buttons are an item that date back to the first presidential inauguration in 1789, when George Washington’s supporters wore buttons imprinted with a slogan. These early buttons are different from the ones you would pin onto your shirt. They were either sewn onto the lapel of a coat or worn as a pendant on a string. It was in the late 1800’s that The Whitehead & Hoag Co. became he first button manufacturer and remained the foremost throughout the early years of the industry. They made the first pin back style button and had several patents for the pin back button, which included adding a sheet of transparent celluloid to the top of the photograph to prevent scratches. As the years went on, other inventors patented other improvements and modifications to the basic design.

In 1898, The Yellow Kid became a popular cartoon character and button subject. These buttons were offered as prizes with chewing gum and tobacco to increase sales. These buttons were produced with a concave opening on the backside (which provided a space to insert advertising), or with a closed back, filled with a metal insert and fastener. These are called “open back” and “closed back” buttons. Kellogg Company, the pioneer in cereal box prizes, began inserted prizes in the form of pin-back buttons into each box of Pep Cereal in 1945. These button or ‘Pep Pins’ included U.S. Army squadrons as well as characters from newspaper comics. There were 5 series of comic characters and 18 different buttons in each set making it a total of 90 buttons in the comic collection.

At Everyone Loves Buttons®, we have been making custom buttons for 18 years now. We have seen presidential campaign buttons, advertising buttons, or even just buttons that say how you feel. That is one of the beauties of pinback buttons; they can advertise for a company or show off something that you are passionate about. We offer a full service here, including: help with designing your own custom buttons, a full color printing process, and legendary customer service. We started our business with a hand machine and a dream. Now we are a Certified Women Owned Business using electric machines and living the dream producing millions of buttons per year.

So now the question is…are you ready to create your own button history?

Here is the evolution of our button machines:

97 handmachine 1in handmachine electric 4 spot machine electric 6 spot machine