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The Political Buttons at HKS Collection includes over 1,500 political buttons from the 20th and 21st centuries, representing U.S. political campaigns at every level, ballot initiatives, social issues and movements, and political demonstrations.

Digital Exhibits
Curated selections from our Political Buttons at HKS Collection are available as interactive digital exhibits. These exhibits are projects of Library & Research Services with support from the Dean’s Office, Academic Deans’ Office, and the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

Over the past decade a record number of individuals from underrepresented groups have launched U.S. political campaigns. This exhibit features political buttons from 32 such candidates – women, people of color, Native people, & members of the LGBTQ community – who have sought office since 2012.


The U.S. has rich history of political activism, popular support for which has long been displayed through buttons. From the Vietnam War to nuclear power, South African apartheid to LGBTQ rights, & the Iraq War to #MeToo, the buttons in this exhibit highlight issues from the 1960s to today. 

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, LRS 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 - 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 Librarian. 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