UF Professor Uses Vast Political Memorabilia Collection to Teach American History

Ubiquitous campaign buttons from the legendary1960 presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon are monetarily worth little, but are priceless to Jim Taylor, adjunct history and social studies professor for The University of Findlay.

Received during his fifth grade class’s mock presidential election, Taylor’s two buttons sparked his fascination with political memorabilia.

Years later, while a student at then-Findlay College, Taylor’s favorite professor would further cultivate his appreciation of the American past and instill in him the desire to teach it.

Combining those interests has, in turn, benefited and inspired generations of UF students.

Taylor’s collection totals nearly 4,000 items. Along with buttons, it includes porcelain busts of presidents, colorful posters, decorative stickers, replica furniture pieces and more.

As a member of the American Political Items Collectors, Taylor knows the value of his collection, but said it’s not what motivates him.

“You know, I’ll never sell any of this. To me its not the price of the piece, it’s more about the story each piece tells that determines its value to me,” Taylor said.
To enhance his lessons, Taylor arrives two hours before each of his classes to embellish the room with posters and historical relics.

“Especially in topics with history, it’s so easy for students to drift off during a lecture. You have to spice it up. They gotta see the history,” said Taylor. “Any type of visual so they can see the history you are talking about makes that connection for them to get engaged with the subject.”

Taylor said he learned much of his teaching style from his UF mentor.

“Dr. Wilfred Black taught me more than just history. He showed me the craft of teaching and what it took to be more than just another professor students had. Making that connection with students, being able to shape them to become a better citizens, is my goal every time I enter the classroom,” said Taylor.

Taylor also supervises student teachers for the College of Education.

Taylor’s ties to UF are further strengthened by the fact that he met his wife on campus while they were students, and because both his son and daughter are Oilers.

“I owe everything I have to the University. That’s why I always want to do my part. Forty-two years later, I still wake up every day with the same passion as I did when I first started,” said Taylor. “I share it all with my students so when they look back, they don’t see a boring gen ed, they see a meaningful class that helped influence their lives in one way or another,” Taylor said.