Personal Stevenson Case 4

Campaign Buttons, a Fixture of U.S. Politics

The style of political campaign button we would recognize today was born in the election of 1896. That year alone saw the creation of over 1,000 varieties of campaign buttons. The button quickly became the most common item visible at political rallies.

The buttons displayed here are from Adlai II’s presidential campaigns. While similar to those used in earlier elections, these buttons were produced at a turning point in U.S. politics. 1952 saw a surge in advertising money injected into elections that increasingly became tightly controlled media messaging campaigns. Buttons were transformed from artifacts of popular excitement in the political process into tools of mass marketing. Stevenson derided this new technique of commercializing candidates as “the ultimate indignity of the democratic process.”

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