The Whitehead & Hoag company was formed in 1892 in Newark, New Jersey, as a partnership between printer Benjamin S. Whitehead and paper merchant Chester R. Hoag. It soon became the largest manufacturer of novelty advertising in the United States, eventually making over 5,000 different items. In the late 1890s, the company had branch offices across the U.S. and in England, Australia, and Argentina.
In its first decade, Whitehead & Hoag acquired three major patents on the design and manufacture of buttons. The company's non-partisan roster of clients included commercial businesses, both major political parties as well as Socialists, Communists, and Prohibitionists, and various club and fraternal organizations. The U.S. presidential election of 1896 marked the first time political campaign buttons blanketed the country.
Its first huge order from the American Tobacco Company at the rate of roughly 1 million buttons per day. With no machinery yet to place the paper on the button backs, residents living near the factory were hired to perform the task. A new factory built in 1903 housed a complete printing plant with lithography, art and photo engraving, and machinery departments. W & H's manufacture of buttons included their design all the way to the finished product.
In 1919, Benjamin Whitehead left the company's presidency and became its chairman of the board. W & H had been a union company, even noting specific unions that operated in the factory on its button labels. though the company was no longer a union shop, some of its button labels, such as for political campaigns, still represented it as one. During World War II, the company converted to making ID buttons for wartime factories.
After Chester Hoag's son Phillip died in 1953, no Whitehead or Hoag family member remained on the board. Further, the company went through cycles of a few years of profitability followed by long stretches of operating at a loss, and it only advertised on its own products. In this environment, W & H was sold to a longtime competitor and union shop, Bastian Bros. of Rochester, New York, in 1959. The new owners sold or scrapped machinery, and W & H's records were destroyed. Bastian Bros. phased out the Whitehead & Hoag name in 1965.
Source: Hake, Ted. (2015). Whitehead and Hoag company history. Retrieved from http://www.tedhake.com/viewuserdefinedpage.aspx?pn=whco
Buttons in the museum manufactured by Whitehead & Hoag Company