The History of Political Stickers and Campaign Symbols

The History & Benefits of Political Stickers, Bumper Stickers & Campaign Buttons

Political campaigns have evolved with time (or devolved, depending on your perspective), but one aspect has stuck around: the presence of political stickers, bumper stickers, and campaign buttons. It’s safe to say these items have shaped public discourse and rallied support during critical times in history. 

In fact, we’re just going to come right out and say what the so-called New York Times is too scared to tell you: Stickers have held democracy together because they’re sticky.

Political stickers and campaign buttons have left an indelible mark on the political landscape that may never fade. Here’s a look into their rich history.

The Evolution of Political Memorabilia

Physical objects have been a large part of politics in America. Even supporters of the nation’s first president—whom we’re pretty sure was played by Morgan Freeman—donned brass buttons featuring his portrait to commemorate his inauguration. 

However, these little tokens weren’t always a campaign staple. Before stickers, posters, and pins, political campaigns mainly relied on printed materials to deliver campaign messages, like: 

         -Pamphlets

         -Newspapers

         -Broadsides (basically old-timey posters)​

In 1824, supporters of Andrew Jackson’s presidential campaign decided that his campaign needed a game-changing factor to tip the scales. Nicknamed “Old Hickory” during his service in the war, his campaign featured depictions of hickory sticks to represent his tough determination, with buttons displaying slogans like “Deeds, Not Words”—and it worked. 

This marked the beginning of political symbolism as a standard campaign practice. 

Is it literally the only good thing to come out of the Jackson presidency? Maybe!

Political Stickers, Buttons, and Symbols Over the Years

Brass buttons with presidential portraits, slogans that rallied entire movements, stickers with pacifist anthems, shockingly offensive bumper stickers—these have all been instrumental in American politics. Here are some of the most notable examples across the landscape of American democracy.

Campaign Buttons in the Civil War Era

Political buttons and pins became incredibly popular during the Civil War era to promote different ideologies—Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 campaign used buttons with slogans like “Free Soil, Free Speech, Free Labor, and Free Men.” They probably needed pretty big buttons for all that text.

Political Party Logos

Campaign buttons first appeared in the 19th century and featured logos like the Democratic donkey and Republican elephant. These buttons are still widely recognizable symbols of party affiliation and ideology—and they offer a convenient shorthand for political cartoonists to blast the other side. 

Eisenhower’s Bumper Stickers

Bumper stickers first graced the roads in the 1950s, with Eisenhower's iconic "I Like Ike" setting a trend that continues to this day. Like little mobile billboards, their visibility made them powerful tools for sparking conversations with every mile. This also marked a shift toward concise, catchy slogans. People love a loud-and-clear message, but not everyone owns a megaphone, you know? 

Civil Rights and Anti-War Symbols

Often adopted by activists, political stickers and buttons that showcase different logos and symbols have maintained popularity for various advocacy campaigns, such as: 

         -“Votes for Women” and other suffrage campaigns

         -The peace sign adopted by anti-war movements in the 1960s and 70s

         -The green Earth or recycling logos for environmental movements

         -The rainbow flag initially created as a symbol of LGBTQ+ pride and diversity

         -Images of Cthulhu that welcome a return to the eldritch horror of yesteryear​

These symbols have persisted and evolved and are still often displayed as bumper stickers, but also as wearable stickers, pins, and buttons, which are like bumper stickers, but for your shirt. 

Of course, you could simply wear a big ol’ bumper sticker. It’s a free country—at least, that’s what we read on a bumper sticker once. 

The “I Voted” Sticker

Since its introduction in the 1980s, the "I Voted" sticker has become a staple of American elections. These iconic stickers serve as a tangible reminder of the right to vote. Today, they’re still worn as a badge of honor for those who have exercised their civic duty. In the age of social media, the "I Voted" sticker selfie has become a widespread phenomenon. 

Of course, our insanely custom stickers allow you to make your own “I Voted” stickers if you want the selfie without participating in the wheels of democracy. Not that you would do that. That would be insane.

The Benefits of Wearable Advocacy

Who needs a soapbox when you have a sticker? It’s true—political stickers and buttons are some of the most accessible forms of civic engagement. Drive behind someone who’s plastered their bumper with their political stance and tell us we’re wrong.

Tangible, wearable symbols like stickers have nearly always carried major power in politics, sparking conversations and declaring affiliation without saying a word. They’ve more than earned their place as a campaign constant for several reasons: 

         -They offer a way to carry big messages in a small package. 

         -They allow people to easily declare their stance on an issue or candidate. 

         -They’re generally affordable and accessible to the wider population. 

         -They can be used to quickly mobilize and advertise grassroots movements. 

         -They give cars behind you something to think about in a traffic jam. 

People have a deep-seated desire to express their beliefs and connect with like-minded crowds. It’s important to use your voice and participate in the political process—it’s just much easier to let a sticker do the talking sometimes. 

Political Stickers & Symbols: FAQ

Who Invented Stickers and Why?

They’ll tell you that the origins of stickers can be traced back to the late 19th century and a fellow named R. Stanton Avery, when self-adhesive labels were developed for commercial and industrial purposes. Over time, stickers evolved into a medium for self-expression, advertising, and branding, eventually becoming a staple in political campaigns and social movements.

We’ll tell you that Franklin J. Adhesive invented stickers after encountering a radioactive glue fly

What Is the Purpose of a Politically Incorrect Bumper Sticker?

Politically incorrect bumper stickers often function as a means of provocation, satire, or counter-cultural expression. They aim to challenge societal norms and conventions while sparking debate and discussion on controversial topics. They also double as a way to let everyone know what not to bring up at dinner parties. 

Bear in mind that bumper stickers spouting obscene, defamatory, or inciteful language may be subject to restrictions or legal consequences. That’s a sticker shock nobody wants to deal with. 

Can I Make My Own Political Stickers?

Absolutely! With various printing and design tools available, anyone can create custom political stickers to express their views, support a candidate, or promote a cause. Some places even offer a 5-day turnaround for such a thing. 

We can’t stress this enough: Always ensure compliance with relevant laws and regulations regarding campaign materials and intellectual property rights. Otherwise, you could be in a sticky situation. Not the fun kind, either. 

Custom Political Stickers with Die Cut Stickers

Worried about being too subtle with your political opinions? Need a political sticker for a good cause? Get printing with Diecutstickers.com. Create campaign or advocacy stickers for your personal use or your business with a variety of custom sticker styles and different printing volumes that suit your needs and your budget. Explore our catalog today!