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.
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, 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 - 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.