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Collecting the ’50s Leaves this Collector Liking Ike

Earlier this week, I blogged about Richard Trimble, whose father invented the political slogan “I Like Ike” for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

A very scarce Ike dress is part of Harvey Sullivan’s collection.

Richard and his father might have liked that slogan more than anyone, but there’s a collector in Tennessee who is quite fond of it too.

Harvey Sullivan might be the big man on campus in his teaching day job, but when he gets home, Ike is king. Sullivan has a top-notch Ike collection.

“Although my collecting interests have diverged in some different directions,” Sullivan says, “my primary interest at this point in time consists of all different collectibles from the 1950s, and specifically Dwight D. Eisenhower. My Eisenhower collection spans his time as a triumphant general to the effort to draft him as a presidential candidate in 1948, to his two term presidency from 1953 to 1961.”

Sullivan’s Ike obsession runs in his family. Perhaps that’s why his interest ended up here after he had begun collecting political.

“My mother had marched for Eisenhower back in the 1950s, and that time period also interested me,” he said. “I found, moreover, that I had more Eisenhower buttons than others, so I decided that it would be good to specialize in that.”

As with many of us collectors, there was another factor.

“I had limited funds, so I felt I needed to remain focused,” he said.

Sullivan, who was born in Tennessee but made stops in Virginia and Florida over the years, is quite active on the American Political Items Collectors Facebook page, and has been since its inception. But more than just a collector, he has a reputation as one who loves the history behind the items.

The iconic Ike slogan is part of this campaign T-shirt.

On any given day, Sullivan will be on the site posting photos of his collection or items he’s looking to add to his collection. But his online reputation goes well beyond that. He has a passion for researching the items in his collection. It’s a devotion that others admire.

“My methods of research include leafing through old magazines, and placing phone calls to people who had first-hand experience with the campaign or the production of the item in question,” he says. “I have really gotten into researching Richard Nixon’s tenure as Eisenhower’s vice president, and how Nixon had to really fight to keep his job on multiple occasions, so I have enjoyed researching and obtaining numerous items related to the “Dump Nixon” movements of 1952 and 1956. I really love history, and as an amateur, I desire to probe as deeply as possible in order that I might rescue some history which may have been long-since forgotten.”

An “I Like Ike” ashtray that Sullivan owns.

Sullivan is particularly good at dating items from candidates who ran for the same office multiple times. Sometimes it involves clothing styles or slogans, or even hairlines on men.

“I try to encounter any sort of history I can with regard to the pieces I have obtained — that is, if I do not already know the history of an item beforehand,” he adds.

Ike items are more than just buttons to this collector, however. He has an impressive collection of political textiles. Say that about most folks’ collections and that usually means a few bandannas and perhaps a handkerchief or two. Sullivan has taken that further.

“I have really gotten into larger textiles and clothing. I have four skirts and three “Ike” dresses, and “Ike” apron, several hats, and a pair of banners, among other items. These add rich diversity to my buttons!”

Collecting for those of us obsessed with politicals can get a little frustrating at times when we realize there’s so much more out there that we don’t have in our collections. But Sullivan has a sensible outlook on all that.

“There still remain a number of Eisenhower items which I do not have…,” he says, but adding that “One can’t have it all!”

So true.

Harvey Sullivan poses with one of his Ike dresses and a large poster.

 


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