Celluloid Button History

Celluloid buttons are the most popular form of memorabilia. They are round metal disks covered with a printed paper and then topped off with a thin piece of clear celluloid. They are intended to be worn on clothing by means of several types of pins that are part of the back of the celluloid button. Hence the nickname name pinback.

The origin of the celluloid button came shortly after the invention of celluloid itself, in the 1870s. In the 1880s, celluloid made its first appearance on political memorabilia, pins, and political lapel devices in thick pieces that were molded to look like candidates or as frames around cardboard photos. It is the use of celluloid in thin clear sheets that made the modern political buttons and pins a reality.

Celluloid buttons first appeared in the election of 1896. Although not the first manufacturer of celluloid buttons and pins, it was the company of Whitehead and Hoag of New Jersey that popularized the button with their patented design. The period between 1896 and the mid- twenties is generally considered to be the "classic" period of button and pins design. In this period, some of the most beautiful and ornate buttons and pins were manufactured. The most expensive celluloid buttons and pins are also from this period. Buttons and pins had several different back designs. The Whitehead and Hoag type has a hollow back, which typically contained a small piece of paper with the manufacturer's advertising during the classic period. Back papers are no longer used.

Celluloid buttons and pins are generally superior in quality to lithographic buttons and, therefore, more collectible.

     Back to Top of Page