Campaign Buttons, Artifact of the Month for August 2012
September 19, 2012
In contrast to the divided Democrats, during the Republican Convention Ulysses S. Grant was chosen by acclimation on the first ballot. House Speaker Schuyler Colfax, a Radical Republican was nominated for Vice President on the 6th ballot. Although the popular vote for the two candidates was very close, Seymour lost by a large margin in the Electoral College, with Grant receiving 214 votes and Seymour 80.
Within the park's artifact collection are some interesting campaign buttons from that election. Political buttons date as far back as President George Washington, and they have taken many forms as the technology to create an image and mass production has allowed. In the late 18th and early 19th century, buttons were sewn-on clothing. The first example from the artifact collection is a pair of small brass buttons, one with a ferrotype portrait of Ulysses Grant with "GRANT" above the picture and the other with a ferrotype portrait of his running mate, Schuyler Colfax with "COLFAX" above the picture. The two portraits are each framed by a solid brass colored ring surrounded by a scalloped cut-out design with a vertical pin hinged at the top with a hook at the bottom. The first photographic image on pins dates to 1860.Campaign buttons for Abraham Lincoln and his various opponents were made using the tintype or ferrotype photo process. Another example of a campaign button from this election is a round campaign button which looks like a coin. On the obverse is a portrait of U.S. Grant in the center surrounded by the words, "General U.S. Grant 1868". On the reverse, is a laurel wreath surrounded by the words, "I propose to Fight it out on this Line/If it/takes all/summer", Grant's famous battlefield quote originally written in a letter to Lincoln on May 11, 1864. The campaign buttons from 1868 are an interesting reference to America's political history.