A Brief History of Political Campaign Stickers and Buttons

Posted by Leah Rabe on Jan 15th, 2016

People have been using "slogans" since the beginning of history—that is, pithy, memorable phrases used to rouse crowds to action or gain support for a cause. From battle cries to country mottos, people have always rallied around catchphrases to prove their where their loyalties. From the ancient Roman motto "Senatus Populusque Romanus" ("The Senate and the People of Rome") to Napoleon Bonaparte's war cry "Vive L'Emperor ("Long Live the Emperor"), people—and governments—around the world have historically condensed their causes to just a few words that inspire allegiance and intimidate opponents.

In American society and government, this human tendency towards rallying around a few well-chosen words and phrases has taken a distinct form: that of political slogans. Phrases such as "I like Ike" or "Happy Days are Here Again" had an incalculable effect on the campaigns in which they featured and continue to play a huge role in public consciousness. Instrumental rallying cries like "No taxation without representation" or "The buck stops here" have proved invaluable to whole political movements. In the modern age, we still rely on slogans and catchphrases—but the ways we choose to display them have changed significantly throughout the years.

Campaign Buttons

Moving through history, people found that merely repeating a catchphrase or slogan verbally (as in the case of a war cry) was not enough; they wanted to be able to physically display which side of the issue they stood on (and to potentially attract new converts to their cause). Politically, this physical representation first came in the form of buttons—ordinary brass buttons like you might find on any blazer or uniform. These brass buttons served as commemorative tokens for political efforts as early as George Washington's presidency in 1789.

George Washington Inaugural Button

George Washington Inaugural Button, 1789 (Source)

Perhaps the first real presidential campaign (where opponents made public efforts against one another to win votes from the public) was in 1828, when Andrew Jackson ran against John Quincy Adams. Jackson, who had previously lost the election of 1824, was driven by his defeat to actively and aggressively campaign for voters' attention. Jackson's efforts included parades, events, and lots and lots of memorabilia. Along with snuff boxes, flasks, and various other trinkets, Jackson gave out many campaign medals and buttons in order to remind people of his military successes and seek votes.

Andrew Jackson Campaign Medal

Andrew Jackson Campaign Medal, 1828 (Source)

The campaign turned dirty fast, as both candidates set out to discredit one another through rumors and mudslinging. However, Jackson's intense merchandizing seems to have been effective, as he defeated Quincy Adams handily. In many ways, this messy campaign set the precedent for all following elections—and in many ways gave rise to the merchandised campaign strategies we see today.

Campaign buttons continued to be a mainstay of political elections, though most only showed an image of the candidate and his name. Images of Lincoln's face on medallions accompanied his run in 1860.

Abraham Lincoln Campaign Button, 1860

Abraham Lincoln Campaign Button, 1860 (Source)

Eventually, presidential candidates began placing campaign slogans on buttons rather than just their portraits and a year or phrase. In 1924, Coolidge sought re-election through buttons emblazoned with multiple slogans including "Deeds, not words" and "Keep Cool-idge."

Calvin Coolidge Campaign Buttons, 1924

Calvin Coolidge Campaign Buttons, 1924 (Source)

Printing catchy slogans on campaign buttons quickly became par for the course in politics, with what is perhaps the most famous one appearing in 1952: the unforgettable "I Like Ike" buttons and merchandise that accompanied the political draft and presidential run of Dwight Eisenhower.

Bumper Stickers

Dwight Eisenhower's campaign also marked the beginning of another long-lasting trend in political slogans: bumper stickers. Bumper stickers were first invented after Ford came out with the Model A in 1927, and other companies were scrambling to produce similar cars. While previous models had much smaller bumpers, the large bumpers of the Model A seemed to invite decoration—and so, as simply as that, the bumper sticker was born.

Ford Model A, 1927

Ford Model A, 1927 (Source)

Eisenhower's campaign bumper stickers—decorated with the famous "I Like Ike" slogan as well as other campaign catchphrases—were among the first in what would become a long string of political bumper stickers (one that continues to this day). Eisenhower would successfully employ the same strategy in his 1956 re-election campaign, and virtually every presidential candidate since has used bumper stickers as a part of their campaigns.

