fbpx Political Buttons | Harvard Kennedy School

The Political Buttons at HKS Collection includes over 1,500 political buttons from the 20th and 21st centuries. The buttons in this collection represent state, local, and national U.S. political campaigns from Calvin Coolidge to Hillary Clinton. The collection also contains buttons pertaining to significant ballot initiatives, social issues and movements, and political demonstrations.

The collection was established in 2012, when local philanthropist Steven M. Rothstein donated his family’s personal collection of 2,000 political buttons. Mr. Rothstein, an accomplished nonprofit administrator and leader, led Citizen Schools and the Perkins School for the Blind before becoming the Executive Director of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

In 2018, we began expanding Mr. Rothstein’s collection during each election cycle. We contact the campaign teams of each candidate, offering them the chance to memorialize their efforts in our library. Our growing collection of contemporary candidate buttons include those of Democratic, Republican, and Independent politicians running for all forms of political office.

We hope the digitized images and original source material of these buttons - now accessible through HOLLIS Images - will be used for educational purposes in the fields of politics, government, U.S. and world history, sociology and beyond. We also hope researchers will take advantage of them for scholarship around 20th-century politics, electioneering, political Americana, and social, political, and cultural issues and movements of the 20th century.

Questions regarding this collection should be directed to Corinne Wolfson, Digital Collections Coordinator. We also welcome individual button donations.


From the early 1900s to the 2020 elections.


For gender equality in politics.


A window into causes throughout U.S. history.

Read more about the collection in the Harvard Gazette

"The buttons are from local elections, school committees and town councils, to state and national elections promoting the likes of Elizabeth Holtzman, a Radcliffe graduate and Congresswoman from New York, and Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American candidate to run for the presidency of the United States and the first woman to seek the democratic presidential nomination."

-Stephanie Mitchell