British Museum collections, £12.99
Diameter: 28.000 mm
Gift of Dr F. Parkes Weber
Coins and Medals
Presidential campaign badge of Horatio Seymour
United States of America, AD 1868
An early campaign badge incorporating a photograph
Images of individuals have always played an important role in the process of electing the President of the United States. At first they took the form of engravings, and photographs were first used in the 1848 elections.
In 1856 a process was developed whereby a photographic image could be printed directly onto a sheet of iron treated with photographic chemicals. This gave presidential candidates further possibilities, enabling them to incorporate photographs of themselves into campaign badges. Abraham Lincoln was one of the first to make use of the new invention in the 1860 elections.
Horatio Seymour was the Democratic Party candidate for the presidential elections of 1868. Seymour was beaten by Ulysses S. Grant, who duly succeeded Andrew Johnson (who had replaced Lincoln in 1865) as president. On the back of the badge is a photograph of Frank P. Blair, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate.
Photographic badges remained in use throughout the rest of the nineteenth century, until they were replaced by the newly developed button badge in 1896. These were so immediately popular that the British Strand Magazine, reporting on the American elections, wrote that '"campaign buttons" adorn the lapels of voters all over the land'. They continue to be an integral part of election campaigns to the present day.
E.B. Sullivan, American political badges and (Lawrence (Massachusetts), Quarterman Publications, 1981)
E.B. Sullivan, Collecting political Americana (New York, Crown Publishers, 1980)
T. L. Hake, Political buttons book, Volume III 1789-1916 (York (Pennsylvania) Hake's Americana & Collectibles Press, 1978)