Campaign buttons of presidential losers

Amy Vach

The La Crosse County Historical Society has thousands of buttons — literally thousands. Some of them are from Oktoberfest, others are from local businesses or events, and even more are from elections.

Most of the campaign buttons are from local elections, whereas about a hundred of the buttons are from presidential elections.

The oldest presidential campaign button in the collection is from 1876 and the most recent is from 1992. While cataloging the presidential campaign buttons, unfamiliar names were revealed. It became clear that the unfamiliar names were those who lost.

The image depicts the campaign buttons of:

Copyright La Crosse County Historical Society

Copyright La Crosse County Historical Society

Ross Perot, 1992 independent candidate for president

Gerald Ford, 1976 Republican candidate for president

Walter Mondale, 1984 Democratic candidate for president

Hubert Humphrey, 1968 Democratic candidate for president

Going into a presidential election, candidates know that there are one of two options: Either they will become the next president of the United States or they will walk away defeated, having tried their best.

Many presidential candidates have gone on to other elected office, such as governor and senator. Richard Nixon did not let an initial defeat keep him down. After losing to John Kennedy in 1960, he waited a few years and ran again in 1968 — and won.

Others have sought to champion the causes that led them to run for president in the first place. And other candidates have gone on to establish beneficial public institutions. New York seems to have benefited the most from this, with the Erie Canal, the New York Public Library and even the Empire State Building.

Having a collection of campaign buttons of those who lost is not an insult or in any way dismissive of the candidates’ efforts. The collection is meant to honor those that tried to become president. Running an election campaign is not an easy task, and these candidates gave it their all — some more than once.

These buttons and others from the La Crosse County Historical Society’s collection can now be viewed online at


This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on April 8, 2017.