A Lincoln Campaign Piece Made of "Composition" Material


As most of you are aware, I collect presidential campaign tokens and (later) buttons from all of the elections. Lincoln is one of my specialties. It is rare for me to acquire a new Lincoln piece these days, but this one popped up in a recent Heritage auction from the Eric P. Newman collection.

The obverse features a bust of Lincoln in surprisingly high relief. The wording offers the usual innocuous information with the name of the candidate and the date of his birth.

The images and message on the reverse is far more interesting. It shows a fence rail and an ax in a log with the slogan, “Protection to honest industry.” This picks up on the populist campaign theme “Lincoln the rail-splitter” which the 16th president used to divert attention from the fact that he had not split any rails for years, and was in fact a highly successful lawyer.

The implication is that “protection” was somehow going to benefit those who were engaged in hard, physical labor. Of course the beneficiaries were business owners who benefited from the fact that high tariffs or “protection” prevented or limited the importation of foreign goods. This allowed them to charge higher prices for their products, which was not at all to benefit of frontier farmers and wage earners. “Protection” had been a staple for the Whig Party ancestors of the Republican Party, and would be a feature of all GOP campaigns into the 20th century.

This piece is listed in DeWitt/Sullivan as AL 1860-46. It is made of something call “composition” which is decidedly non metallic. It is also listed to exist in copper and white metal. Given the high relief of the Lincoln portrait it would be interesting to know how a private minter would have been able to strike this design effectively on a mass production basis. Perhaps that’s why the “composition” pieces were made.

The piece is holed for suspension (hfs) and is shown in DeWitt/Sullivan mounted on a metal Union shield hanger. The piece that I purchased was probably on a hanger at one time, but it is now in an NGC slab with a grade of MS-64.


How cool…

And it appears it’s back again in 21st century GOP campaigns.


Here is a button from William McKinley’s 1900 re-election campaign in the days before smoking was taboo. McKinley ran on protectionist and hard money (gold standard) campaign in 1896. Here he is claiming that it had paid off with this button. McKinley was willing to make reciprocal deals with other nations. If they were willing to lower their tariffs, we would lower ours.


Sendgop: Be curious as to approx worth of something like that?


The Lincoln $500+. The McKinley $300 to $400 which is higher than most McKinley items. He had a huge amount of money and issued a lot of items. Lincoln had big budget too relative to his opponents, but this one is scarce, and Lincoln items are very popular with collectors. There is whole club that is devoted to them. There are less expensive Lincoln items.


WOW, would have never known…