Button Power : 125 Years of Saying It with Buttons

By Christen Carter and Ted Hake

From the campaign trail to the rock tour, BUTTON POWER (Princeton Architectural Press) collects a people's history of American culture told through the pin-back button. Lively commentary from two of America's foremost button experts shows how the small but powerful button reveals the events and movements that outraged, amused, and inspired us over time, from the solo flight of Charles Lindbergh to the Black Power movement. Artists, athletes, actors, politicians, punk and pop musicians, and mascots of the past 125 years make cameos, including Rube Goldberg, Muhammad Ali, the Ramones, Shirley Chisholm, and Bette Midler are all covered in this book!

The first book of its kind, BUTTON POWER is a rich visual feast showcasing over 1,500 buttons. You can see how design and messaging have been used spanning over a century!

The buttons featured in the book are from the collections of Ted Hake and Christen Carter and a couple of their collector friends. They range from very common like the Book It! buttons given away by Pizza Hut since the 1980s to the very rare Cox/Roosevelt button from 1920.

Christen (the owner of Busy Beaver Button Co) has been working on this book for 10 years and she is beyond excited to share it with you all! Hopefully, her passion for human expression and community building through these small, shareable items will inspire you.

We hope you love it as much as we do!

Also, available at these wonderful shops:
Pilsen Community Books, Quimby's,, and Atomic Books.
Button Power Book

Button Power Book
Button Power Book

Button Power Book
Button Power Book

About the Authors

Christen Carter is the founder of Chicago-based Busy Beaver Button Company and has produced more than 50 million buttons for bands, artists, political campaigns, non-profits and more. In 2010, she started the Button Museum, dedicated to telling American history through pin-back buttons.

Ted Hake is the founder of Hake's Auctions, America’s first auction house to specialize in popular culture artifacts. He has written seventeen collectors’ guides that span presidential campaign items, vintage Disneyana, and comic character toys. Ted has received theAmerican Political Items Collectors Lifetime Achievement Award and is a member of the Theodore Roosevelt Association Advisory Board.
  Ted Hake and Christen CarterChristen and Ted in front of the old Whitehead and Hoag factory in Newark, 2013.

Upcoming Events

Button Power Book

Friday, October 2, 7:30 PM
Quimby’s Bookstore with both Christen and Ted


Thursday, October 15, 7:00 PM
Central Pilsen Community Books with Tobias Carroll and Christen.


Thursday, October 28th, 1 - 2:00 PM CT
Design for America/Built by Civilization


Tuesday, November 3, 2 – 3:30 PM CT
Letterform Archives


Thursday, November 12, 6:00 PM CT
Atomic Books



Wednesday, July 28, 7:00 PM CT
APIC Show, Nashville, TN - Ted and Christen's first in-person event! 

Thursday, August 19th, 6:30 PM CT
City Lit Books, 2325 N Kedzie, Chicago

Wednesdays 3:00 PM CT Ongoing on Instagram
Ted and Christen’s Button Power Half Hour where we chose a buttony topic every week. Questions welcome!


Christen is also available for speaking engagements. Go to for more information.

Christen's Acknowledgements

My friend Ted Hake and I have been working on this book for years, we wanted to give people a glimpse into why we love buttons so much. After, gosh, 1,000s of hours of picking some of our favorite buttons to share with you all, we think and really hope that you’ll also love buttons and the stories they tell.

Ted, Jonell (Ted’s wife) and I have been on so many journeys. We’ve been to the birthplace of buttons, Newark, New Jersey where we got a tour of the collection at the Newark Museum, and got to visit the old Whitehead and Hoag building where they made millions upon millions of buttons for decades. All the APIC shows taking us as far west as Denver and as far east as Harrisburg. A tour of Chicago manufacturer spots. We had the honor to view the Jefferson R. Burdick of button sets at The Metropolitan Museum. And not to mention all the drinks and food at Bemelmans, King Cole Bar, the 21 Club, Gene’s in the West Villiage, to name a few!

The most fun was sitting in Ted’s office talking about thousands upon thousands of buttons one at a time. It’s been a huge pleasure, tons of fun, and I’m ready for the next book!

I’d like to acknowledge so many people for their help. I could write a whole book on the people who made this happen. As a person who often bites off more than she can chew, I rely on others A LOT. As a person who doubts herself at every step, I lean on others A LOT! There are a ton of editors on this list because I had to run everything by someone. And since this isn’t a small book jacket, I can take as much time as I want!

Brett Sova for always giving me his ear and brain and for allowing me to work on this thing until late in the night without making me feel bad.

Joel Carter for starting the Button Museum with me and going on this button ride with me. Who knew?!

