Sunday, January 2, 2022

Community Advertising Covers (Envelopes)


Sparta, WI

I’ve been a collector of envelopes (called covers by philatelists) related to libraries for more than 25 years. In my efforts to collect these I discovered a category of covers called “community advertising covers”.  These covers usually include multiple photographs or illustrations depicting prominent buildings and geographic features of a community (usually on the front of the cover) and written commentary extolling the virtues of living or doing business in the community (usually on the back of the cover). My personal collection of these covers numbers over 70 including examples from 18 states. I’m interested in these covers because an image of a library building is often featured on the cover, and the community's library is often touted as one of the advantages of living or doing business in the community in the commentary. These covers are also nice items to include in my philatelic exhibits about libraries. 

When I first began collecting these covers I came across an article from the Fall 1993 issue of The Heliograph, the journal of the Postal History Foundation in Tucson, AZ, which described a donation to the Foundation of community advertising covers.  The donation was from Charles Nettleship Jr. who had amassed a collection of 1204 community advertising covers (145 of these were photocopies).  According to the article all states except Hawaii were represented in the collection.  The largest percentage came from the Midwest (43%) followed by the East (30), then the West (20%) and finally the South (7%).  The article indicated that the largest number of covers were from the 1901 to 1910 period with the earliest from 1800 and the latest from 1975.

I have 18 Wisconsin community advertising covers and I thought an article about these covers might be a possibility for the Badger Postal History journal of the Wisconsin Postal History Society of which I am a member. While working on the article I contacted Valerie Kittel, Librarian of the Postal History Foundation to see if the Foundation still had the covers. She indicated that the collection had been sold.  The good news, however, was that along with the collection came an index card file in which Nettleship had meticulously described each cover.  This information had been transferred by the Postal History Foundation to a printed document which listed all the covers by state. Valerie graciously sent me the part of the document which included the entries for Wisconsin. With this information I was able to substantially improve my article “Wisconsin’s Community Advertising Covers” which was included in the November 2021 issue of Badger Postal History.  I have included selected examples of community advertising covers from my collection in this blog post.

Corsicana, TX 

Maquoket, IA

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