Campaigning in the 20th Century

By Ciara Bohan

Getting in to the spirit of our oncoming elections and the national conventions, we have examples of American campaign pins. Buttons and pins were used by supporters of a campaign to show enthusiasm and to market a nominee. It is a brilliant way to advertise politicians without spending too much money, since pins were and still are cheaply made, mass producible, and could be worn on people’s shirts for the public to see. This strategy has been a successful and is still used to this day. Now campaigns will not only use pins, but also print their promotions on flags, hats, bumper stickers, and other easily and cheaply made items.

One pin out of our large collection is one the 1964 Presidential Election between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon B. Johnson. The pin is red, white, and blue with a picture of Barry Goldwater (on right) and William Miller (on left). Miller was Goldwater’s Vice Presidential pick. The words “Een Ploeg Voor Vryheid” is written across the top, which means “A Team for Freedom/ Liberty” in Dutch.

Goldwater Miller

Before running for president, Barry Goldwater represented Arizona in Senate for thirty years. Goldwater was known for being a fiscal conservative, which meant he supported fewer government regulations, little government spending, and low taxes. It wasn’t very clear why he chose William Miller to be his vice president, since many people didn’t know who his was or what his political views were. William Miller was a New York politician who served in the House of Representatives as a Republican. He was known for criticizing John F. Kennedy while he was in office in 1961-63. The Democratic Party led one of the most famous campaigns called the “Daisy ad,” which stated electing Barry Goldwater would result in a nuclear war occurring during the Vietnam War. This ad was successful in causing public fear of the Republican Party winning, which secured Democratic victory. Lyndon B. Johnson won the majority of the votes, making the Barry Goldwater campaign one of the most unsuccessful presidential campaigns in American history. It remains a mystery why the caption “Een Ploeg Voor Vryheid” is in Dutch, especially since this pin was made to promote an American election. Dutch was not the only language that The Goldwater/Miller campaign produced buttons in. An online antique dealer shows the same pin with the same translation in languages such as Ukrainian, Latvian, Greek, Chinese, Hungarian, Lebanese, and Estonian.  Although not certain, some of the languages were of countries under a communist regime, something that the Goldwater campaign was avidly against. The goal may have been to promote ideals of democracy.

Buttons and pins are not only used for campaigns, they are often used for commemorations and anniversaries. This next pin we have is a 1962 commemorative pin which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Union victory in the Battle of Antietam, and the 200th anniversary of the foundation of Antietam, Maryland. The pin has the American flag on one side and the Union flag on the other. Around the perimeter of the pin are the words “Antietam-South Mountain Centennial *Hagerstown 200th Anniversary*.”

Battle of Antietam

The Battle of Antietam took place during the Civil War in 1862 one-hundred years after the town was founded by Jonathan Hager. In this battle, Robert E. Lee led the Confederate Army to Maryland, meaning it was the first battle to be fought on Northern soil. The opposing General George McClellan led the Army of the Potomac against them and stopped the Confederates from advancing farther into the North. This battle was known for being one of the bloodiest in American history. Many conclude that there was no real victory to this battle, as there were thousands of casualties on both ends. In total, historians estimate there were around 22,717 soldiers who died. This battle resulted in the creation of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by Abraham Lincoln. It was passed on January 1st of 1863 after three years of the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” (with in all states that had rebelled against the Union) “all and henceforward shall be free.” Although the Emancipation Proclamation was not powerful enough to free all slaves, it was one of the first steps in abolishing slavery.

Maryland Commemorative PlateVia Etsy

The Historic Huguenot Street Permanent Collection holds a number of other patriotic campaign buttons along with the aforementioned. Some include the classic and widely known, “I Like Ike” slogan, from the 1952 election for Dwight Eisenhower. We also hold a few buttons promoting liberty bonds, which were bonds sold in World War I to support the allied cause. They were advertised as a patriotic duty to those on the home front in the United States.

19602 Campaign Buttons


History & Culture.” Antietam National Battlefield Maryland. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior: Washington, D.C., n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.

Antietam.” Civil War Trust. Washington, D.C., n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.

Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863; Presidential Proclamations, 1791-1991; Record Group 11; General Records of the United States Government; National Archives.

Barry Goldwater and William E. Miller.” The Los Angeles Times: Los Angeles, n.d. Web. 20 July 2016. Editors. “Barry Goldwater Biography.” A+E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.

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