Saturday, February 4, 2012

Abraham Lincoln Portrayed in Vintage Buttons

Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865) was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865.  He successfully led the U.S.A. through a great constitutional, military, and moral crisis - the American Civil War - preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and promoting economic and financial modernization.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abe_Lincoln)

Although we celebrate both President Lincoln's and President Washington's birthdays together on February 20, today I would like to honor Abe Lincoln, a man with whom I share his birth date.  Here are a few Abe Lincoln collectible vintage buttons to remind us of his rugged, masculine, appearance, and his character of integrity.

Above, a pair of 19th C. brass studs with Lincoln’s portrait.  (All the buttons in this article are Courtesy of Armchair Auctions, specializing in vintage button auctions.  Click on their link above to see their current auction and then on Featured Lots or How to Participate.)  Presidential campaign buttons were very popular from 1840 to 1916.  They may have been made from brass, horn, vegetable ivory, tintypes, and more.  The ones most sought after are not necessarily just those of the successful candidates, but those buttons made for the second and third parties, dark horses, the losers, the running mates, and in buttons with pictures, mottoes, and names.  Other lapel stud buttons were also made of porcelain, other metals, and composition.  Many of them were thrown away by election night.  There are none known from before Andrew Jackson's campaign who was our seventh President from 1829-1837.  (Ref.:  The Collector's Encyclopedia of Buttons by Sally C. Luscomb, p. 34.)
Above, a set of four large buttons by the late H.G.Wessel that made up his Lincoln set.  Under glass with copper borders.  (Courtesy of Armchair Auctions.)  "Wessel Buttons.  In the 1950's and 1960's, in Pennsylvania and Indiana, Harry Wessel made enameled, stainless steel buttons with designs enclosed by glass faces.  In each button was placed a picture, or tiny objects, to make the design.  In some, seaweed or small shells were arranged similarly to the manner of eighteenth-century habitat buttons.  Real flowers were enclosed in some; bright foil glistened in others.  Some Wessel buttons had pictures of such historic subjects as Abraham Lincoln and his family; others showed famous sculpture or Philadelphia scenes.  His buttons were usually     1 1/4" in size." (Ref.:  The Collector's Encyclopedia of Buttons by Sally C. Luscomb, p. 221.)
A medium studio watch crystal by the late T.J. Gates with a portrait of Lincoln.  (Courtesy of Armchair Auctions.)  "Watch Crystal Buttons.  A term used for a type of button with a very thin glass face--thin as a watch crystal and usually slightly convex.  The glass disk has reverse-painted designs, which were painted in black and gold.  Most of the designs consisted of stripes, circles, or flowers.  A few rare buttons had bird designs.  The backs of these buttons were flat metal disks with loop shanks; on the inside of the back, a cream-color cement-like material was placed, and on it, small pieces of pearl shell. These pieces show through the glass front, making an attractive background for the black and gold design.  The front and back are held together with a black substance called 'pitch.' ... A very few watch crystal buttons are sew-thrus; they have one hole in the glass and across the back, and instead of a shank there is a metal bar.  The threads for fastening go to and from the front on each side of the bar.  These buttons range in size from 3/4" to over 1".  "Theodore J. Gates was a button maker in Pennsylvania in the 1960's.  The first Gates buttons were made with parts of Watch Crystal buttons.  Later, Mr. Gates obtained thin glass disks and made the complete buttons.  They resemble Watch Crystal buttons in construction, but the designs are decoupage-style, being cutout paper pictures, under glass.  In most cases, Mr. Gates put his initials and the date on the back of his buttons."  (Ref.:  The Collector's Encyclopedia of Buttons by Sally C. Luscomb, pp. 77 and 219.)

We owe many thanks our our late President Lincoln and can only pray for future leaders of our country to be men and women of God who can and will lead our country with the faith, integrity, fortitude, and foresight of our forefathers.  Blessings to you and your family.



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