Friday, January 2, 2009

The neatest thing in the shop

The neatest thing in the shop right now, at least in my opinion, is an original campaign button from the election of 1864: Lincoln for President.

The button is copper-colored (I have no idea what the actual metal is) and slightly bigger than a quarter. Embossed around the edges is, "FOR PRESIDENT" and "1864." In the center is a badly faded photograph of Abraham Lincoln.

Unfortunately the image has deteriorated to such a degree that it is nearly impossible to see it. But if you twist it, and the light hits it just right, you can see the image of Lincoln (head and shoulders, looking left), that Alexander Gardner shot in his studio. It is the same image that's on the $5 bill. He's there.

The button is protected, of course. It is in special packaging with a stiffener (so it stands on its own) and in an acid-free, clear envelope. It is on display at knee-level, right by the register.

It certainly does have a bit of a "WOW!" factor to it, particularly since the Inaugural is just a few weeks away.

Many historians point to that election as one of the most important in the life of this Republic. It was the first to take place during a war, for example. And the issues were clear and the candidates (10 bonus points if you can name the Democrats' candidate without looking at the answer at the bottom of this post) each held different views. Lincoln wanted to win the war; the other guy just wanted to end the war and was willing to let the South go its own way. He was that generation's peace candidate. There were other issues, too, but that was the big one. The outcome was by no means a foregone conclusion. Indeed, Lincoln himself didn't think he was going to win. But, of course, he did.

This relic is one of those fun things that I bring into the shop, and secretly hope that no one will buy. It is for sale and the price is reasonable. Still, I am not sure I want to let it go.

Maybe I'll just bump the price a bit tomorrow.

(McClellan, by the way. Yep, that one: General George Brinton McClellan, who had commanded the Federal Army of the Potomac during the opening years of the Civil War, and who had been in charge during the disasters of the Peninsula Campaign and the bloodiest day in American history, the Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg. He managed to carry New Jersey in the general election.)

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