Pushing Buttons: In Our Divided America, Political Pinbacks Give Anyone a Voice

Anyone can make a pinback button these days- my kids made them school for any and all occasions. The real fun is in finding those that have survived from a different time in history, particularly political buttons. They've been used for political campaigns for 150 years now. John Aisthorpe has been collecting pins since the Vietnam War era, and now has thousands of them. He tells us the stories behind some of them.  

My first button was a simple peace symbol given to me while attending an anti-Vietnam protest. I would pick up others now and then at flea markets or antiques stores, but before the last 25 or so years with the Internet, you didn’t see them too often except at the American Political Items Collectors’ (APIC) shows.

The peace symbol was designed in 1958 by Bertrand Russell for the British group Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), which used it on signs and banners during the Easter-weekend protest march from London to Aldermaston, where nuclear weapons were stored. He based the symbol’s design on the international semaphore alphabet. This system uses flag signals in place of letters like a code. The letters “N” for “nuclear” and “D” for “disarmament” make the left and right branches, with the vertical line representing the person making the signals.

Read about the hobby of collecting political pinback buttons at Collectors Weekly.

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