Ken Burns new documentary, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” debuted on PBS this week. Along with all the elephant hunting, bootstraps pulling, political ambitions and gender politics, watching the lives of Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor unfold on screen got us thinking about the Roosevelt buttons we’ve got here in the Button Museum. While a famed Cox-Roosevelt jugate button is not in our collection (no surprise, really– it’s the most expensive button ever sold!), we’ve got plenty of other Roosevelt designs worth revisiting.
We have a soft spot for Teddy Roosevelt, given that he ran as vice president on the ticket with William McKinley, the very first president to use campaign buttons. The button was patented in July 1896, and McKinley was elected late that year. We call that an early adopter! Picture above, a McKinley-Roosevelt jugate campaign button from McKinley’s 1900 reelection campaign, for which Roosevelt was his new running mate after gaining fame with the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War. After McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Roosevelt, only 42, became the youngest person to ever be president. The 1904 button pictured above on the right featured a rebus of his name– a rose plus “velt.” Not the most elegant design, sure, but still a memorable button.
Franklin Roosevelt buttons are more plentiful in the Button Museum’s collection, which is no surprise given that they’re all 30-40 years younger, and buttons were fully entrenched into political campaigns, and personal political speech, but the 1930’s and 40’s. Pictured above, the oversized 9″ FDR image was made by button-makers Parisian Novelty here in Chicago, but marketed as a wall plaque. Probably a good idea, since a button that big would certainly prove difficult to wear! And besides the fatherly portraits, anti-Roosevelt buttons are an entire category in themselves. Our collection features a range of designs protesting the idea of a FDR’s 1940 campaign for a third term and others complaining about his well-known Fireside Chats.
For her own part, Eleanor made it onto just a single button in our collection, though the design is really meant to be anti-FDR. We featured more background on this button in a post about First Lady pinbacks a while back. Created in 1940 by the Wendell Willkie campaign, what anti-Eleanor sentiment there was wasn’t enough to turn the tide against her husband’s four presidential wins.