|Photo by Bob Kotalik|
Cityscapes Section By David Anderson
No man has ever been elected President of the United States without a campaign button. They've all had them, every candidate from George Washington (a brass button with the initials, G.W.) to the late (politically) George Romney (a plastic, blue and white two-incher saying "Return to the Mainstream, Romney for President").
The labepls of Americans have sprouted campaign buttons in every election for 179 years. The buttons are a national quirk and just about necessary to a candidate as the political platform he runs on. Factories turn them out by the millions, yet they are collectors' items, like postage stamps, classic cars, coins and diamonds.
The button savers are even organized. Eleven hundered of them are members of an elite society called the American Political Item Collectors. They buy, they sell and they swap.
All His Buttons -15,000
The man with the biggest collection in Chicago is Ferdinand O'Brien, a slim, grayish-haired man of 60, who keeps half of his 15,000 button in his Sandburg Village apartment and the other half in a Loop bank vault. He is a former president of the APIC.
O'Brien, a coin collector for 20 years, switched from coins to buttons 10 years ago rather than fight the higher prices. He specialized in coins from 1793 to 1830 and he had about 12,000.
Right now you can find a photo of O'Brien with some of his prized collection in a 1968 photo on sale from a photo archive on ebay. It looks like he had a pretty good assortment. I don't know much more about O'Brien or where his collection ended up. If you have something that you acquired from him or know where his collection ended up let us know.
If it is being held at a university or library it is always good to try and get these institutions to put these massive collections on display for the public to enjoy or for collectors to arrange appointments to view in the archive setting.