Judy and Jim Carter for being the parents who love everything we do. And being generously supportive of it all.

Mark Pawson for initiating me in the art form of buttons.

Martha Bayne – what an amazing writer and editor – I’m so lucky to have had her support on the proposal. Plus, I was so embarrassed of the writing I had to show the editors at Princeton Architectural Press, she helped and gave me the confidence I needed to start just sending what I wrote. HUGE UPS! “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good”.

Shelia Sachs laid out the proposal which landed the book! And whatta great human to bless this city of Chicago!

Jesse Reed has been such a kind support along the way, like at every single step. He enthusiastically encouraged the idea from the beginning. And has introduced me to so many amazing people.

Chad Phillips at the Cooper Hewitt gift shop bought the zine, A Very Brief History of Buttons for the shop. What a thrill it was for me! And this is where Sara McKay from Princeton Architectural press picked it up and eventually reached out to me!

All the Beavers at the Dam (people who work at Busy Beaver). It’s pretty amazing how much people care about Busy Beaver and all the things we do. I’m kinda the luckiest person in the world.

Big ups to Denise Gibson for laying out the zine, A Very Brief History of Buttons that lead to the book. And all the care she puts into this form of media!

Gretchen Kalwinski for editing and encouraging.

Laura Pearson for her generous review of my “writing”.

Joanna Metzger is such a solid buddy! Thank you for being so happy for me and for the feedback.

My Corkins Exchange buddies. I talked, grappled with this out in New Mexico. Thank you for the space, time, encouragement, and feedback.

Fellow ORD Campers for the egging on to go deep into something. For their interaction and willingness to talk concepts out.

It was such a pleasure to work on this with the whole PAPress crew.

Sara McKay, I’m so glad she found the zine and reached out to us. I appreciate the straight-forwardness, her creativity, and for championing us at PAPress.


Sara Stemen for being the calmest, coolest, smartest, most thorough editor Ted and I could have asked for. There’s a lot to go through and she caught so many things!

Ben English who made the book more beautiful than I could have imagined. I knew I was going to be particular about the design and just wanted it in good hands. I can’t imagine any better hands, really, it’s a piece of art.

Teri, Joanna, Soo, Mo, Lea, Leslie, Jenn, Julie, for being the biggest cheerleaders and for celebrating with me.

Jonell Hake for being so encouraging, for going all over on these button journeys, for making sure that Ted and I ate when working on this book. And for being a creative brainstormer!

Ted Hake for being Ted Hake. If you would have told me in 1995 when I first heard of Ted that we’d make a book on buttons together 25 years later, I would have reached out earlier! Ha ha I’m very lucky to have this experience with Ted. He has taught me so much about history and button collecting. It’s fun to have someone you can look through thousands and thousands of buttons and talk about the beauty they hold. It’s been one of my most favorite life experiences.

Scott Mussell for sort of being a brother-in-buttons and for letting us share some buttons from his amazing civil rights collection. 

Joly MacFie for making buttons punk in the 1970s and for knowing and remembering so much about it. And always being willing to weigh in.

Leka Mladenovic for sharing pictures of his buttons and encouragement from far away.

Phil Shimkin for sharing his collection with us. What an amazing collection housed in an equally amazing space.

Lon Ellis for also sharing his collection – and what a collection! Someday he’ll tell me his secrets to finding his gems! I hope!

The APIC for having these shows where I get to meet fellow collectors and can learn so much from them.

Marcin Wichary for enthusiastically going down our separate rabbit holes, together.

Divya Srinivasan for introducing me to Writers House and putting both hands out to help at every step.

Hannah Mann for all feedback on the proposal and for the introduction to Andrea Morrison.

Andrea Morrison for taking us on! And for her cool-headed and measured way of being.

Jim Coudal let me talk about the struggles every time we met up. What are we going to talk about now?!

Aaron Draplin for loving this idea from the beginning and even making a little treatment early on.

Milton Glaser for how beautifully he can wax poetic on the button. And for writing the back cover blurb. I wish he could have seen this book.

Christy Karpinski helped with all the things there are to be done as the librarian of the Button Museum 2013-2019. It takes a lot of organization and dedication. She really brought the museum to the next level.

Danielle Oaks as the librarian since 2019 has grown the Button Museum hugely. And for helping make the site even better for the launch.

Terence and Robin Kean of Kean Design Studio for taking all the pictures for the book.

JC Gabel was the earliest enthusiast for this book back in 2009! The concept changed but he went way out of his way to give me the foundation to this that this was even a plausible idea.

Mark Neely did early mock ups to help visualize the book over 10 years ago! He's been such a believer in this book! 

Fred Sasaki for being an early enthusiast and for being so thoughtful with his words and generous with his time.