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Winthrop Topliff Doolittle, Sr., button collection

Identifier: MSS 0902

Scope and Contents

The Winthrop Topliff Doolittle, Sr., button collections contains approximately 200 political campaign, tobacco and advertising pin-back buttons, pins and medals, the bulk of which date between 1892 and 1920.

The collection is divided into five thematic series:

Series I, Advertising buttons, includes buttons advertising different products and services, as well as collectable buttons sold with products such as cigarettes.

Series II, Yale University pins and buttons, most of which likely relate to Winthrop Doolittle Jr., who attended Yale University.

Series III, Political buttons, include buttons from both presidnetal candidates and candidates for state and local office.

Series IV, Commemorative buttons, pins, badges and medals, feature special buttons relating to the Grand Army of the Republic, the Spanish American War and other commemorative events.

Series V, Miscellaneous buttons and pins, include a variety of buttons, pins and charms that do not fall into the topical categories of series I-IV.

Most of the buttons in this collection are celluloid pin-back buttons. Pin-back buttons are buttons which can be affixed to garments via a pin mechanism on the back of the button. This allows the front surface to carry an image or text. The first US patent for pin-back buttons was issued in the 1890s. These early buttons were made by adding celluloid over a photograph or text to protect the image from scratching, then attaching the fastening mechanism to the back of the pin.

Buttons, especially campaign buttons, have been in use since the end of the eighteenth century; however, the new celluloid pin-back buttons were cheap and easy to make, leading to an increase in their popularity. By 1898 pin-back button were used in advertising by chewing gum and tobacco compaines. The 1896 presidential campaign between William McKinley and William Jennings Bryan saw the first widespread use of buttons for political campaigning.

"A Short History of Pin-back Buttons - The Button Guy Blog." July 1, 2011. (accessed February 2020).


  • Creation: 1892-2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within circa 1892-1920


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical / Historical

Winthrop Topliff Doolittle, Sr., was born on January 22, 1895, in Meriden, Connecticut. Doolittle attended the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, graduating in 1916. In 1917, Doolittle enlisted as a medic in the American Expeditionary Force. Before serving in World War I, Doolittle married Olive Carter Austin of New Haven, Connecticut, with whom he eventually had four daughters and one son, Winthrop Doolittle, Jr., who later attended Yale University.

"Doc" Doolittle, as he was known, settled in Milford, Connecticut, after the war to practice dentistry. He continued to work in this field for 48 years, dying in Milford on October 26, 1967.

Throughout his life, Doolittle became an avid collector of stamps, coins, early American radios, and late-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century campaign buttons and related memorabilia.

Information provided by the donor.


.66 linear foot (2 boxes)


Dr. Winthrop Topliff Doolittle, Sr. (1895-1967), was a Milford, Connecticut, dentist and an avid collector of stamps, coins, campaign buttons and related ephemera. His collection contains approximately 200 political campaign buttons, tobacco and advertising pin-back buttons, pins and medals, the bulk of which date between 1892 and 1920.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Jonathan Briggs Jeffrey, March 2019

Related Materials in This Repository

Items from the collection appeared in the exhibition “Trail to the Voting Booth: An Exploration of Political Ephemera,” lauched online September 2020, University of Delaware – Morris Library. The exhibition can be viewed online at

Condition Description

Some of the ribbons attached to the buttons are frayed or torn. Some chains connecting parts of certain buttons are broken. Material in this collection should be handled delicately.

Shelving Summary

Boxes 1-2: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes (3 inch)

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by John Caldwell, February 2020.

Finding aid for Winthrop Topliff Doolittle, Sr., button collection
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2020 February 14
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA