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Question of the day

Monday, Sep 29, 2014

* The Sun-Times has a story about political campaign buttons

It’s slim pickings this year for Illinois collectors, despite a race for governor and Chicago mayor. Area collectors say they haven’t come across many buttons made by fans of the candidates.

Neither Gov. Pat Quinn nor Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s re-election campaigns are producing buttons. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s campaign didn’t respond to button inquiries, and Ald. Robert Fioretti’s (2nd) mayoral campaign hasn’t made any yet. […]

There’s not huge demand for local candidates’ buttons, but collections of Illinois mayoral candidates and gubernatorial candidates do exist. A campaign might make some pins, but collectors say what really fleshes out a cache are buttons made by candidates’ grass-roots supporters.

Marc Sigoloff of Springfield is known among Illinois collectors for his focus on Barack Obama buttons. At about 5,400 buttons, it is the largest Obama collection in existence, he said.

I have a smallish button collection. Nothing fancy. My dad, however, has a huge collection. My personal favorite was my “Honkies for Harold” button from the 1983 mayoral campaign which I somehow lost years ago. I saw it on a TV news story and asked a Chicago friend to get me one.

* The Question: What’s your own favorite political button and why? Bonus points for telling us a little about your own collection.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Empty Chair - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:00 pm:

    My dad gave me a McGovern-Eagleton button when I got my first job in politics. “Everyone’s replaceable,” he said.

  2. - Trummy - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:05 pm:

    Most offensive: Watermelon slice with a red circle and slash. Bernie Epton campaign against Harold Washington. Bernie was no bigot, but some of his supporters…

  3. - paddyrollingstone - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:07 pm:

    Recently found a Nixon/Oligive button for my dad -cost was $1.50. Best one I ever saw was for Leroy Van Duyne, a D state rep from Joliet. Leroy was quite the character and had purple and white buttons made up that said, “Catch VD, he’s contagious.”

  4. - 47th Ward - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:08 pm:

    I used to be an avid collector but gave most of mine away over the years. One favorite was accidentally given away. A friend on Obama’s first presidential campaign gave me a button that mixed Obama’s signature logo with the Cubs iconic logo. It was a small run, maybe only a couple of hundred buttons were made, and given my love of the Cubs, he knew I’d treasure it. I did.

    Like a lot of Irish families, we have a family priest. This guy is a Jesuit, a huge liberal and an even bigger Cubs fan. I showed him my new button once over the holidays and he was blown away. He mistakenly thought it was a gift for him and he proceeded to put in on his shirt, saying he might even wear it during mass. What was I supposed to do, take it back?

    So, if anyone else has one of those and wants to sell it, drop Rich a line. He knows how to find me.

  5. - downstate hack - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:11 pm:

    Barry Goldwater


    and “In your heart, you know he’s right”

  6. - dave fako - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:15 pm:

    30 years in the business as a volunteer, union political rep. (NALC), political and state staff and consultant, so I have a decent, but relatively small collection, albeit I have not added to it in a while.

  7. - IrishPirate - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:16 pm:

    83 “mare’s race” White buttons, just the color white, for Epton. Beautiful response: black buttons, just the color black for Washington. Epic response to a vile time in our history.

  8. - Levi - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:17 pm:

    My 1996 Pat Buchanan button. Reminds me how far I’ve come.

  9. - ZC - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:24 pm:

    A friend bequested me her small historical collection. ELVIS FOR DRUG CZAR is a favorite. I’ve got a small GO FORWARD WITH STEVENSON / SPARKMAN pin. And then there’s “Horse People for Carter-Mondale” (???) and “Athletes for McGovern / Shriver.”

  10. - IrishPirate - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:25 pm:

    Here’s a collection of 83 “mare’s” race buttons.

    “McWashington and McEpton” are particularly amusing.

  11. - Been There - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:29 pm:

    Not sure how many I have. Probably 300-400. Not sure which I like the most though. I have Harold, Jayne, Richie & Epton’s which is a good set. I liked the one we designed for my spouse’s race (she lost but her button was great). The punch 10 is also a good one along with Irish Amer Dems. One of my fav’s is not even a political button. It was for McGuire U’s appearance in the Final 5. They played hurt.

  12. - Joe M - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:30 pm:

    “I Like Ike” buttons from the 50’s still stick in my mind from when I was a kid, even though I grew up in a Democrat household, and my parents didn’t vote for Ike.

  13. - kcjenkins - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:32 pm:

    The comment above reminded me of a favorite I’ve been searching for for 30 years - a red 1964 Presidential with Goldwater’s face and the words “In Your Guts You Know He’s Nuts.” And I found the comment about grassroots buttons interesting - when I started in the hobby years ago, there were lots of purists who refused to touch buttons not produced by campaigns on the grounds that they weren’t “real.” Today, any collector who followed that rule would be out of the hobby.

