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U.S. Political Campaign Memorabilia, 1896-2004

The following description, provided by Sandy Vrem, accompanied the exhibit of U.S. political campaign memorabilia, 1896-2004. "Scid’s Collection My grandfather, Scid Fulton, started collecting campaign buttons when he was a teenager in the early 1900’s. He grew up in a small town in upstate New York where most of the residents were Republicans; as a result he ended up with more republican buttons than democratic buttons. He would display the buttons in a storefront window every election year. When he died in 1969, my mother, Priscilla Fulton Jung, continued with the responsibilities of the collection. She displayed the collection in the public library. On June 15, 1993 my mother’s house was struck by lightning and caught fire. I remember talking to my brother while the firemen were still putting out the fire and reminded him that part of the collection was in my old bedroom where most of the flames were located. Most of the buttons were saved, but you can see the water damage on some of them. In 1994 the collection was passed on to me: I had to research the elections and redo the display boxes. The collection has been on display at College of the Redwoods during the past three elections, since I was on the faculty there, and now they are here, at the HSU library. This is not only a piece of U.S. history, but part of my family’s history. Campaign Buttons The political buttons of the early 19th century were sewn on clothing. They were made of brass, horn, or rubber and were stamped or molded with designs. The first campaign buttons as we know them were made in 1896 when William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan were running for president. These buttons were made of celluloid, a thin, transparent covering that was used to protect an image printed on paper. Usually the image was a photograph of a candidate. From 1896 to 1920, a wide variety of color inks and intricate designs resulted in buttons that were outstanding for their beauty. Lithographed buttons, which were made by printing color on tin, were blamed for the demise of the celluloid buttons. In 1920, presidential campaign buttons were mainly lithograph tin buttons. During the 1930’s and 1940’s three inch buttons became popular. Also the exclusive use of red, white and blue made all the buttons look alike. These two trends troubled many collectors. The buttons of the 1960’s reversed these trends. Pop and psychedelic art had a large impact on the political buttons. Current presidential campaign buttons are largely limited to faces and names rather than symbolic representation of issues."

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