Where Did Those Witty Campaign Buttons Go?

The popularity of campaign pins and buttons in American politics can actually be traced back to the very first Presidential inauguration where many celebrants in the crowd sported brass clothing fasteners saying “G.W. – Long Live the President.” While this is a long way from the custom embroidered badges produced for many of today’s campaigns, it did send an early signal that Americans love to wear their politics on their sleeves.

A Venue for Wit

As time went on; sloganeers and motto writers became very busy during the run up to each election creating catchy phrases and images aimed at increasing the popularity of their chosen candidate. The 1840 Presidential campaign saw one of the all-time favorite buttons with “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” as the Whig party’s rallying cry that year; a reference to William Henry Harrison’s role in a famous battle, wittily attached to his vice-presidential candidates name. The fact that they won that campaign only added to the popularity of political buttons.

Visual artists relished in the medium as well. The 1908 campaign featured a large button with a picture of the Republican elephant, and cleverly positioned in each giant ear were photos of the two candidates: Taft and Sherman. They won too.

Passion for Creativity

The 1964 campaign featuring arch-conservative Barry Goldwater saw some colorful uses of this very American advertising platform too. Many buttons simply said “AU H2O”. This gave Americans a chance to learn the chemical symbols for gold and water.

The 1964 campaign was ideologically contentious, and many Goldwater supporters were seen with buttons saying “In your heart, you know he’s right.” This was countered by Johnson backers wearing lapel pins with the snarky comeback, “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.” It may be the first time a debate of sorts was waged via political buttons.

campaign buttons

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/navycrackerjack74/515092669/

The Age of Twitter

The days of widespread wearing of political buttons may be behind us though. With the advent of Twitter and social media, it seems that most people have taken to the internet to publicize their catchy political phrases and slogans. Even the pin itself is now frequently replaced by more sophisticated custom embroidered badges that can be sewn onto clothing.

However, the recent use of Rosie the Riveter’s image on President Obama’s “Yes We Can” buttons, and the opposition’s use of the slogan “NO-bama” on their buttons, may indicate that the art form still has some life left in it. One hopes so since these buttons are a great spur to witticisms which Americans have always loved.

Stephen Craig is a part of an elite team of writers who have contributed to hundreds of blogs and news sites. Follow him @SCraigSEO.

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