Jules Feiffer, 2 button badges: We are all prisoners of war, and They lie

United States of America, New York City, 1971 and Washington, DC, 1981

American protest badges

Protest movements, such as those against American involvement in Vietnam (1961-75) and the use of nuclear power, became powerful campaigning forces in the second half of the twentieth century. The protest badge (or button, as it is known in America), which had been invented in the United States in the 1890s and first used in large numbers in the 1896 presidential elections, played an important part in this development.

Well-known artists have used their skills in support of various causes, by producing striking designs for badges and other campaigning materials. Those who contributed to the anti-Vietnam war movement include the sculptor Alexander Calder, who created a badge in 1969 for marches in Washington and New York, and the celebrated political cartoonist Jules Feiffer, who was responsible for the design shown here, in which prison bars symbolize the detention of anti-war protestors in a Washington sports stadium.

The later badge by the same artist was issued two years after the near melt-down of the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and protests against the use of atomic power; the letter 'i' is formed from a cooling tower and radioactive cloud above. The simplicity of both designs creates the maximum impact within a tiny compass, creating a forceful means of communication.

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More information


F. Carey (ed.), Collecting the 20th century, exh. cat. (London, The British Museum Press, 1991)

P. Attwood, Acquisitions of badges (1983-1, British Museum Occasional Paper 76 (, 1990)


Diameter: 44.000 mm (We are all prisoners of war)
Diameter: 44.000 mm (We are all prisoners of war)

Museum number

CM 1986-4-17-1 (We are all prisoners of war);CM 1987-11-35-515 (They lie)



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