Eisenhower Re-Election Bumper Sticker, 1956

Eisenhower Re-Election Bumper Sticker, 1956 (Source)

From this straight-forward beginning, bumper stickers evolved to help people convey not just support for political candidate, but also their own personal, overarching political beliefs. Coinciding with the divisive Vietnam war of the late 50s, 60s, and 70s, bumper stickers covered the entire political spectrum, from pacifist sentiments like "Make Love Not War" to the staunchly patriotic "America: Love it or Leave It."

Bumper Stickers Today

Since then, bumper stickers have proved to be a lasting and effective tool of political rhetoric as well as personal expression, despite the fact that they are often divisive. In fact, bumper stickers were taken to court in 1991 with the case of Baker v. Glover in Alabama. In this case, Wayne Baker fought for his right to keep a bumper sticker on his car despite the fact that it contained a curse word which many people found offensive. The court ruled that bumper stickers are an essential component of freedom of speech. In the ruling, Judge Myron Thompson stated that "for those citizens without wealth or power, a bumper sticker may be one of the few means available to convey a message to a public audience." In the eyes of the U.S. Government, bumper stickers are a perfectly legitimate way to display one's opinion, political or otherwise.

People share their political beliefs freely on the backs of their cars. Every modern presidential campaign is accompanied by numerous bumper stickers, usually designed to appeal to many different target audiences. Sometimes these stickers are official marketing tools of the campaigns, other times they are humorous spin-offs or parodies of political slogans.

Anti-Obama bumper sticker

Anti-Bush bumper sticker

Anti-Obama and Anti-Bush bumper stickers mimic the designs of the official campaigns. (Source and Source)

To some historical and political analysts, this poses a problem. They've coined a term— "bumper sticker politics" — to describe the way that people will rely on slogans they have read or soundbites they have heard rather than taking the time to research the issues at play themselves. Others are concerned about the way that politicians seem to have become more concerned with branding and marketing than with actual content. It seems to many that the bumper sticker-ization of American politics has made it too easy for people to generalize views by narrowing them down to a pithy slogan or eye-catching design. Of course, this isn't a new phenomenon; public opinion has always been formed, at least in some part, through the chanting of catchphrases, slogans, war cries, and mottoes. Bumper stickers didn't cause a new way of thinking about the world—they just gave people a different way of expressing it.

"I Voted"

Another interesting way that stickers have played into American politics is through the omnipresent "I Voted" stickers that are given out at the voting booths for every election from Town Council Chairman to President of the United States. These stickers first appeared in the 1980s as a way to encourage voting and advertise to potential voters, but with the advent of social media in the early 2000s, these stickers came more and more into the public focus. Today, people immediately post their "I voted" sticker selfie online to sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter mere moments after walking out of the voting booth.

I Voted sticker

"I Voted" sticker (Source)

As with most phenomenon, some people are excited about this trend while others view it as a harbinger of society's downfall.. In a 2014 article titled "Why I Hate 'I Voted' Stickers", the NY Post's Kirsten Fleming talks about the way these stickers have come to represent a "smug, self-congratulatory ethos" when it comes to something that should be the obligatory duty of a citizen anyway." On the other side of the argument, Derek Thomson argues that "that the sticker "binds people together in solidarity and reminds others to join the group" in a 2012 article for The Atlantic titled "Why the 'I Voted' Sticker Matters." One thing is certain—elections are hard to ignore or forget when everyone you see on the street (or on your Instagram feed) sports these American flag-emblazoned little crests.

Stickers Throughout American History

Who knew that something as small and seemingly harmless as a button or sticker could have such a huge effect on an entire country? While we spend a lot of time talking and arguing about politics, we rarely give thought to the small things that shape our society. However, buttons and stickers have become as important and influential to our political system as war cries were to ancient societies. They've become something we rally around and display proudly—and something that probably influences us far more than we realize when we're not paying attention.

Logos for 2016 Presidential candidates

Logos for 2016 Presidential candidates (Source)

What's a Button Frog?

Posted by Anthony on May 14th, 2015

Button Frog is everything you love about Sticker Mule, but for custom buttons. It's designed to be the easiest way to buy custom buttons. Orders start at just $39 for 50 custom 2.25" buttons and come with free online proofs, free shipping and blazing fast turnaround backed by our obsession with great customer service.

