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July 20, 2015

Every good party needs a mascot, and for this year’s celebration of the button’s 119th birthday, we chose a face with gravitas to spare– 25th President William McKinley! The stern elder statesman adorns this year’s button’s birthday design, ready to get down at the button celebration.

Button's Birthday

But why McKinley, you may be asking?

The button was patented back in July 1896, less than six months before the presidential election between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan. Both candidates took advantage of the new technology to help spread their message– not to mention their face– to voters, but with his win, McKinley became the very first president to use pin-back buttons.

McKinley vs. Bryan

In 1896, McKinley was sitting governor of Ohio. Bryan, a lawyer from Nebraska known as the “great commoner,” conducted a whistle-stop tour across the country, speaking to thousands throughout the campaign. The election came down to city versus country, with McKinley and his urban supporters ruling the day.

Button Museum co-curator Joel Carter mused that the McKinley/Bryan match-up was something of a reverse of the Kennedy/Nixon election– even judging by the buttons themselves, the more approachable-looking and famously well-spoken Bryan would probably have benefitted from the opportunity to debate the stuffy-looking McKinley on live television.

McKinley/Bryan Eclipse Buttons

After McKinley’s election in 1896, Bryan ran again in 1900 against the sitting president. Inspired by the solar eclipse that took place in spring 1900, popular button designs featured alternating candidates as the victorious moon eclipsing the losing candidate’s sun. These designs are among some of the most collectible today– the Bryan “Total Eclipse” design pictured above sold for over $13,000 in 2000.

Prior to the 1896 election, pin-back button-like objects had been used in political campaigns for decades. The Washington inaugural button pictured above was meant to be sewn onto a coat, mimicking the buttons Washington himself wore during the ceremony. The Lincoln button is essentially a tiny framed photograph and includes a simple lock mechanism on the back and is strikingly similar to the pin-back design patented just a few decades later. Though these pre-buttons were relatively precious items at the time, as mass production and printing capabilities increased throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, pin-back buttons became more and more common, said Button Museum co-curator Christen Carter.

McKinley Doorknob

Busy Beaver’s McKinley doorknob celebrates the first president to use buttons.

Today, of course, buttons are ubiquitous, and a must for any serious political campaign, and clearly campaigners of today are in good company with a rich history of political pin-backs from which to draw.

 

Historic button photo via Ted Hake, Hake’s and Scoop.

 

May 14, 2015

In honor of Mad Men’s series finale this weekend, we decided to honor the real mid-century “mad men” of Madison Avenue by collecting some of our favorite mid-century advertising buttons.

Midcentury Advertising Buttons

Looking back through the Button Museum archives, it’s easy to imagine taglines written by Peggy Olson and campaigns straight out of Don Draper’s head. Here are a few of the pinbacks we think Sterling Cooper crew would have approved of.

 

A button with Pete Campbell’s name written all over it, if ever there was a certifiable “sales eagle,” Pete was it.

Midcentury Advertising Button

 

As “the voice of Moms,” we can imagine Peggy put in charge of writing for a wholesome account like Borden’s Chocolate Milk, though we don’t know if she’d be happy about it.

Midcentury Advertising Button

 

Landing Mohawk Airlines was a coup for Sterling Cooper back in their early days, but it’s TWA that seems to have Don’s personal loyalty in the later seasons– a flight attendant refers to him by name, and he tells a seatmate en route from California to New York, “I fly a lot.”

Midcentury Advertising Button

 

A button in honor of Dawn, Clara, Miss Blankenship, Meredith, Peggy, Joan, Megan, and all the rest of the various secretaries and all the hundreds of cups of coffee they’ve fetched the Mad Men bosses every morning.

Vintage Advertising Button

 

Is it just us or does the proper British frog this airline partnership button remind you of Lane Pryce, too?

Midcentury Advertising Button

 

One for Harry Crane, he’ll buy the client time between Hogan’s Heroes and Beverly Hillbillies.

Midcentury Advertising Button

Though not technically a Sterling Cooper employee, we thought Betty Draper would approve of this pro-milk pocket mirror. 3 glasses every day!

Midcentury Advertising Button

Check out more buttons from the golden age of advertising and beyond in the Button Museum.

May 14, 2015

In honor of Mad Men’s series finale this weekend, we decided to honor the real mid-century “mad men” of Madison Avenue by collecting some of our favorite mid-century advertising buttons.

Midcentury Advertising Buttons

Looking back through the Button Museum archives, it’s easy to imagine taglines written by Peggy Olson and campaigns straight out of Don Draper’s head. Here are a few of the pinbacks we think Sterling Cooper crew would have approved of.

 

A button with Pete Campbell’s name written all over it, if ever there was a certifiable “sales eagle,” Pete was it.

Midcentury Advertising Button

 

As “the voice of Moms,” we can imagine Peggy put in charge of writing for a wholesome account like Borden’s Chocolate Milk, though we don’t know if she’d be happy about it.

Midcentury Advertising Button

 

Landing Mohawk Airlines was a coup for Sterling Cooper back in their early days, but it’s TWA that seems to have Don’s personal loyalty in the later seasons– a flight attendant refers to him by name, and he tells a seatmate en route from California to New York, “I fly a lot.”

Midcentury Advertising Button

 

A button in honor of Dawn, Clara, Miss Blankenship, Meredith, Peggy, Joan, Megan, and all the rest of the various secretaries and all the hundreds of cups of coffee they’ve fetched the Mad Men bosses every morning.

Vintage Advertising Button

 

Is it just us or does the proper British frog this airline partnership button remind you of Lane Pryce, too?

Midcentury Advertising Button

 

One for Harry Crane, he’ll buy the client time between Hogan’s Heroes and Beverly Hillbillies.

Midcentury Advertising Button

Though not technically a Sterling Cooper employee, we thought Betty Draper would approve of this pro-milk pocket mirror. 3 glasses every day!

Midcentury Advertising Button

Check out more buttons from the golden age of advertising and beyond in the Button Museum.

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