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Guide to the Patriotic Envelope Collection
[1861-1865], 1898
 PR 117

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
(212) 873-3400


New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Janet Murray, Susan Benz, and Alexandra Bernet; database migrated to Archivist Toolkit by Jennifer Gargiulo, 2016

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on August 20, 2019
Finding aid written in English.

Historical Note

The printed envelope came into use in America in 1840 and was first used for advertising or satirical purposes. In the 1850s to 1860s 'corner cards,' with printing applied in the upper left-hand side of the front of the envelope, were common. By the onset of the Civil War, printed envelopes were already in use as a propaganda medium. Lithography was the main mode of printing used for envelopes, especially for colored designs. Printed envelopes were sold either as a single item or with matching paper.

New York City was considered the printing capital of the United States from about 1825 and continued to be so during the Civil War years. Despite New York's official status as a Union state, many residents of New York City were not so assuredly in favor of the Union, or even of the war itself. In 1863 the city saw riots in Union Square and elsewhere protesting the draft and other war hardships. Such commotion in the nation's biggest city may have added more weight to the need for distribution of pro-Union propaganda. Printed envelopes continued to be popular throughout the century, and patriotic envelopes were printed once again during the Spanish American War in 1898.

Many envelopes in the Civil War series were printed by Charles Magnus, a prominent New York City lithographer. Magnus came to the United States from Germany following the political upheavals in Europe in 1848. He was an accomplished lithographer, and developed a following of customers who purchased his many printed products - maps, games, lettersheets, and artistic prints as well as political envelopes.