We the Buttons: A look at Presidential buttons throughout history

They’re tiny, can be produced and bought in bulk, and are a convenient way to show who you support every four years. They’re buttons, and they’ve been a staple of every candidate’s campaign for as long as we can remember.

But did you ever stop to wonder how far back this history goes?

Believe it or not, the use of buttons in campaigns didn’t start with this last election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, nor did it start in 2008. It didn’t even start in the 50s during Dwight Eisenhower’s run (more on this later). Rather, to get the beginning of this,payday loans we must go all the way back to the early years of our great nation.

That’s right. The history of presidential buttons is as old as the office of President of the United States of America.

George Washington is credited for having the first button back in 1789. His initials adorn the center with the words “long live the president” on the outside. Though this isn’t the conventional button we see today – this is a clothing button usually sewn to the lapel or worn on a string as a pendant – it did start a new trend.

It wouldn’t be until 1860 that pictures were used on buttons. This innovation is credited to Abraham Lincoln. Note that we’re still using clothing buttons.

As for when we’d start using ones closer to what we see today, we must go forward to 1896 during the William McKinley/William Jennings Bryan election.

This would mark the first time buttons were used extensively for campaign purposes. Unlike using clothing buttons, these were made using a thin piece of celluloid covering over paper and then wrapping it around a metal disc. Sound familiar?

The use of color pictures and slogan would go on to influence campaigns for the next 100+ years.

From Dwight Eisenhower’s “I Like Ike” slogan from the 1952 election.

To our most recent one between Obama and Romney.

Where do we go from here? We’ll soon find out. See you all in 2016.


“Historical Campaign Buttons.” Adventures of CyberBee http://www.cyberbee.com/campaign/buttons.html