Blog: List of McKinley Firsts Part 1: Campaign Pins, or getting your message in ten words or less

William McKinley had many firsts (and lasts) as President of the United States. Among these firsts was that his was the first Presidential campaign to make extensive use of campaign buttons. The Whitehead & Hoag Company or the Bastian Company produced many of these buttons. whitehead Hoag

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“The Button is without question the best advertising Medium”-from late 1890’s Whitehead & Hoag button sample card.


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The history of the Whitehead & Hoag Company, as well as the history of the Bastian Bros. Company are intertwined with that of the making of campaign pins. The Whitehead and Hoag Company of New Jersey acquired three major button patents prior to beginning button manufacturing in 1896. Whitehead and Hoag apparently purchased rights to a patent filed by Amanda M. Lougee of Boston in order to protect their other claims, even though the patent was for a cloth and metal clothing button. The company acquired two other patents as follows:

The second patent, filed December 6, 1895, established the reverse design of celluloid buttons.  Issued as a “jewelry” patent to George B. Adams, assignor to Whitehead and Hoag [Whitehead and Hoag], it specified “a shell with a marginal rim to form a chamber and contain a continuous piece of wire with both a holding portion and a free end lying in the same plane.”  The final patent was filed March 23, 1896, and issued July 21, 1896, again to George B. Adams.  Six claims were made, each varying slightly from Claim 1 which reads: In a badge pin or button, in combination, with a shell having a marginal rim or bead, a covering bearing an inscription, design, emblem, or the like, over said shell and having its edges turned down over said marginal rim, a ring or collet in said shell placed over the edge of said covering to hold or secure the latter in position, and a bar or pin having one of its ends bent to form a holding portion adapted to be secured in said ring or collet, substantially as and for the purposes set forth.
Adams was a Newark jewelry manufacturer who patented 49 different novelty articles.

In 1892, the main office and factory of Whitehead and Hoag was located at Washington & Warren Streets in Newark, New Jersey.  As the company continued to grow and expand, a new factory was built at the corner of 272 Sussex Ave. and First Street in 1903.  The new factory had a complete printing and lithographing plant with over fifty modern presses, a complete art and photo engraving plant in which all the engraving sketches and plates were made, a complete button plant with a capacity of over one million buttons a day, and a machinery plant where the company made all its own tools, dies and special machinery.
When the button was patented, Whitehead and Hoag devoted its time to ribbon badges and making some with celluloid parts. Before their patents expired and the development of the small printing press, they became the largest manufacturer of buttons in the world. The success of the button idea was astonishing, and buttons swept the country in an avalanche.  Advertising and 1896 presidential campaign buttons saturated the nation.  Their first big order went to the American Tobacco Co., at the rate of one million a day. As there were no machines to place the pin and paper in back of the buttons, Whitehead & Hoag paid families living around the factory to do it. Every night after school the children would walk over to the factory and pick up a box full of buttons, pins and back papers.

The company had always been non-partisan, accepting button orders not only from both major parties but from such minority groups as the Socialists, the Communists, Prohibitionists and others.  A few of the artists that worked for Whitehead and Hoag from time to time included Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and Harrison Fisher.[1]

Bastian Bros. pin

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The Bastian Company has been recognized internationally for its quality, craftsmanship, and integrity in the production of emblematic jewelry, lapel pins, medallions, belt buckles, paperweights, key tags, convention badges, police-security-firemen badges and insignia, and automotive decorative emblems.[2]

Founded in 1895, Bastian Company was incorporated as Bastian Brothers in Rochester, New York by Theron and Fredrick Bastian. They originally ran a jewelry store, but after buying the button, advertising, and specialty portion of the Pulver Chemical Co. began to manufacture lapel pins, buckles, knives, official badges, medals, and other items. By late 1915, the union shop moved to a modern building on eleven acres. Published for foreign trade commissions, the 1919 Book of Industrial Rochester touted the Bastian manufacturing facility’s air conditioning, hospital facilities, open space and athletic fields for its 700 employees.

