Would You

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Text on Button Would YOU?
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White button with a blue checkerboard border and red text.

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This phrase could refer to asking the reader for familiar acquaintance. It is one of a series of suggestive novelty buttons issued by Johnson Smith & Company in the 1930s. The buttons in this series all share the visual features of blue and white alternating rectangles around the perimeter of the button with red sans serif font boasting flirty expressions. The frivolous and fun nature of these buttons and other novelty goods produced in the 1920s and 1930s was purported by Johnson Smith & Co. as “provid[ing] an escape for people wracked with economic struggle brought on by WWI and the Great Depression” (Johnson Smith Company, LinkedIn).

Johnson Smith & Co. originated in 1914 as a novelty item mail-order company based in Chicago, IL. The company later moved to Racine, WI, Detroit, MI, and ultimately, Bradenton, FL. Though their website is now defunct, it was active as of 2012. Johnson Smith & Co. often advertised in print media aimed at young adults such as Action Comics, Boys’ Life, Popular Mechanics, and MAD. These ads and larger catalogs were influential in the development of American graphic design.


Japecake. (2011). RetroWacktive: The 1940s Johnson Smith catalog, part II. Humor & Popular Culture & Worlds & Ampersands. https://japecake.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/retrowacktive-the-1940-johnson-smith-catalog-part-ii/

Johnson Smith Company. (n.d.) About Us. LinkedIn. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from, https://www.linkedin.com/company/johnson-smith-company.

Ted Hake. (n.d.) Johnson Smith Famous Novelty Supply House 1930s Suggestive Slogan Button. Ted Hake. Retrieved October 15, 2020 from, https://www.tedhake.com/JOHNSON_SMITH_FAMOUS_NOVELTY_SUPPLY_HOUSE_1930s_SUGGESTIVE_SLOGAN_BUTTON_-ITEM802.aspx

Sedelmaier, J.J. (2012, April 9). Amazing X-Ray Glasses And 9000 Other Novelties – Johnson Smith & Co. PRINT. Retrieved October 15, 2020, from https://www.printmag.com/post/amazing-x-ray-glasses-and-9000-other-novelties-johnson-smith-co

Catalog ID IB0311