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November 7, 2007

Presidential Campaign Buttons

Filed under: Our Favorite Things — admin @ 3:37 pm

Photo of campaign buttons from the collections of the Minnesota Historical SocietyPresidential elections have marked Minnesota’s civic life for more than century and a half. Documented in the Minnesota Historical Society’s collections are some 3,000 election buttons and badges worn to influence friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

Minnesota’s presidential favorite sons include two 1968 candidates, Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey. In 1984 Walter Mondale (with support of his popular wife Joan) ran unsuccessfully against Ronald Reagan. Topping the nation’s list of indefatigables is South St. Paul’s Harold E. Stassen, who campaigned more than a half-dozen times for the Republican nomination. This button dates from his 1948 run for the White House.

Perennial Communist Party candidate Gus Hall from Cherry, Minnesota, ran in four presidential elections: 1972, 1976, 1980, and 1984.

Displayed in this visual panoply are badges and buttons from these contests:

  • William H. Harrison’s successful Whig Party bid in 1840 (light blue
  • Abraham Lincoln’s campaign of 1860 (very rare double-sided ferrotype
    lapel pin with the reverse showing Lincoln’s running mate, Hannibal Hamlin);
  • Republican Benjamin H. Harrison’s 1888 election (tricolor ribbon);
  • William Jennings Bryan’s Democratic People’s Party bid, probably from
    1900 (hand-colored portrait);
  • William McKinley’s Republican victory in 1896 (endorsed by the Sound
    Money Club of Winona);
  • William McKinley in 1900 (with Theodore Roosevelt as his youthful running
  • Woodrow Wilson’s successful 1912 Democratic campaign;
  • Herbert Hoover’s victorious Republican-party bid in 1928 (gold elephant);
  • Republican Alf Landon’s defeat in 1936;
  • Pro- and anti-Franklin Delano Roosevelt efforts, probably in 1940;
  • Richard Nixon’s unsuccessful 1960 run against John F. Kennedy;
  • Barry Goldwater’s Republican loss in 1964 (scientific term AuH20);
  • And the distinctively Minnesotan “Scandinavians for Ronald Reagan” 1984

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2000 issue of Minnesota History.

Learn More:

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4 Responses to “Presidential Campaign Buttons”

  1. Jim Says:

    I have an 1860 Lincoln/Hamlin campaign button in very
    good shape. Colors are still good in the r/w/b ribbon.
    Any idea what this may be worth?

    Matt Anderson reply on February 3rd, 2009:

    Jim, thanks for your message. Policy prevents us from offering appraisals, but I can suggest that you contact the Amercian Society of Appraisers (http://www.appraisers.org/). They can recommend someone in your area. Political memorabilia is a popular collectible, so it shouldn’t be hard to find someone.

  2. Jason A Says:

    I was hoping you may be able to help me, I have what seems to be a Lincoln and Johnson button/coin. The date on the piece which has a small picture of both candidate on each side is 2 18 61. Also on the top of the piece there is the the letters P_T and APR. The sides of the coin are surrounded by stars. I have never seen anything like this piece anywhere online and any information would be greatly appreciated.

    Matt Anderson reply on September 3rd, 2009:

    Jason, thanks for the message. My suspicion is that the markings refer to a patent date of April 2, 1861. The patent is for the coin itself, and unrelated to the candidates. (The Lincoln/Johnson ticket dates to 1864.)

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