Down the Ballot

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

EBAY FIND # 2 Charles Martin

So the last ebay find I profiled was rather expensive. Here is an Oregon centered political pin that is well within a modest ten dollar spending limit. This is a 1938 Charles Martin for Governor button it is a 7/8" celluloid.

A celluloid button, according to collector Ron Wade is "a button made of paper with a celluloid covering. Both are wrapped around a metal disc and are held in place by a metal rim on the back of the item." These are still used in many modern day political campaigns. The biggest change is that technology has allowed for cheaper, bigger buttons...but back to Charles Martin.

Martin was a military man and served forty years in the service, including stints in the Spanish-American war and World War I. He retired as a Major General and started his new life out in politics by being elected to congress from Oregon's 3rd congressional district. He then found his way to the governorship in 1934. This was in the midst of the Great Depression. For more info on Charles Martin you can read his wikipedia page.

For a Democrat, he was anything but a pro-Roosevelt, pro-New Deal Democrat. He spurred so much ill will in the Democratic Party of Oregon that he failed to win renomination in 1938. He was beaten by Henry Hess, who was himself beaten by Republican Charles Sprague thanks in part to an angry Charles Martin and his supporters actively campaigning for Sprague.

While this button is seventy-two years old, it is still fairly common and most are in great shape. You should be able to find it for between $5 and $10 dollars if the seller is reasonable. It was produced by the The Irwin-Hodson Company which is still in business. Must be a fairly good place to work if they've been open for 114 years. You can find these buttons on ebay right now.

Martin was also the subject of the book Iron Pants by Gary Murrell.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Remember Ben Westlund

This was originally published on Facebook as a note on March 11, 2010

When I heard about Ben's passing I was on a bus heading back to Portland from Spokane. We were heading towards a small rural town called Lind, Washington (a kinda town Ben would have liked) It is home to an annual Combine Demolition Derby. Lind also has one store, one bar and grill and all are named like "Jim's store" or "Sam's Grill". Ben would have gotten a chuckle from the town and probably would have wanted to stop and learn more about it.

It was then that I realized Ben Westlund had rubbed off on me a little bit. Our conversations always started in different places and always ended on either something one of us had seen on National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, or shows like Oregon Field Guide. He loved sharing knowledge he had picked up and he always had so much of it. For that I'll miss my chats with Professor Westlund.

I'll miss his jokes even the corny ones.

I'll miss soup spoons. (you don't want to know...)

I'll miss being charged various amounts of money for borrowing every day items like pens, paper etc.

I'll miss talking about Jackson Browne albums.

One of the stranger things I think I'll miss is the way, when he would get really into something how his glasses always seemed to find themselves resting at the same spot on his nose time after time. He could carry on any conversation, any presentation and those things would just rest there. It would get to points where he wouldn't even need to be wearing the glasses and there they would be on the tip of his nose.

Like many of us, I'm going to miss Ben Westlund, but as Dr. McCoy was famous for saying in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, "He's not really dead. As long as we remember him". Remember Ben in any way you want, but be sure you remember him.

Friday, March 12, 2010


UPDATE So this ebay item ended on the 16th, and the ending selling price after 10 bids was $845.06. Simply amazing.

I am a member of the American Political Items Collectors group APIC. I collect items pertaining to American and Oregon political campaigns. Working and volunteering for current campaigns help in my efforts and I have occasionally put on visual history exhibits at university libraries to inform the public about American and Oregon political history.

Sadly there is a lot of stuff out there and not a lot of money for me to buy items. Collecting older items can be very expensive. Some small little buttons, that most people would have just tossed out after a failed campaign end up years later being worth thousands. One such example is James Cox. Most people would probably go their entire life without ever hearing the name James Cox. He was the Democratic nominee for president in 1920. He got his butt handed to him by Warren G. Harding. His buttons have sold for upwards of $30,000 dollars. You can read about them here. One of those dinky little things could settle my college loan debt. So in an effort to share my hobby with others, I will from time to time post about a button I've come across in my collecting adventures.

This first one is on ebay right now and about $350 dollars out of my price range. It is a 1928 Oregon issued Al Smith for President button. The starting price was $12.00, six days ago. It is now with 4 days left, up to $356.03. As I said, some items are rare and very expensive. Clearly the collecting world hasn't seen many of these buttons turn up issued by a group of Democratic women in the state of Oregon.

Some history: Al Smith lost Oregon 64%-34% to Herbert Hoover. It was the last of a three election streak in which the Republican presidential candidate carried every single county in Oregon. President Hoover was not able to repeat his 36 county sweep just four years later. In fact he lost so bad in Oregon in '32, he only beat Franklin Roosevelt in Benton county.

If you are interested in learning more about the APIC just click.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Oregon GOP and Union Money

Current Oregon Republican Party chairman Bob Tiernan still insists that his attacks are perfectly valid, that Jenson and Smith sold their party down the river to unions in accepting financial support for a vote or two...what Mr. Tiernan wont tell you is that Smith and Jenson are not the only ones who have taken evil money from organized labor interests. How exactly can he tell that money was expressly given for a specific vote? Unions, like any interest group, funnel money to candidates during elections. When I donate 5 dollars am I asking for a vote? Maybe, maybe not who know exactly what I'm thinking when I give money to a candidate. Clearly many GOP legislators feel comfortable taking union money without ever thinking about how the union wants them to vote.

In 2008 labor unions gave money to 35 different republican legislative candidates. 15 of those candidates received more than $5,000 dollars from labor unions. Some of the worst offenders included,

Bruce Hanna HD 07 $15,900, Scott Bruun HD 37 $10,850,Ted Ferrioli SD 30 $14,850, Ed Glad HD 24 $51,708.

How many candidates do you think were supported by AFSCME? 12 GOP legislative candidates were supported by AFSCME: Bill Gerrad,Greg Smith,Bob Jenson,Ed Glad,John Huffman,Scott Bruun, Vicki Berger, Jim Thompson, Gene Whisnant, Fred Girod, Wayne Krieger, and David Nelson.

Mr. Tiernan should ask all these candidates give back this money, instead of limiting it to these two representatives, who have not done anything differently than any other candidate for public office. But Mr. Tiernan wont ask all those candidates to give back this union money, he's just grumpy because they disagreed with him on a vote.

More power to Smith and Jenson.