Whitehead and Hoag: Advertising Pioneers
inJune 17, 2013 - 5:14pm
Ever wondered where advertisement buttons got their start? Well, I recently came across a set of vintage 1900s rose and quill buttons made by the Whitehead and Hoag Company. I was interested in discovering more about the buttons and the company that made them, so I decided to do some research on the history of Whitehead and Hoag.
Thanks to this company, advertisement buttons have been around since the late 1800s. Benjamin Whitehead and Chester Hoag became partners after Hoag began to sell Whitehead twine for his silk badges. Both men had grown up in the New England area and worked in the paper business before their partnership.
The men patented three types of buttons including: cloth, metal and jewelry buttons all to be worn on clothing. Once the patents were approved, the men built a factory with all of the latest technology including 50 modern presses which allowed them to make over a million buttons each day. There were no machines to put the pins and back paper on the buttons, so these creative partners paid families around the factory to put the button backs on. What started as a simple idea soon swept the nation and radicalized the way business leaders were advertising.
W&H’s first big order was from the American Tobacco company at 1 million buttons per day. Even politicians were getting in on the action including presidential candidates and minority groups such as: socialists, communists, and prohibitionists. The idea of advertisement buttons was unlike anything that anyone had ever seen and these partners could barely keep the buttons on the shelves. Orders literally flooded the factories on a daily basis.
Whitehead and Hoag were not only entrepreneurs, but also patriots. During WWII, they temporarily closed shop on their advertisement buttons to make identification buttons for the war factory workers to do their part for the U.S. war efforts.
The men continued to be good friends and developed the advertisement button business. The company was eventually sold out to a long time competitor called the Bastian Brothers Co. due to mismanagement after the partners had died. Although the company was eventually sold, the creativity and originality of Whitehead and Hoag will not soon be forgotten. These men took their dream and completely changed the face of advertisement. Their legacy is a true example of American capitalism. So, the next time you see someone wearing a presidential button or advertisement button remember the determination, ingenuity and hard work it took for that button to become a reality.
"The Button is without question the best advertising Medium" -from late 1890s Whitehead & Hoag button sample card.
Sandy Compton of Uniquely Yours