In researching 19th photographic equipment, I found an example of a tintype camera with 16 lenses attributed to Roberts of Boston, a company that began manufacturing multi-lens (multiplying) cameras in 1857.  During the election of 1860, multi-lens cameras were instrumental in making small, identical tintypes that could be used to circulate a candidate’s actual image to the public.  Abraham Lincoln recognized the importance of this new technology and capitalized on it to gain wider recognition, much in the same way that John F. Kennedy recognized the importance of television to political image making 100 years later.   


Button Tintype Camera (Attributed to Roberts of Boston)

Front View: Multi-Lens Tintype Camera (Attributed to Roberts of Boston)


Button Tintype Camera (Attributed to Roberts of Boston)

Rear View: Multi-Lens Tintype Camera (Attributed to Roberts of Boston)



Political Collectibles:  History of Political Campaign Buttons

By Ron Wade (


It wasn’t until the 1860 campaign of Abraham Lincoln, along with other major party nominees for President, that the likeness of a President was available for use on campaign buttons and devices. All because of the advent of the tintype or ferrotype photo process.

Extremely Rare 1864 Political Campaign Pin for President Abraham Lincoln’s re-election campaign during the midst of the Civil War. 1″ x 1 1/4″ with hole at top from which wearer used a ribbon to wear on lapel. Has some lightness – Valued at $650.

For the first time a voter hundreds of miles away from Washington could actually see what a candidate for President looked like. The 1860 ferrotype buttons for Lincoln are easily distinguishable from his 1864 re-election buttons as his famous beard was by then on all official photos of the Civil War President. And calling these “buttons” is stretching it a bit since most of these were made of a metal ring surrounding a round tintype picture with a hole punched in the top, from which a ribbon was used to hang the picture on a supporter’s lapel.

What we now know as a campaign button didn’t come about until 1896 with the patent by the now famous Whitehead and Hoag Company. The device was made of 4 pieces sandwiched together — a piece of metal on which was placed a printed image with a slogan or photo of 1896 candidate for President William McKinley or his Democratic opponent, William Jennings Bryan. On top of that printed image was a thin piece of see-through celluloid and all of this was placed together by a machine with a small metal pin attached on the reverse. The 1896 discovery of campaign buttons was so popular that now, some 106 years later, buttons from the McKinley-Bryan race are still fairly common and can be bought for as little as $10, although most buttons are much more than that.


For full text:  Visit About.Com

Another interesting article on campaign buttons appered in Frieze Magazine on 8.29.08.