In 1896, a remarkable new tool was deployed in the battle for the U.S. presidency: the plastic-coated pin-back button.
With the advent of the affordable show of support, the metal candidate badges of yesteryear were soon on their way to becoming just that: a thing of the past.
As the Smithsonian writes, “Well into the late 1950s, political parties, candidates and campaign managers believed in the pin-back button and other novelties as vital and vibrant advertising media. Given away for free to be displayed as emblems of political activism and engagement, such novelties stimulated partisanship, sustained constituencies and won elections.”
Today, obviously, the game has radically changed with the dawn of the digital world (and not exactly for the best)—but there remains a place for the humble pin-back, if only on the jacket of a young mind unafraid to wear their beliefs on their sleeve.
Here is a collection of pins from every election since the introduction of those pin-backs; collectively, they serve as equal parts timely advertisement and clues at the true issues of the time.
As we nervously await our political future tomorrow, we’re happy to escape back into the past.