Baylor University Poage Library

He Travels Campaign Memory Lane

He travels campaign memory lane
Collector' presidential items date from 1836
Star-Telegram Writer
Published in 1970

Dr. Robert "Bob" Platt says his hobby of collecting presidential memorabilia has not reached the addictive stage.

That's good. Because after looking at his collection, which fills two rooms of his guest house, one would figure Platt would have to add several more rooms to accommodate the items if he became more devoted to the hobby.

The collection, which has items going back to 1836 and the election of Martin Van Buren, is filled with the remnants of presidential campaigns.

The articles include buttons, stickpins, electric clocks, canes, coins, scarves and hand mirrors that have pictures and slogans of presidential candidates.

"You almost have to specialize on a certain person or you just won't have room for all of the stuff," said Platt, who is head of the behavorial sciences department at Tarrant County Junior College South Campus.

That's obvious from the two rooms which have walls lined with a kaleido scope of items.

Platt's specialty is Franklin D. Roosevelt, though he has hundreds of other items from other presidential candidates.

"I chose Roosevelt because he was president when I started to school in the first grade and he was president my senior year in high school," said Platt. "He was a very charismatic person. I used to listen to him when he gave his fireside chats over the radio."

A LITTLE OF EVERYTHING ... Robert Platt with presidential items

Platt stood in front of six Roosevelt electrical clocks.

"He became president right after electric clocks came into being," said Platt.

One of the clocks has three smokestacks with smoke curling from them. On one side is a mill worker with his sleeves rolled up. On the other side is a farm worker carrying shocks of grain. The National Recovery Act slogan, "We do our part," is etched into the clock.

Still another clock shows Roosevelt standing at the wheel of a ship. Inscribed are the words, "At the wheel for a new deal."

The clocks are surrounded by other Items.

There are walking canes, topped by busts of presidents.

There's a model of a pugnacious bulldog. Inscribed on it is, "You can't kick me around." It was made in 1912 for the presidential campaign of Champ Clark. He was kicked around. He lost.

Platt showed several drawers of buttons. There's a U.S. Grant button. A Grover Cleveland button. A John C. Fremont button.

Platt also has stamps, which were used like Christmas stamps during campaigns. One reads, "No retreat; forward with Roosevelt."

Platt showed some presidential postcards. One reads, "Less Johnson grass and politicians. More smokestacks and businesses."

He grinned.

"That's from a Texas governor's race," he said.

Then he showed what he called a "mechanical."

It's a large, brass-looking coin. It has and eagle on one side. Its wings are outstretched. The works say, "I'm all right."

You pull a little lever. The wings flop down. The words say, "Where I am at."

It was used by Teddy Roosevelt in his campaign against William Jennings Bryan.

Platt pointed at a rubber doll. It has a face of Spiro Agnew, former vice president. The doll's foot is in its mouth.

Platt said he finds his items at flea markets, garage sales and presidential collectors' conventions. And, sometimes luck helps.

He told about his son, who collected stamps. He read about a man selling his stamp collection. He visited him. Platt went, too.

"After looking at his stamps, I asked him if he had any presidential campaign stuff. He walked into a room and came back with this McKinley cane. I bought it. I was really lucky on that," said Platt.

Platt said he thinks the items of yesterday were more effective in campaigns than they are today.

"Today's stuff is not the quality stuff they used to make. Take the buttons. People actually sewed them onto their clothes and wore them to show their loyalty to candidate," he said.

He was asked the value of his collection.

"This is the kind of stuff that is worth what you can get for it. I mean, who wants a Willkie button but a stupid collector," he said.

Platt said he spends from five to 10 hours a week on the hobby.

"But, I'm not bugged by it to the point that I've got to do it," he said.

But there are items he would love to have. One is a button of Lyndon B. Johnson. It was made when he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate. It has written on it, "Me and Roosevelt for Johnson."

"I would really love to have one of those," he said.

His eyes had a determined look in them. Probably a little more than he wanted to admit.