Union College Civil War Era Patriotic Envelopes

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Union College Civil War Era Patriotic Envelopes
Seal of the Nation, arms of the free, Civil War Era envelope - Image Source

Collection Facts


Scope of Collection

This collection comprises a series of unmailed Civil War-era patriotic envelopes or covers that was presented to Union College by John M. Pearson.
The patriotic covers featured in this collection primarily depict themes supporting the Northern or Union cause. This includes political cartoons and caricatures of patriotic symbols and political messages both for and against the Northern and Southern leaders of the time. The first patriotic covers appeared in 1861 as commercial printing houses seized the opportunity to publish and sell these novelties as commentary on both sides of the conflict. However, production was relatively short lived as the printing of Confederate covers dropped by 1863 while the Union covers lasted only one year longer.

For more information about the Civil War patriotic covers, see:

“Patriotic Envelopes of the Civil War: The Iconography of Union and Confederate Covers” by Steven R. Boyd

“Advertising envelopes constitute another aspect of nineteenth-century popular culture. Simply an ordinary envelope to which a printer added a design promoting a product or cause, advertising envelopes served a dual purpose: they carried an enclosed letter or other material through the United States mail, and the design work on the outside of the envelope promoted various products, services, or ideas.”

“First appearing in the spring of 1861, patriotic envelopes became another component of this middle-class material popular culture.”

“Union Civil War Patriotic Covers: An Overview” by Steven R. Boyd, Elaine Prange Turney and David W. Hansen from: “Journal of American Culture” Volume 21, Issue 3, pages 1–12, Fall 1998

“In particular, the Union Patriotic Covers and the images on them-which included flags, cannons, eagles, globes, soldiers, prominent figures, women, and a host of others-quite literally show us popular opinion on key issues in the North from the bombardment of Fort Sumter to the end of the War four years later.”

“A Civil War Patriotic envelope is simply an envelope or cover of any size or color on which a printer has imprinted a patriotic design.”

“The Handbook of Civil War Envelopes and Postal History, volume 1” by Robert W. Grant

“George Walcott Collection of Used Civil War Patriotic Covers” by Robert Laurence

“The catalog of Union Civil War patriotic covers” by William R. Weiss

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