The other day while searching for an image of Pike’s Pale for my Lady Eve post, I happened upon a webpage of antique pinbacks, where Mark Lansdown displays his awesome collection of “vintage comic pinbacks from the 1890s to the 1950s.” What is a pinback? A pinback, or pin-back button, is one of those small buttons with a pucture or slogan on it that people wear on their short or on a hat. It’s fastened with a pin that’s in the back, and that’s why it’s called a pinback. Frankly, I’d always just called them buttons, but this is apparently the more official name for them. Over the years, they’ve been used for almost any promotional idea you could name. Political buttons, of course, but also for many others, for business, issue advocacy or just for fun. When I was younger, and lived back East, I used to frequent yard sales, flea markets and antique shows and amassed a show box full of antique pinbacks without really trying. That, and I used to work in the record business (back when there still were records) and buttons were a common feature of the music landscape. But because they’re relatively inexpensive, lots of people collect them seriously, and you can find out more at pinbacks.com, Legacy Americana or Buttonpalooza. Or read a short history at Zippy Pins or People Power Press.
So, the “I’m the Guy” series of pinbacks were created in the 1910s as a promotion for Hassan Cigarettes, who apparently created many different pinback series over the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The pinbacks were used as promotional giveaways or premiums when people bought their cigarettes. According to one source, the “I’m the Guy” phrase was coined by the famous humorist Rube Goldberg circa 1910. Apparently, “this was a stock saying by a character in a comic strip Goldberg drew. The phrase became very popular, and Goldberg elaborated it over time. He was even co-author of a song entitled ‘I’m the Guy,’ whose lyrics were largely comprised of variations on this catchphrase.” You can see tons more of the I’m the Guy pinbacks, but three of them were decidedly beer-themed and are displayed below. Enjoy.