Displayed here are examples from more than a hundred years of campaigning, beginning with a William McKinley button from 1896 or 1900. The first buttons that were used extensively in presidential campaigning appeared in the contests between McKinley and his opponent William Jennings Bryan. Buttons had become practical then, following the invention of celluloid that could serve as a film to protect a paper image.
Buttons lack both the subtlety and depth of content of political cartoons. During the past half-century, as illustrated here, the content of campaign buttons has often been outrageous, as humor has given way to contempt. The weaker the candidate or the more vulnerable his stance on an issue, the more likely he was to be attacked and the easier the assault. As often as not, a button speaks against one candidate rather that in favor of another one.
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