ON THE BUT­TON

Col­lec­tion of cam­paign me­men­tos pro­vides a tour through his­tory

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Joe Bar­ron jbar­ron@timesher­ald.com @JoeBar­ron on Twit­ter

UP­PER ME­RION >> The name Al­ton B. Parker is prob­a­bly un­known to most of the vot­ers who will cast their bal­lots for pres­i­dent Nov. 8, but in 1904, he was as fa­mous as ei­ther Hil­lary Clin­ton or Don­ald Trump. Parker, a New York state judge, was the Demo­cratic nom­i­nee for the na­tion’s high­est of­fice that year. He lost to Theodore Roo­sevelt in a land­slide.

While the coun­try might have for­got­ten Parker, Rus­sell Ru­bert of King of Prus­sia has not. Ru­bert can even name Parker’s run­ning mate. It was Henry G. Davis, who, at 80, might be the old­est man ever to stand for the vice pres­i­dency.

Ru­bert, pres­i­dent of the Norristown Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety and a board mem­ber of the King of Prus­sia His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, is an avid col­lec­tor who has turned his home on Hil­lview Road into a show­case for View Mas­ter view­ers, an­tique tele­phones, and, most re­cently, po­lit­i­cal cam­paign but­tons, which he has painstak­ingly mounted on a pair of dis­play trip­ty­chs.

“I haven’t counted them,” he said in an in­ter­view, “but I’ve got at least a cou­ple for ev­ery can­di­date from at least the 1896 elec­tion on up.”

Ac­cord­ing to Ru­bert, 1896 was the year cam­paign but­tons be­gan to be mass-pro­duced. It was also the year Repub­li­can Wil­liam

“I haven’t counted them, but I’ve got at least a cou­ple for ev­ery can­di­date from at least the 1896 elec­tion on up.” — Rus­sell Ru­bert, King of Prus­sia res­i­dent and po­lit­i­cal but­ton col­lec­tor

McKin­ley beat Demo­cratic Wil­liam Jen­nings Bryan in the race for the White House.

Not all of Ru­bert’s but­tons are gen­uine. Many are re­pro­duc­tions, which he some­times prefers be­cause they are less ex­pen­sive than the orig­i­nals. The old­est he has been able to ver­ify as au­then­tic, which dates from 1920, is a metal lapel pin em­bossed with the name “Cox,” for James M. Cox, who ran un­suc­cess­fully against War­ren Hard­ing. In a vis­ual pun, it is shaped like a rooster.

Another au­then­tic jewel, from 1936, bears the name of Repub­li­can Alf Lan­don and is trimmed with felt sun­flower leaves, sym­bol of Kansas, Lan­don’s home state.

“You never know,” Ru­bert said about an item’s authen­tic­ity, but “the Alf Lan­don one, that’s un­de­ni­able.”

Ru­bert has built his col­lec­tion by haunt­ing garage sales and flea mar­kets, and of course, cruis­ing the in­ter­net.

“The in­ter­net has been the big thing,” he said. “I don’t go out search­ing for them all the time, be­cause if I did that, I’d have a mil­lion but­tons.”

He also has a few se­lec­tion cri­te­ria to keep his col­lec­tion from get­ting too big. For ex­am­ple, he pur­chases only those but­tons of­fi­cially is­sued by a cam­paign, a lim­i­ta­tion he deems es­sen­tial in an age when any­one can make their own but­tons us­ing a com­puter at home.

Nev­er­the­less, the num­ber of pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls over the years en­sures an ever-ex­pand­ing col­lec­tion, es­pe­cially since it in­cludes many can­di­dates who did not win their party’s nom­i­na­tion. One but­ton, from 1976, dis­plays the names of Ronald Re­gan and Penn­syl­va­nia Sen. Richard Sch­weiker, who lost the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion that year to Ger­ald Ford and Bob Dole. Another, from the 1968 pri­maries, pro­motes Hubert Humphrey for pres­i­dent with Robert F. Kennedy as his run­ning mate.

Ru­bert also owns sev­eral is­sue-ori­ented but­tons, such as once from 1940 op­pos­ing Franklin Roo­sevelt’s un­prece­dented run for a third term.

From a purely aes­thetic stand­point, his fa­vorite comes from Richard Nixon’s 1972 cam­paign. He voted for Ge­orge McGovern that year, he said, but he likes the but­ton for its stark type­face and its rich colors. It was also easy to find on the web.

“Blue and red Nixon but­tons were all over the place,” he said.

A man of such var­ied in­ter­ests brings a great deal of prior knowl­edge to the art of col­lect­ing, but Ru­bert is still oc­ca­sion­ally sur­prised by what he learns. In ad­di­tion to pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns, he col­lects but­tons from Penn­syl­va­nia’s gubernatorial races, and not long ago, he dis­cov­ered he had over­looked a small item of re­cent po­lit­i­cal his­tory.

“I try to keep up,” he said, “but I didn’t know some guy named Mike Stack is lieu­tenant gover­nor of Penn­syl­va­nia.”

JOE BAR­RON — DIGITAL FIRST ME­DIA

Rus­sell Ru­bert, pres­i­dent of the Norristown Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety and board mem­ber of the King of Prus­sia His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, stands in front of a dis­play of his­tor­i­cal pres­i­den­tial cam­paign but­tons at his home in King of Prus­sia on Oct. 8.

Demo­crat Al­ton B. Parker ran for pres­i­dent against in­cum­bent Theodore Roo­sevelt in 1904. His run­ning mate was 80-year-old Henry Davis. This cam­paign but­ton is a re­pro­duc­tion.

This but­ton, from Richard Nixon’s 1972 cam­paign, is one of Rus­sell Ru­bert’s fa­vorites, though more for its de­sign than the can­di­date.

Alf Lan­don and Frank Knox ran against in­cum­bent Franklin Roo­sevelt in 1936. The felt sun­flow­ers on this rep­re­sent Kansas, Lan­don’s home state.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

This rooster-shaped lapel pin from 1920 pro­motes the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy of Demo­crat James Cox.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.