Thousands of campaign buttons: Inside Springfield local’s political memorabilia collection

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To the mailboxes, television screens and front yards, the realities of another election season will soon be upon voters in Illinois.

In one Springfield resident’s home office, that season is permanent.

Over the past 48 years, Gordon Wayman has amassed a collection of political memorabilia that includes countless autographs, presidential PEZ dispensers and more than 3,000 campaign buttons.

More: The crowd looks at the $123 million reconstruction project for Springfield High School.

At age 18, Wyman of Benton, Illinois, went to great lengths to contact former President Richard Nixon, whose decision to leave the Oval Office sparked his interest in politics. He sent Nixon artwork and gifts in hopes of a chance meeting, and eventually a meeting began with the help of Republican Leader of the United States House Bob Mitchell and Governor Jim Thompson.

Having been hacked by Watergate and leaving the presidency four years earlier, Nixon was not entertaining crowds in San Clemente, California at the time. Still, an invitation extended to Wyman, who drove thousands of miles to meet the 37th president.

Wyman’s photo with Nixon, taken 45 years ago, is one of his favorite political memories. The fandom extends to the present day, where artwork and the accounting pen used by the president reside in his home.

“We talked for over an hour and kept people waiting,” Weiman recalled in an interview at his Lakeside Springfield home. “He told me he really liked your persistence.”

Following a 30-year career with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office in 1978, Wyman retired in 2015. Along the way, he served as a page for the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit and was a delegate to the 1984 RNC. In Dallas.

The collection has grown over the years with the addition of the 2016 and 2020 presidential campaigns. Already a published author, he is writing a book detailing his relationship with Nixon.

The campaign buttons include all presidents from Kennedy to Biden, but have also expanded to include Illinois campaigns and a few buttons of former Chairman Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China. Wyman counted then-state representative Jim Edgar, a cartoon fan, as one of his rare possessions.

As much as the campaign has changed over the years, Wyman said messaging in some campaigns has often felt backward — just as former President Donald Trump borrowed the tagline “Make America Great Again” from former President Ronald Reagan.

“Most campaign buttons now are made by the collectors themselves,” he said of making his own Nixon campaign buttons for 2024.

Historians consider William McKinley’s

The Daily Illinois State Journal described Arby Miller of Marshall, Illinois, as the advent of the modern campaign button to be worn on a jacket collar as the “Vote Money Democrat.”

Current political merchandise has extended beyond the button, now including hats, ball caps, bumper stickers and more. Trump’s Fulton County mugshot, for example, has been commoditized by the Save America fundraising committee — the money will be used to raise money for his 2024 campaign and legal defense.

Gov. JB Pritzker’s campaign, JB for Governor, lists items such as crochet sweaters, lapel pins and Pride-themed t-shirts on the store’s website. But the merchandise is sold at cost, not a source of income, according to a campaign spokesperson.

in the past next year’s election, Wayman is in the process of reducing the collection. He plans to continue listing items on the Facebook Marketplace, including a bronze Abraham Lincoln statue, for those interested.

Contact Patrick M. Keck: 312-549-9340,,

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