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How Pinback Buttons Developed Through the Years

A pinback button or pin-back button is a button or badge that can be temporarily attached to a clothing surface using a safety pin, a pin made from wire, a clutch, or some other mechanism. The fastening mechanism is attached to the back portion of a button-shaped metal disk, which may be flat or concave, leaving an area on the front portion of the button to carry a printed message or an image. The earlier designs of the pinback button were a lot different than the badges of today.

A pinback button is typically related with a campaign button used within the country and overseas during political campaigns. They can also be promotional devices or fashion accessories containing the insignia of an organization, educational institutions, or sports team. They are also often used in marketing, publicity, and branding purposes.

Development of Pinback Buttons.
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1789 – Political buttons came into sight in the United States during a presidential inauguration when George Washington’s advocates sported buttons that were imprinted with a slogan. These early forms of the pin-back were sewn to the lapel of coats or sported as a pendant on a string.
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1860 – The first campaign buttons featuring photographs were produced to advocate the political ideals of Abraham Lincoln.

1893 – Benjamin S. Whitehead was issued a patent for the first innovation to the design made by inserting a sheet of transparent film made of celluloid over a photograph mounted on a badge to safeguard the image from scratches and abrasion.

1896 – A patent was issued to Whitehead & Hoag for another pin-back button design in the United States. The design uses a metal pin fastened to the back of the button intended to attach it to garments. The buttons of today bear a strong resemblance to this first design.

1898 – Early pin-back buttons were created featuring a popular cartoon character, The Yellow Kid, and used as marketing tools for chewing gum and tobacco products.

1940 – During the presidential campaign, Wendell Willkie’s camp used millions of lithographed pin-back buttons to respond to news stories about his opponent President Franklin D. Roosevelt. They manufactured them featuring either an “open back” to provide space to insert the images or a “closed back”, which is filled with metal insert and fastener.

1945 – Kellogg, the first company to introduce cereal box prizes, used collector series pin-back buttons as prizes in each box of Pep Cereal. They featured U.S. Army squadrons as well as characters from newspaper comics. There were 5 series of comic characters and 18 varieties of buttons in each set, totaling to 90 in the collection.