Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Community Advertising Envelopes

One way that communities in the first two decades of the 20th century sought to attract new businesses was through advertising on envelopes. These envelopes typically included pictures on the front of the envelope that depicted significant buildings and attractions in the community. The back of these envelopes included written text which made the case for locating in a particular community. During this same period new public library buildings were being built in communities across the country, many as the result of grants from philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie. So it is not surprising that libraries are often one of the buildings being depicted on the front of the envelope. Although not common, over the years I have acquired a collection of a couple of dozen of these envelopes that include a library in the selection of illustrations. In 1992 the Postal History Foundati0n in Tucson, Arizona received a collection of 1,204 community advertising envelopes. An analysis of the envelopes found that communities from all states except Hawaii were represented in the collection. In terms of geographic representation 43% of the envelopes were from the Midwest, 30% from the East, 20% from the West, and 7% from the South. The state with the most envelopes was Iowa with a total of 77. My collection also includes more Iowa envelopes than any other state. Most of the envelopes were from the time period 1901 to 1910. The Sioux City Public Library is prominently represented on the envelope above which was mailed in 1908. The written text on the back of the envelope indicates that the library had 25,000 volumes. The public library was founded in 1877. Sioux City received Carnegie grants for two libraries totaling $85,000 in 1911. The building shown on the envelope above predates the main Carnegie building and the branch Carnegie building for Sioux City shown at the Carnegie Libraries in Iowa Project website. More community advertising envelopes can be seen here.

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