Photographic campaign buttons

Lincoln campaign button from the 1860 Presidential Election. From the Wikipedia and the US LOC, in the public domaign.

Lincoln campaign button from the 1860 Presidential Election. From the Wikipedia and the US LOC, in the public domaign.

Let’s continue today with the theme of Abraham Lincoln. Certainly his face is instantly recognizable to us. It has become a meme. This, in part, stems from the fact that he lived at the time that photography came into maturity. We know him in daguerreotype, as we saw yesterday, and we know him in albumen prints. Interestingly, in this year of a contentious presidential campaign in the United States we also know him in tintype or ferrotype. Maybe it is a reminder that all presidential elections are contentious.

Campaign buttons or pins that carried the candidates’ photograph, reproduced by this process were first used in the presidential campaign of 1860 and there are images of Lincoln and his various opponents. An example from the collection of the United States Library of Congress is shown in Figure 1. The reverse side of the button shows a portrait of his running mate Hannibal Hamlin. The image is by Mathew Brady. For us, today, these images have just enough uniqueness and rarity to be interesting.

In 2008, a big deal was made of Barak Obama’s campaign’s use of the “latest in technology” the internet and social media to promote the candidate.  The same was true with these seemingly modest Lincoln pins of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the latest technology and at a time when most newspaper and magazine illustrations were drawings, it gave the presidential hopeful both immediate recognition and a sense of modernity and forward thinking. The same was true of Obama’s election. The rest, as they say, is history.

This entry was posted in History of Photography.

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  1. […] while back I blogged about the first presidential campaign button.  In the US right now, we are election-obsessed, and I started wondering about early photographs […]