Before Facebook, Twitter and the 24-hour news cycle there were campaign buttons. Politicians dating back to President George Washington used them to get, if not their message across, at least their name. But these buttons are slowly disappearing from campaigns and becoming harder and harder for people to find.
“It’s hard to get them anymore, they’ve become so expensive,” Groton resident and Mystic business owner Ross Mandell said.
Candidates seem to favor other ways of getting their message across, which according to an article published earlier this year by the Associated Press may be a result of societal changes such as urbanization and longer commutes.
Mandell, however, began collecting campaign buttons with his two brothers when he was five-years-old.
“I was just fascinated,” he said.
Today, he estimates the collection, which also includes other political mementos, such as flags, numbers in the thousands.
“Most of them I got from going to an event or writing for them or swapping,” Mandell said, adding he often went up to New Hampshire during the primaries.
While the first campaign buttons according to the Associated Press, “were sewn on clothes, or worn similar to a necklace,” campaign buttons weren’t mass-produced until the mid-1800s. The oldest political button Mandell has is from William Taft's presidential campaign. One of his favorites is the McGovern-Eagleton button from the 1972 presidential election.
Some of the buttons in Mandell’s collection, which he browsed through in a box at his store, Bartleby's Café, are cause buttons from anti-war demonstrations. He also has political mementos from overseas including a Sandinista flag from Nicaragua and items from elections in Israel and Japan.
“Some have just wandered into the shop,” Mandell said of the items in his collection, which he said people have dropped off. Friends, abroad, sent others to him.
Mandell and his brothers can trace domestic and international political history through the items they’ve collected over the years.