The Political Buttons at HKS Collection features nearly 3,000 buttons that represent U.S. political history from 1904 through today. It includes buttons on candidates, ballot initiatives, social issues, grassroots movements, and more.

Explore the Collection

Browse & filter the full collection.


Explore curated selections in Harvard Librarys digital collections platform.

Digital Exhibits
Explore curated selections from the collection in our 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.

Since 2012, a record number of individuals from underrepresented groups have run for U.S. political office. This exhibit features buttons from recent candidates who are women, people of color, Native American, and LGBTQ+.


The U.S. has a rich history of political activism, long represented through buttons. The buttons in this exhibit highlight social issues from the 1960s through today.

A Dive into the HKS Library’s Bookmarks

The HKS Librarys bookmarks feature 55 items from the Political Buttons at HKS Collection. Explore the historical significance of the candidates and causes represented.

HKS Library & Research Services (LRS) established the Political Buttons at HKS Collection in 2012, when local philanthropist Steven M. Rothstein donated his family’s personal button collection to HKS. Mr. Rothstein was an accomplished nonprofit administrator, leading 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 now contact the campaign teams of every candidate running for congressional and presidential office, offering the chance to memorialize their efforts in our library. Our contemporary candidate buttons encompass all political parties and levels of office.

We hope educators will use the collection to make U.S. political history more tangible. We also hope researchers will use the collection to enhance scholarship around U.S. politics, electioneering, Americana, and social movements.

If you have questions about the collection or would like to donate buttons, contact Corinne Wolfson, Digital Collections Librarian. Please do not send button donations without first consulting with LRS staff.

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