When Theron Bastian died in 1955, his son Hugh continued the family’s connection with the company. In 1959, Bastian purchased Whitehead & Hoag, its foremost competitor in the pinback and novelty business, which had been in operation since 1892. Whitehead & Hoag’s machines, dies, and tools were scrapped; even its records were destroyed. Bastian continued to use the Whitehead & Hoag name, phasing it out in 1964-65.[3]

Bastian Brothers, of Rochester N.Y. was a long-time competitor of Whitehead and Hoag.  Bastian, being a union company, could not complete with Whitehead and Hoag’s prices and like many other agents and jobbers would subcontract out some of their work and buy parts from Whitehead and Hoag. Among the reasons why Whitehead and Hoag sold to Bastian Brothers was that there were no family members involved with the company’s policy making or on its board when Phillip Hoag died in 1953.  The company’s reputation of operating at a great profit for a year or two, followed by operating at a loss for the next several years was another factor relating to the sale. Finally, the company only advertised via its own product. A third reason was the company’s insistence on making a top quality product and their refusal to advertise any other way than on their own product. If the customer did not want the Whitehead and Hoag logo on their product, the company raised the price considerably. Whitehead and Hoag most likely lost customers as a result.

Whitehead and Hoag first offered the sale of the company to Bastian Brothers. Whitehead and Hoag closed its factory in May, 1959. All records of the Whitehead and Hoag Company, which included sales of every item ever sold by the company, were destroyed. The President of Bastian came to Newark, ordered the factory itself to be sold, and any unusable machinery, dies or tools to be scrapped.  Bastian finally phased out the Whitehead and Hoag name in 1964-65.[4]

And so, McKinley’s campaign, along with that of his opponent William Jennings Bryan, made extensive use of campaign pins. The pins usually included an image of the candidate, or the candidate and his running mate. Additionally, the pins included at times a visual way for the candidate’s stance on issues to come across. Many of the McKinley pins have McKinley’s image on a gold background, as he supported the gold standard.

McKHobart gold

A McKinley/Hobart campaign pin from the 1896 Presidential election.

Protection home Rule pin

Others have the image of the candidate and his campaign slogan.

BW McK Patriotic bg back of BW McK Patriotic BG

The button at left features a black and white image of McKinley on a patriotic background while the back of the button (right) indicates it was made for the National Equipment Co. by Whitehead & Hoag.

Sometimes the pins were attached to ribbons, or other ornaments.  This item is a gold metaljugate pin containing sepia-toned portraits of President McKinley and Vice-Presidential candidate Theodore Roosevelt. The pin is 7/8 inches in diameter and is attached to a five-inch double black cloth ribbon. The reverse of the pin has a paper insert with “Allied Printing Trade Council, Union Label, Newark, N.J.”  “Patent January 17, 1894, April 14,1896, July 21,1896.” The manufacturer, “The Whitehead & Hoag Co., Newark, N.J.” is located above the union label.


McK TR black ribbon

This is a round cream colored celluloid and metal lapel button pin. A picture of the Temple of Music in black is centered on the button. Surrounding the edges are the words in black lettering that read “Where Our President Fell” and “Compliments of Bostock the Animal King.” The reverse side has a metal pin for attachment. Inside is a paper manufacturer’s label bearing the words, “H. E. Reynolds, 1009 Morgan B’l’dg Buffalo N.Y Agent.” A union label with words reading, “Typographical, Union Label, Reading” is located in the center. Below reads, “Keystone Badge Co. Reading, Pa.”

Tomb pin

This is a three-part mourning pin made of celluloid, metal and cloth, measuring 3 in. long x 2 in. wide. A celluloid pin of with a picture of McKinley is the focal point. Arched above his picture are 9 white stars with a navy blue background. On either side are 5 red stripes on a white background. In white lettering below his portrait is the word “McKinley” on a navy blue background.  Fanned out and attached to the top of the pin is black netting to indicate mourning. Attached to the bottom of the pin below the word ‘McKinley” is a flag ribbon consisting of eight visible white stars on blue background, seven vertical red stripes and six vertical white stripes. The bottom of the flag is cut in an upside V shape. On the reverse side, the pin for attaching is visible. The black netting and flag are seen permanently attached to the pin, and no markings are visible.

fuzzy black McK pin

This badge, still on its backing card, was produced by the Bastian Bros. Company of Rochester, New York for the members of the McKinley Club in Canton, Ohio.

Political campaigns of today would not be the same without these pins. They get the candidates’ message out using as few words as possible. They are colorful reminders of the candidate and what that candidate’s stand is on issues. Here is our Museum Curator’s nametag lanyard, which includes recent pins from the Ohio History Connection’s History Fund tax check-off campaign, a replica of a McKinley pin, and a pin from the 2016 Presidential Campaign. (Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the National McKinley Birthplace Memorial Board of Trustees.)


[1] Ted Hake. “Whitehead & Hoag Company History.” Retrieved 2.1.2016 from


[2] “Bastian Company Profile.” Retrieved 2.1.2016 from


[3] Retrieved 2.3.2016 from

[4] Retrieved 2.9.2016 from

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