Pinback button promoting Woodrow Wilson for president and Thomas Marshall for vice president, 1916. Bastian Bros. Co., Rochester, New York. The incumbents facing reelection in 1916 were threatened by a daunting coalition of Republicans and Progressives who rallied behind the erudite jurist Charles Evans Hughes and former Vice President Charles Fairbanks. The divided field that had been conducive to a Democratic sweep in 1912 was now a hotly contested two-way race, with neither side having a clear advantage.
A central issue of the campaign was intervention in the European war. Wilson had declared American neutrality upon the outbreak of hostilities, and despite the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915, the public remained strongly opposed to military involvement. Appropriating the catchphrase of the isolationist movement, "America First," as a campaign slogan, Wilson and Marshall hoped to tap into this considerable well of support, while leaving the door open to possible future intervention. Contrasted with the vociferously hawkish stance of many Republicans (notably former president Theodore Roosevelt), the promise not to engage unless attacked was enough to secure a narrow victory for the incumbents in November.
This classic pinback from 1916 carries the trademark slogan and features portraits of Wilson and Marshall.