The Permanent Campaign
In Chuck Bailey’s trove of electoral collectibles— buttons and bumper stickers and matchbooks and the like— the history of Texas politics lives forever.
Chuck Bailey’s fascination with campaign memorabilia began one evening in 1960 when his dad gave him a pile of “Kennedy-Johnson” buttons. This had a twofold effect: It started Bailey’s lifelong hobby, and it gave the Fort Worth sixth-grader ammunition against all the “Nixon” buttons he’d seen at school.
From that moment on, Bailey began hoarding items related to Texas campaigns: dominoes and paper fans and pins and key chains and rulers and emery boards and combs and shoestrings and, well, just about anything that can carry a name and a slogan. Today the collection has ballooned to more than four thousand items—he isn’t sure of the exact number—and the best are captured in Texas Political Memorabilia: Buttons, Bumper Stickers, and Broadsides, which will be published by the University of Texas Press in February.
Bailey’s avocation has never strayed far from his vocation. A formidable lawyer, he moved to Austin in 1978 and worked for the likes of Bill Clements (he was assistant general counsel for the former governor) and Bob Bullock (he served in a variety of roles, including chief of staff, for the late comptroller and lieutenant governor); for the past decade, he’s run his own law firm and worked as a lobbyist. He still hits antiques shops around the state and keeps an eye out for political auctions, and over the years he’s benefited from colleagues who have given him their stashes. His favorite piece, though—a William Jennings Bryan ribbon from the 1896 presidential race—was found closer to home. “I was going through an old picture album in my wife’s grandmother’s attic in Ennis, and I found some Methodist Youth ribbons from that period,” he says. “I thought, ‘It would be cool if there were some political things here,’ and I turned the page, and there it was.”
To flip through the book’s pages is to relive the state’s political past. Names like Johnson, Connally, Barnes, Richards, and Bush jump out, but it’s the more obscure items that are worth lingering over (ever think you’d stumble across The Ron Paul Family Cookbook?). And its sheer size leads to an obvious question: Who has room for a collection this large? “That’s what my wife asks me on a daily basis,” Bailey says. BRIAN D. SWEANY
Top of the Page Left: Gerald C. Mann was elected state attorney general three times, starting in 1938, but—along with Lyndon Johnson—lost his bid for the U.S. Senate in the 1941 special election.
Top of the Page Right: Some of the more than three thousand buttons in Bailey’s collection. The oldest is from 1840; the newest is, of course, from 2006.
Above left: Top, This George H. W. Bush sticker came from his second run for the U.S. Senate, in 1970 (he lost to Democrat Lloyd Bentsen). Bottom, from left, Only three watches like this were made for Bob Bullock’s reelection campaign for lieutenant governor, in 1994; Governor Preston Smith, who won in 1968 and 1970, loved to give out these key chains long after he left office; the “Aggies for Agnew” button from 1972 brought better luck than the “Longhorns for Nixon” button from 1968—Nixon finally carried Texas during his reelection campaign.
Above right: A matchbook promoted Maury Maverick Sr.’s reelection bid for Congress, in 1936.
Above left: J. J. “Jake” Pickle, a longtime LBJ aide, served in the U.S. House from 1963 to 1995 and handed out these masks at his campaign rallies. The pin reflects the congressman’s fondness for his namesake food (he was famous for carrying around small plastic pickles that squeaked).
Above right: Posters spanning six decades of elections: Clockwise from top left, LBJ’s Senate campaign in 1941; his run for vice president alongside John Kennedy, in 1960; Rick Perry’s first bid for statewide office, in 1990; and Caso March’s gubernatorial effort in 1950.
Above left: Top, The Cuban Cigar Manufacturing Company in Austin made this FDR cigar box. The stick of chewing gum is from the campaign of John Tower, who was first elected to the Senate in 1961 and retired in 1985. Bottom, State senator Jimmy Phillips, who served from 1947 to 1959, loved this paper gun, which popped when “fired.”
Above right: An LBJ ribbon from the mid-sixties; a rubber figurine that may resemble Marilyn Monroe but sat atop a cake for Governor Ann Richards’s inauguration, in January 1991.
Above left: Top, Richard Nixon’s hectoring of Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev at the “kitchen debate” became a popular postcard in anti-Communist Texas in 1960. Bottom, Despite this 1948 postcard, Harry Truman easily carried Texas.
Above right: The 1992 George Bush–Dan Quayle presidential campaign saw fit to include detailed installation instructions for this phone cord.