1860ís American Civil War Envelope Cover Works of Art & Propaganda

SKU: AUT7601


Original & Rare Civil War Cover-Envelope, the Palmetto Flag, text reads:  "WE ARE SEVEN."   Printed in the Confederate State of America Richmond, Va. Confederate American Civil War Illustrated Cover-Envelope copyright 1861, - 5 1/2 x 3 1/2.  Blk. die ink, printed on early British made envelope with full flap cover and gum on verso; a lovely organic light golden-browning hue seen and on verso, mounting residue. Overall, fine condition.

South Carolina, through her representatives in Congress and the public press, warned the country that in the event of Lincoln’s election she would withdraw from the Union, which she accordingly did and hoisted her own state flag; the palmetto three and crescent. 

This tragic character of the coming conflict did not for some time impress itself upon either side and the envelopes at first issue were to a great extent humorous. General Beauregard, who commanded at Fort Sumter, was represented as a hog dressed up in uniform, standing on his hind legs at “present arms,” with the inscription, “Gen. Boar on guard.” 

Actual hostilities were inaugurated on the 12th of April, 1861, by the firing on Fort Sumter. The advocates of secession in South Carolina had shown their political sentiments by using envelopes bearing the picture of their state flay accompanied by inscriptions like “State Rights,” “We Are The Seven,” (i.e., referred to the cotton states). “Southern Independence,” and “We Will Defend It With Our Lives And Fortunes.” 

South Carolina, on the 20th of December 1860, determined to secede from the Union and according to the newspaper of Charleston headed all items from the North or other states as “Foreign News.” The rebellious feeling at last culminated in the firing on Fort Sumter, when the United States refused to hand over to South Carolina the federal property within her borders. 

The printing and publications of pre-American Civil War envelopes began as early as the mid-1850’s, when north-south divisions began to take shape, but ended prior to the war's conclusion because most believed that it was too indulgent and expensive to continue production in a time of war. 

These Civil War envelopes, some of which have been called early versions of pictorial postcards, were very popular with collectors of patriotic propaganda. 

The subjects illustrated on these envelopes varied from the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy, to caricatures of important war heroes. Though popular with collectors, these envelopes are a very underutilized source of Civil War iconography. The majority of the envelopes are about 3 x 5” in size, and were published in nearly all of the major cities, with New York and Boston being the largest producers. 

In 1861 and the years that followed, many American men found themselves far from home. Farmhands from rural New York walked the streets of Washington, D.C., serving in the Union Army of the Potomac. Boys from Maine, fought in the forests of Virginia. More than 2.6 million men joined the Union Army over the course of the war, while roughly a million joined the Confederate forces. 

The volume of mail ticked upward with letters to distant homes, and when it was time to send a letter, soldiers and civilians alike reached for a new kind of envelope, freshly printed and decorated with red and blue flags, delicate engravings of eagles, poems about the girl left behind, or the faces of generals, whom people at home might never have seen. 

There were many such envelopes to choose from: over the course of the war, 10,000 or more Union designs were printed up, says Steven Boyd, a historian from Univ. of Texas, San Antonio. During the War Between the States, you could buy a hundred or more different designs in a single packet for one dollar. 

These patterns range from simple flags and mottos to macabre revenge fantasies, with the hanged bodies of Southern generals lining the road to Washington. For a brief period at the beginning of the war, envelopes and/or covers were printed in the Confederacy as well, and Southerners could send letters with a portrait of Jefferson Davis, “Our First President,” or any number of depictions of the new nation’s flag. 

In the South, pro-Confederate envelopes were being sold even before the first shots were fired, says Trish Kaufmann, a collector and expert on Confederate postal history. “They were the dissidents, the ones trying to drum up patriotic fervor” first, she pointed out. 

Again, envelopes, featuring the original Confederate flag—with seven white stars on a blue rectangle and a red-and-white-striped background—flew off the presses. When new states seceded, rushed printers scratched in new stars or just small crosses on their plates to update the flag. 

The South was not a manufacturing society, and it had to import it’s paper, as well as inks, from England also, from the North at times. With a Union blockade keeping ships from reaching Confederate ports, paper was soon scarce and by 1863, very few envelopes were being printed. 

As a result, there are envelopes or covers with portraits of General P.G.T. Beauregard, an early Confederate hero, but none of General Robert E. Lee or General Stonewall Jackson, as these two generals rose to prominence during the second half of the American Civil War.