    I have several thousand political buttons - presidential, Senate and gubernatorial, intensive coverage back 35 years, with some further back than that (the 1968 Bobby for President button is one I particularly treasure). My collection devoted to Kentucky (my home state), however, goes back to 1890 and is supposedly the biggest or second biggest collection in private hands. The buttons for both candidates in the 1899 Ky. Governor’s race are the centerpieces - a campaign that was legendary for its nastiness.

  14. - Responsa - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:35 pm:

    So happy you asked. I started my Goldwater collection because I was fascinated by the 1964 presidential election with Lyndon Johnson even though I was way too young to vote. That was definitely the election that awakened me to politics and campaigns.

    My favorite is a simple gold three dimensional elephant figure pin with Barry’s trademark big black glasses stuck into the elephant’s ears and resting across the trunk. Another favorite that is more rare is a complex flasher button that depending on the angle shows cartoon pictures of both candidates and their wives with luggage and says “start packing-Goldwaters are coming” The Johnson side of the flash even has their famous beagles. A number of the metal buttons feature Au H2O symbols instead of his name which is also cool.

    The collection totals well over a hundred items including buttons, pins, matches, pencils, pens, and even a cardboard gold sign in the style of real estate signs of the era for his supporters to put in their picture window. It reads “This House Sold on Goldwater”.

  15. - G'Kar - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:37 pm:

    I never collected political buttons or memorabilia, but one of my retired colleagues, a Political Science prof had one of the largest collections I’ve ever seen. He was well know in the collection hobby. What was to me interesting was that he was an expert in George Wallace buttons. This from a man who was a liberal as they come and a strong union activist! Unfortunately, he passed away less than a year after he retired.

  16. - And I Approved This Message - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:38 pm:

    Do bumper stickers count? I lived in Massachusetts during the Watergate years. It was the only state that didn’t vote for Nixon in ‘72. Within a day or two of the Saturday Night Massacre, when Robert Bork fired Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox on Nixon’s orders, bumper stickers popped up saying “Impeach the Cox Sacker.” Still my favorite.

  17. - Gadfly - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:45 pm:

    Probably the largest collection of buttons belongs to former State Senator Jack Schaefer. It covers many walls at Liberty Outdoor Advertising and Storage on Route 176 just east of Crystal Lake.

  18. - anon - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 12:50 pm:

    Best buttons ever are from Cynthia Plaster Caster’s 2011 campaign for Mayor of Chicago from the “Hard Party.” The “Erect Cynthia” as Mayor is my favorite.!/ChicagoForCynthia/photos_stream

  19. - corvax - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 1:23 pm:

    Speaking of George Wallace, I got a couple from his American Independent Party run for president with Gen Curtis Lemay in 1968 after writing the campaign when i was 13 (although, for the record, I was campaigning for Gene McCarthy before the convention). Personal fave, though, is a ‘Greeks for President Nixon’ button from ‘72.

  20. - Anonymous - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 1:26 pm:

    my nixon buttons i wore,nixon now more than ever and nixon on a rebel flag thats when civil rights turned southern democats into bible thumping republicans(bigots)

  21. - VanillaMan - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 1:28 pm:

    Its the 1936 Landon button with the felt sunflower pedals. It was my great grandfather’s. They were Kansans.

    And of course, Bob Dole - everything.

    When I was a kid we visited Sterling Kansas because of relatives there. It also has the very best Fourth of July picnic anywhere. You want a Norman Rockwell Fourth? Go to Sterling Kansas.

    Back when I was a kid, Bob Dole would arrive and often lead the parade down Main. He was usually in a red convertible, a Lincoln or a Cadillac. The parade route would begin in the college parking lot, stroll down Main, then turn east in front of my dad’s aunt and uncle’s house where we would all sit in the shade of the huge cottonwoods and cheer. Bob Dole was always a big favorite. As soon as the last squad car passed, we would run after it into Sterling Park for the Picnic.

    Sterling Park surrounds a tree-lined, two acre lake, with a gazebo on an island. It was from the gazebo that the fireworks would be launched. Reflecting into the lake made the fireworks doubly impressive.

    Throughout the afternoon, families throughout Rice county would locate at their traditional locations on the banks of Sterling Lake and bring every kind of July Fourth picnic food item one would expect of Kansas.

    A sidewalk rings everything, so everyone would go around the Lake and catch up on the latest gossip. Bob Dole was always there, if he was on a ballot or in Kansas. No one was ignored by Bob and it was obvious he loved every minute of being the Minority Leader At Home. We all would stuff him with our family favorite dishes.

    Being a kid, I don’t know when he left - but I do remember the times he started off the fireworks display, standing on the bridge leading to the gazebo. It was always very exciting for this little town. Practically every business in town was closed in order to be in the Park.

    So, as you can imagine - I’m a huge Bob Dole fan and his buttons, his posters and his bumper stickers mean a lot to me.

  22. - Gooner - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 1:32 pm:

    I’m not so big in the buttons themselves, but they are a nice reminder of where I was at a certain time.

    The button that has the most meaning is a Dukakis button since I met my now wife on that campaign.

    The other one (and I have a drawer full, although not on purpose, since I had to grab one at multiple events) is for a local candidate. I wore one while my wife was pregnant. On election day, I kept having to call home to check on timing of contractions. The day was uneventful in that regard, with the birth a few days later.

    I’ve got a bunch of other buttons (including one for Richard M. Daley’s race for State’s Attorney) which are sort of interesting, but none bring a smile to my face like those two.

  23. - Buddy - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 2:36 pm:

    I have a an anti-Reagan button, simply says “Jane Wyman was right”.

  24. - Joe M - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 2:40 pm:

    “A chicken in every pot Hoover” is another one of my favorites that I’ve seen at antique shows.

  25. - uptown progressive - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 2:42 pm:

    No collection; just a desk drawer. More issues than candidates; more losers than winners. Favorite: “Simpson for Congress” both because Dick is a friend and as I reminder that he does not always get it right. (In his case he ran two years too soon against Dan Rostenkowski.)

  26. - been there - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 2:49 pm:

    My collection is only 100 to 150 buttons, heavy on Cook County and on feminism. From the 1976 Republican presidential nominating convention, my favorite is “Betty’s Husband for President” because we all knew she was the woman behind his support for the Equal Rights Amendment. And Rich, you didn’t specify political campaigns. So there are political issues buttons, too. In general, I think my favorite button, done as a ceramic on copper piece of jewelry, is “Sexism is a Social Disease”. My reasons are obvious, I think. One of my daughters carried off the button that said, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament”, which she used to wear in her Jesuit theology class.

  27. - VPlena - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 3:10 pm:

    I Have a “I’m For Powell” button. I keep it and other buttons in a shoebox.

  28. - Tom B. - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 3:20 pm:

    I have a collection of a few hundred. A couple real gems like my Wellstone 02 buttons (much heavy collector back then) and all the stuff from the 04 Obama campaign. I don’t do a ton these days, but my family always goes out and finds me some cool ones on birtdays and holidays.

    The ones I like the most are the Nancy Pelosi for Whip and Speaker buttons. I’m not 100% sure, but those might have been buttons she gave to Members. I forgot where I received the Speaker one, but the Whip one was Rod’s button from when I was an intern in the DC office.

  29. - Stones - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 3:42 pm:

    Vote VD - He’s Contagious!

    Leroy VanDuyne who was a State Rep from Will County back in the mid-late ’70’s. One of the more gregarious members the chamber has ever seen. Those buttons were a huge hit not only in the district but in Springfield as well!

  30. - Bobbysox - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 3:47 pm:

    My favorite is “American TV Backs Mephisto for President,” referring to the late night host of TV horror films in Madison WI in 1972.

    But on a more sublime theme, I have an Adlai Stevenson * Grace Mary Stern button with drawings of these two candidates that lost to Thompson-Ryan by only 5,000 votes out of 3.5 million in 1982.

  31. - Jake From Elwood - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 3:50 pm:

    Does “Vote for Pedro” count?

  32. - Vote Quimby! - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 4:33 pm:

    I’ve got a couple dozen…primarily Paul Simon and presidential campaigns. My favorite: a simple one from Paul Tsongas I got during his appearance at the Old State Capitol the day before Slick Willie crushed him in the Illinois and Michigan primaries. Tsongas was the last Democrat remaining.

  33. - Johninchicago - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 4:36 pm:

    My most unique campaign items from my collection of hundreds. I have a roll of Nixon toiletpaper. Also a red feather over 11 inches long embossed with “WE’RE TICKLED TO BE FOR WENDELL L. WILLKIE”

  34. - Cheryl44 - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 4:43 pm:

    Not a campaign button, but I got to hand an ITMFA button to my then Congressman, Rahm Emmanuel. He didn’t know what that stood for, so I got to swear at him.

    And then the #$*(#$& didn’t do what the button asked, so I will never vote for him again.

  35. - dr. reason a. goodwin - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 4:53 pm:

    I have a Clinton-Simon button

  36. - Gooner - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 5:02 pm:

    Another button that is worth noting is a “Kerrey for President” button.

