1860ís American Civil War Envelope Cover Works of Art & Propaganda
Original & Rare American Civil War Cover-Envelope "SECESSION - EXTINGUISHER" Text reads: "Though not a wizard by profession, Old Uncle Sam knows how to save his Bacon, and deprive Secession Of its leading spirit--Traitor Davis." Printed & Published by: Copyright secured Brown & Ryan, New York. Anti-Confederate American Civil War Illustrated Cover-Envelope copyright 1861, - 5 3/4 x 3 1/8. Blk. die ink, printed on early American made envelope with full flap closure and gum on verso; a lovely organic light golden-browning hue seen with minimal abrasion. Overall, fine/very fine condition.
“Secession--Extinguisher” Uncle Sam (e.g., United States National Personification of American Government/Washington) had been divided during the 1850’s on questions surrounding the expansion of slavery and the rights of slave owners.
In 1860, these issues broke the Democratic Party into Northern and Southern factions, and a new Constitutional Union Party appeared. In the face of a divided opposition, the Radical Republican Party, dominant in the North, secured a majority of the electoral votes, putting Abraham Lincoln in the White House with almost no support from the South.
Before Lincoln’s inauguration, seven slave-holding Southern states declared their secession from the U.S. and formed the Confederacy, ultimately sparking the American Civil War and the Traitor Jefferson Davis (e.g., President of the Confederate States of America and a state rights Democrat.
After Davis was captured in 1965, he was accused of treason. He was never tried and was released after two years. While not disgraced, Davis had been displaced in ex-Confederate affection after the war by his leading general, Robert E. Lee. Davis, wrote a memoir entitled “The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government,” which he completed in 1981.
By the late 1880s, he began to encourage reconciliation, telling Southerners to be loyal to the Union. Ex-Confederates came to appreciate his role in the war, seeing him as a Southern patriot, and he became a hero of the Lost Cause in the post-Reconstruction South.
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.