The origin of Button Frog was driven by our manufacturing team who wanted a new challenge. Apparently, they missed the stress of Sticker Mule's early days and pushed us to do something new. We explored a few potential products and settled on custom buttons. They compliment our custom stickers well so offering them made sense.

Coming up with a name was a bit of a challenge. Mules and stickers pair well together, but it was not straightforward deciding what animal had an affinity for pinback buttons. Button Pig, Button Fox and Button Rattlesnake did not feel right. Eventually someone suggested Button Frog and it seemed about as perfect of a name as you could imagine for a button company.

While building the site we decided to indulge our obsession with simplicity. So, whereas Sticker Mule has a variety of shapes, sizes and quantities Button Frog only sells one product, in one size and at one quantity. Specifically, we sell 2.25" circle buttons in 50 unit quantities. Eventually we may add more sizes, but it's been fun seeing the response to our simple offering.

Since launching we printed buttons for a surprisingly large number of customers including the New York Post, Google & Capital One Bank. And, the initial reviews are amazingly positive. 97% of custom button reviews are great which makes Button Frog better reviewed than Sticker Mule who averages 94% great reviews. If you have a chance, please give Button Frog a try. Just like Sticker Mule, Button Frog ships worldwide so no matter where you are we are eager to work with you.

A break from blogging

Posted by Anthony on Feb 19th, 2014

We're taking an extended break from blogging. Admittedly, it's been difficult to justify the time required to blog. It takes awhile to formulate a post and doesn't feel like an activity that brings our customers much value.

We have a long list of improvements planned for 2014 that we're working on diligently. Going forward, the best way to find out when we do something new is to follow us on Twitter or Google+.

How To Order Custom Stickers

Posted by Anthony on Jul 22nd, 2013


We created a short video of our ordering process. A few highlights:

  1. Every product page has a "custom size" option. Pricing changes automatically as you manipulate sizes.
  2. You can use drag & drop to upload your artwork on modern browsers.
  3. You can select from 3 delivery dates during checkout including a free shipping option for US customers.
  4. Proofs are provided after checkout within 24 hours.
  5. We ask for your credit card upfront, but we do not charge it until you approve all proofs.
  6. You can request unlimited changes to proofs and we'll make them for free until your happy.
  7. You can cancel any time prior to approving your proofs at no cost.

Hope you like our 1st attempt at video production. We'd love to know what you think. Leave a comment or tweet @stickermule.

Login to Sticker Mule with Meldium

Posted by Anthony on Apr 2nd, 2013

Sharing access to ecommerce accounts is a common pain point with online ordering. We deal with it at Sticker Mule and often see our customers experiencing the same issue when ordering from us.

Recently, we came across a password manager called Meldium that solves this problem by storing your login credentials in the cloud so that you can easily share them with coworkers. More specifically, Meldium let's you:

  1. Store login credentials to specific web sites
  2. Share those login credentials with other people
  3. Login to any shared web site via a Google Chrome extension.

To further improve security, Meldium let's users login without having to know the actual user name and password for a given web site. Their Google Chrome extension will log you into the site without exposing your actual username and passwords.

Meldium recently added Sticker Mule to their list of apps so you can use it to easily and securely share your Sticker Mule account with coworkers.

If your organization has lots of sticker designs they are managing, Meldium combined with our reordering system makes managing your sticker orders even easier.

On phone support

Posted by Anthony on Feb 2nd, 2013

We discontinued phone support recently. Our rationale is explained below:

Phone support is difficult to scale.

You can't easily put a new person on the phone since you have limited control over the difficulty of calls they take. By contrast, you can let newer support agents respond to easy emails until they are comfortable handling more difficult ones.

Phone support is difficult to monitor.

It's time consuming to listen to calls, but scanning emails is quick and efficient. It takes me an hour per day to read all of our customer service communication, but it's incredibly useful. Our core team reads the majority of our emails as a source of ideas and to keep a pulse on how we're performing.

Phone support increases head count.

Phone support is more human capital intensive than email support. It's difficult to maintain the quality of your organization when head count grows quickly. Erring on the side of needing fewer people makes it easier for us to ensure all of our people are top notch.

Phone support is difficult to automate.

Email support can be automated by developing faqs, macros, videos and efficient routing systems. It's not possible to automate phone support to the same extent.