    I was working for Clinton in the 1992 primary. Clinton and Kerrey both had offices in the same La Salle Street building (across from City Hall, I believe — an old building with a fire escape where people would go to smoke).

    One night we heard rumors that Kerrey was dropping out, so a bunch of us headed down there and appropriated some campaign buttons. We hadn’t heard anything official yet, and it seemed that they heard the rumors and thought we knew more than we did.

    There was a bit of gloating (i.e. why don’t you head upstairs to help the next president). I’m not sure they saw the humor in it, but we had fun.

    So that’s one of the buttons I’ve kept over the years.

  37. - Streator Curmudgeon - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 5:06 pm:

    When I was a kid and did something good, my Dad, a WW II vet, used to say, “That earns you a Dewey button.” Unfortunately, he never delivered on that promise.

  38. - quicknote - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 5:15 pm:

    Not a button, but my favorite piece of campaign swag is my John Schmidt for Governor pot holder.

  39. - Cosdem - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 5:39 pm:

    “Don’t Kvetch. Vote Netsch” — was given to me personally by DCN so it means a lot to me.

  40. - Joan P. - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 5:59 pm:

    I don’t have a lot, but my favorite is probably “Convict No. 9653 for President”. (That would be Eugene V. Debs.)

  41. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 6:09 pm:

    Responsa, do you have a can of “Gold Water?” I think mine is still intact. Goldwater’s college roommate was from Champaign, and he was into the campaign big time. I probably have more Goldwater stuff than any other candidate’s.

    Favorite is actually a ball cap. Prepared for Beach Boys concert in 1985 before JRT had announced for re-election.
    Caps read “Jim Thompson-Wouldn’t it Be Nice?”

  42. - Responsa - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 8:08 pm:

    AA–I think the “ex” absconded with that can from the collection, but I know exactly what item you mean.

    Many here probably don’t even know who Les Arends from tiny Melvin IL was, either, but he was the powerful Republican whip at that time and was an early Goldwater supporter. He had lots of support in central IL.

    And we must never forget that another famous Illinoisan, Hillary Rodham, was a Goldwater Girl.

  43. - Ann - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 9:05 pm:

    When I was in third grade, I showed up at a Brownie meeting wearing a big button that alternated between Adlai Stevenson and Soapy Williams. I was told it wasn’t appropriate on my uniform. I loved that button, though.

  44. - Capitol View - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 9:44 pm:

    I’ve got a box of buttons, bumper stickers, nail files, matchbooks, pins, and miscellaneous campaign nonsense dating back to 1960 -my first and favorite campaign pin for John Kennedy. I penned his assassination date inside it the day he died, as if I would ever forget that terrible day.

    My collection is national presidential races plus Illinois and local Illinois races - I don’t know or care how much it might be worth. I have no interest in parting with it, although I should take the time to organize it…

  45. - Just the Way It Is One - Monday, Sep 29, 14 @ 11:40 pm:

    Really loved a simple yet powerful Medium Blue-Colored Button outlined in White from back in 1976 which just seemed to directly characterize both the Power and Prestige of what the Man had, which you HAD to respect, even if he’d only been LED to it by Fate and the U.S. Constitution. It just seemed cool, as if to ask, “Are you SURE you really want to risk lettin’ some PEANUT Farmer from the Deep South run this Land of Ours?,” by simply stateing in 2 lines, one on top of the other & centered: “President Ford.” People forget but that Race turned out to be a LOT closer than many expected–at 1st, some were predicting a Carter Landslide–it just never materialized…

    Also, I thought a 1980 PRImary Election Button, once disillusionment had set in for many Democrats seemed to push THIS Popular U.S. Senator’s (and Famous Family) Candicacy, as if Camelot demanded it somehow! It stated simply, “DrafTED.” Sure, the “3rd” Kennedy did fall a bit short in that gutsy challenge against a sitting U.S. President, but he sure made Jimmy Carter sweat bullets–that’s for sure–and some believed at the time, cut into the Party’s Unity so terribly much as to pave the way for Ronald Reagan’s ULtimate Triumph later that Year…!

  46. - Sick of It All - Tuesday, Sep 30, 14 @ 1:55 am:

    Rednecks for Simon…1988 Senate race spoofing Cong. Lynn Martin’s comments about her opponents residence in southern Illinois. She referred to Southern Illinoisans as “rednecks” and the Simon campaign ran with it - and won. I have a large collection myself since the 1930s….also 2nd runner up is “I believe Anita Hill” - a reference to her accusations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She was disrespected in Congressional hearings and women fought back against that insult to women.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

* Reader comments closed until Tuesday
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