Political buttons are like any other historical memorabilia. They are fun to look at and consider what might have been. A private collection of a century's worth of political buttons is now on display at the Sun Valley-Ketchum Ski and Heritage Museum in Ketchum, and open to public viewing.
The collection belongs to longtime Hailey resident John Chapman. His uncle, W. Orr Chapman, an honor guard for Gov. Moses Alexander of Idaho, began the collection. A friend of Alexander's, Chapman moved to Hailey in 1908 and was a delegate to the Democratic convention in 1928.
"That's where I got my interest from," Chapman said. "It's in the genes."
His father picked up the collection habit and added more gems of the times. Then Chapman added to the considerable stash through his own involvement. It's now on display at the museum through Election Day. This is the first time his collection has ever been shown to the public.
In 1956 Chapman was a page for the Idaho delegation at the Democratic Convention at the Chicago stockyards.
Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson and New York Gov. W. Averell Harriman, founder of Sun Valley Resort were "battling for the nomination," he said. "It was quite a thrilling experience. I also was a delegate in 1976 and 1980 (in New York City) and '84 in San Francisco."
Though he's a Democrat, Chapman's friends began sending him Republican memorabilia years ago, so both parties are well represented. But Chapman is a particular friend of both the Carters and the Clintons, so these two administrations are particularly well represented. Bill Clinton actually stayed with Chapman when he was still governor of Arkansas, after Chapman invited him to speak at the Frank Church Dinner in Boise.
Among the interesting specimens are buttons touting both Harriman and the late Idaho Sen. Frank Church for president. Eventual candidate (and president) Jimmy Carter considered naming Church as his running mate but ultimately chose Sen. Walter Mondale. Church remains the only Idahoan to win a state's major party presidential primary election. But there is one button in Chapman's collection—a Church/Carter '76—that must have been hastily made before Mondale was named. As well there are Christmas cards, signed photographs, a clock and a special blue bottle presented at the 1976 convention.
A personal favorite of mine is one with a picture of Ed Koch with a bubble over his head, saying. "The Republicans are Coming. Make nice," from the 1980 Republican Convention at Madison Square Garden.
The Museum is located in the Forest Service Park in Ketchum and is opened from 1-5 p.m.