YouTube and Facebook ads. Texting supporters to remind them of their polling location. Presidential campaigns have changed significantly over the years, but catchy slogans and memorable logos have always been part of campaigning. A selection of campaign buttons makes up a new digital collection from South Carolina Political Collections (SCPC) in conjunction with the exhibit “In the Arena: Presidential Campaigns and Conventions” showcasing presidential campaign materials from 1940 to 1984.
SCPC’s holdings include a large number of objects such as buttons, pins, pens, medals and other “ephemera” relating to politics. The digital collection draws on these materials. Some of the materials are duplicated from our collections, like a Hollings for President bumper sticker. Some of the material has been collected or donated by SCPC staff or members of the public. This is especially true of our more recent campaign buttons.
While our collection of presidential ephemera is greatest for the past few election cycles, SCPC chose to digitize those from 1940 to 1984 to highlight some of the older and rarer materials we have. For example, while Barack Obama or George W. Bush buttons might still be common these days, few people can say they have seen a Wendell Willkie button or a guidebook to the 1961 Inauguration.
What’s the first campaign you remember? For me, it was the Bush-Gore campaign – I was in second grade; for my dad it was the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon campaign; and for my grandfather it was probably the 1940 Roosevelt-Willkie campaign. Check out the digital collection and let us know which is your favorite piece of campaign memorabilia!