A History of the Presidential Campaign Button

Did you know that a historic presidential campaign button can go for up to $50,000 in auctions?

That was the case with the James Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt button from the 1920 presidential election.

Nowadays, many people promote presidential campaigns and express support for candidates on social media websites. But the campaign button remains an important tool of campaigning in American elections.

If you’re looking to start your own collection of presidential pins and other memorabilia, it’s important to know the history of some of the greatest presidential campaign buttons of all time. Let’s take a look!

  1. “Let’s Make America Great Again”

Many people now associate the “Make America Great Again” slogan with the current President Donald Trump. However, the slogan was originally used by President Ronald Reagan in 1979 before the slogan became the hashtag #MAGA.

Reagan was running against the incumbent, President Jimmy Carter.

According to the pollster, Douglas Schoen, the phrase played into the perception that America was in decline. Writing for Fox News, he called it, “probably the most resonant campaign slogan in recent history“.

  1. LBJ Cocktail

Reflecting the initials of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. The LBJ Cocktail button also displayed the tagline “American on the Rocks“.

This was used by the Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. The pin attempted to play into the public image of the president as an alcoholic. While also making a pun on the state of the economy at the time as on the rocks like Johnson’s favorite drink.

  1. The Grin Will Win Again

President Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign used the button during his campaign for re-election against Ronald Reagan in 1980.

After successfully making use of the slogan “The Grin Will Win” in the 1976 election. The button also featured a cartoon smile which reflected the toothy grin that became Carter’s trademark.

Unfortunately for Carter and the Democratic Party, the economic slump, oil crisis and the hostage crisis in Iran all contributed to his defeat to Reagan.

  1. He Saved America

The presidential button “He Saved America” was used by the longest-serving President in American history, Franklin D. Roosevelt, also known as F.D.R.

While President Roosevelt is famous for steering the United States through the Second World War. This was used in reference to his leadership during the mitigation of the American economy through the Great Depression in the 1930s. This became known as the “New Deal”.

This presidential campaign button featured in Roosevelt’s successful election landslide of 1936 against Alf Landon.

  1. I Like Ike

In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower used the button “I Like Ike”. This went with the famous cartoon from the election that featured the lines, “You Like Ike. We Like Ike. Everybody Likes Ike.”

This refers to the nickname of the former supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe during the Second World War.

The button helped Ike to defeat the Democratic Presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson to become the first Republican president for twenty years.

  1. New Leadership in ’92

The Democratic Presidential nominee, Bill Clinton included his running mate Al Gore on his campaign buttons. The “New Leadership” slogan helped to defeat the incumbent president, George H.W. Bush senior in 1992.

However, the slogan was overshadowed by the phrase “It’s the Economy, Stupid!”, which became the catchphrase of the election.

  1. Kennedy

As the youngest President in history, the tagline “Kennedy” and John F. Kennedy’s good looks alone were good enough to feature on the presidential button. The assassination of JFK in 1963 makes any memorabilia particularly valuable among collectors.

In the 1960 presidential election, the younger man defeated Vice-President Richard Nixon, “Tricky Dicky” as he became known.

  1. Win With Ford

After Nixon was defeated by Kennedy in 1960, he became president in the 1968 election. However, following the Watergate Scandal, Nixon became the only president to resign from the White House in 1974.

The presidency fell to vice president Gerald R. Ford. In the 1976 presidential election, Ford faced the Democratic nominee Jimmy Carter.

While the “Win With Ford” tagline shows the optimism of the Ford campaign. The campaign ended in defeat.

  1. Equality

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt, a relation of the subsequent president F.D.R., displayed a call for racial equality among Americans.

The pins emerged out of the famous White House dinner between the Roosevelt and Booker T.

Washington. The button depicts the historic occasion of the meeting.

Because of its particular rarity, the button is especially valuable for collectors. Learn more about the campaign buttons available.

  1. We Can’t Wait

Tragically, John F. Kennedy’s younger brother, Robert F. Kennedy, or “Bobby Kennedy,” was assassinated in 1968.

However, in the campaign, Bobby Kennedy went with the slogan “We Can’t Wait” to sum up the expectation for his election. The button also featured the floating head of Kennedy with the background of the White House.

  1. Recovery

In the 1932 presidential election, President Herbert Hoover was seeking re-election amid the Great Depression. The United States and the wider world was on the edge of economic collapse.

The button featured an elephant running and carrying a sign that stated “Recovery” in red ink.

However, the failure of the Hoover administration to overcome the effects of the stock market crash in 1929 saw him defeated. This saw the election of F.D.R. for the first time.

Presidential Campaign Button

It’s difficult to get started with your collection of presidential and political buttons. That’s why we’ve put together this list of some of the classic and most sought-after buttons around.

Did we miss your favorite presidential campaign button? Leave a comment below to share your top political pins from history.

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