The History of the American Political Button, Then and Now From the Gerald E. Talbot Collection, African American Collection of Maine
According to political historians, the use of political buttons developed out of the presidency of George Washington. Instead of campaign slogans, these early buttons served the purpose of commemorating Washington’s inauguration. Common inscriptions found on these Washington-era buttons included: “Long Live the President,” “Unity, Prosperity & Independence,” and “Remember March Fourth, 1789.” The pin-backed political button, as seen today, came out in the late nineteenth century. The period from 1896 to the 1920s has been called the “golden age of political buttons,” because millions were produced. Currently, political buttons are enjoying a resurgence of interest. There are many types of buttons in this exhibition, such as: picture buttons, name buttons, slogan and issue buttons, mottoes and manifestoes buttons, and inaugural buttons. Buttons are put out by the national committees of the major political parties, and others are produced by regional organizations, or third-party candidates. The buttons in the Gerald E. Talbot Collection are both regional and national examples of slogans that address political, social, economic, gendered, cultural, racial, environmental, and ecological issues.
Material for the exhibition is from the Gerald E. Talbot Collection, African American Collection of Maine, Jean Byers Sampson Center for Diversity in Maine, University of Southern Maine Libraries.
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