Phone support is not concise.

We aim to be clear, concise and comprehensive in how we respond to your questions. Often that means taking a moment to research an answer and review our response with coworkers before replying. It's not possible to handle a difficult phone inquiry in this manner without putting you on hold or calling you back later.

Phone support is not documented.

Special arrangements made on the phone must be documented by an agent who could record them inaccurately. By contrast, all email inquiries are associated to your account and can be viewed our entire team so that we are all familiar with your needs.

Final thoughts...

Since implementing this change, we have been diligently reviewing every customer interaction, documenting problems and developing solutions to prevent common problems from recurring. Most support inquiries exist because we failed in some regard. Either our process had a hiccup or our ordering experience was confusing. Already we have fixed dozens of small problems and more improvements are coming soon.

One small, related bonus...

We removed the phone number field from checkout for all US customers. Filling out forms isn't fun, but we hope cutting one needless field makes checkout a bit more pleasant.

Contemplating a similar decision? You may want to read Wistia's blog posts on this topic.

Sticker collections

Posted by Anthony on Nov 19th, 2012

Sticker Collections

350+ stickers have been added to the Sticker Mule Gallery since we launched it 3 months ago. We built the gallery as a source of design inspiration and as a tool to help you get extra exposure from your stickers. Today, we’re continuing along that path by adding the ability to group stickers into collections.

Curious what other breweries are doing with their stickers? Check out the beer stickers collection. Want to learn more about the latest startups and see how they’re using stickers? There is a startup stickers collection for that too. Within each collection, stickers are ranked according to how many “likes” they received.

8 sticker collections are available for you to browse today and many more will be added in the months to come. We hope you like what we’ve done so far with collections. If you have new collections you’d like to see, just let us know.

Introducing the Sticker Mule Gallery

Posted by Anthony on Jul 31st, 2012

Sticker Mule Gallery

The Sticker Mule Gallery is officially live. It's far from being finished, but here are a few things you can do currently:

  1. Like stickers and they'll show up on your profile page.
  2. Request to have your stickers added to the gallery.
  3. Share your stickers via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Every week we photograph and add a new batch of stickers. If you'd like your stickers added you can fill out our gallery request form. We review gallery requests in the order they were submitted. Also, at the moment, only users with accounts can join the gallery so remember to sign up if you haven't yet.

Hope you like what we've done so far. Stay tuned as there are a handful of planned improvements coming soon.

Coming soon

Posted by Anthony on Mar 21st, 2012

About a year ago we had an idea to let our team "star" interesting stickers in our backend much like you can star emails in Gmail. We each had stickers we wanted to remember for various reasons. It seemed like a cool idea to give everyone on our team a way to easily recall the ones they liked.

I merrily added "star interesting stickers" to our development queue and there it stayed while we worked on more useful things. Turns out, it's difficult to get motivated to build a "cool" idea for a handful of people. Internal systems are rarely beautiful and we like to work on things that look pretty.

Fortunately, a few months back, we woke up and realized we were being short-sighted. Building an internal system to organize stickers is lame, but creating a system where anyone can browse, remember and get exposure for their stickers is a bit more interesting.

It didn't take long for our design lead to create his vision for this project and ever since we've been obsessed with making it amazing. In the new few weeks, we'll be releasing an initial preview of our new project, currently dubbed: the Sticker Gallery.If this sounds interesting, then visit our teaser page to sign up and help spread the word.

A preview release is only a few weeks away so stay tuned!

Protect Internet freedom with reddit inspired stickers

Posted by Nick on Jan 31st, 2012

It’s been about a week since reddit blacked out to protest SOPA and PIPA. It seems the effect has been significant, as both bills seem to have been stopped dead in the water. But it’s good to remember that freedom on the Internet needs to be continually protected, as we’re sure that such legislation will continue to arise.

We wanted to do our part in spreading the message, so we turned to the reddit community to help us design a sticker to promote freedom on the Internet. Here’s what we came up with:

Protect Internet Freedom Sticker

We’ll be adding one of these to every reddit sticker order for free until the end of February. To get your hands on one, visit the reddit Sticker Store and order any design to receive a free Protect Internet Freedom sticker designed by redditor thesluttymcslut.

Questions or thoughts? Tweet @stickermule.

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