Monday, March 31, 2014

The First Wearable Advertising

Pinback buttons are most closely associated with political campaigns to promote a candidate or a cause, and were considered the best advertising medium of all in the late 19th century. They were first developed in 1896 by the job printer, Whitehead & Hoag in New Jersey, after securing several important patents allowing them to print reverse designs onto celluloid. With the 1896 presidential election that same year, the buttons became an overnight success. Once advertisers saw it as an opportunity for promotion, W&H were steadily producing buttons at the rate of one million per day. Soon a new printing plant was built in Newark to accommodate their 50 new modern presses, a photo engraving plant, a complete art department and machinery plant. According to collector Ted Hake, several of the artists employed by W&H over the early years included Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and Harrison Fisher. 
     The pinbacks displayed here are all part of various collections for sale on the Hake site. The circa 1910 "penmanship" pin with Lady Liberty shown above is considered rare and was presumably used as a reward to the student of good handwriting. I predict this pin will be considered even more prized now that penmanship has been relegated to an archaic pursuit by the common core standards educational initiative. Replacing it with texting dexterity perhaps... Below are many more early 20th century advertising pins for your viewing pleasure.


  1. I never knew where these originated. Interesting to know at one time a big factory printed them and now we can make our own with the Badge-A-Minute products.

    I wonder if the person who came up with common core crap was an illterate; as if we do not teach cursive how will one sign thier name? With an X just like the illterates of past.

  2. Thank you so much for this post! I'm going to look into the copyright status of these pins. If you have any ideas or leads, please let me know!

    1. My guess is that copyrignts on many of these designs have either expired or were produced before the copyright act, however always verify first. US copyright site is a good place to begin research. Look for the link under "Business Tools" on right.

  3. These are so neat! I do have to wonder who would actually wear some of these.

    "I love baking powder so much I need to wear it on my arm!"

    Fred | O'Malley Hansen Communications


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