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.