Collection of American Tract Society, Philadelphia Tract House Civil War patriotic envelopes (covers) used by a soldier in the 31st Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry
Collection of American Tract Society, Philadelphia Tract House Civil War patriotic envelopes (covers) used by a soldier in the 31st Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry
Collection of American Tract Society, Philadelphia Tract House Civil War patriotic envelopes (covers) used by a soldier in the 31st Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry

Collection of American Tract Society, Philadelphia Tract House Civil War patriotic envelopes (covers) used by a soldier in the 31st Regiment of Iowa Volunteer Infantry

Published in Philadelphia; sent from vaious places: American Tract Society, 1862-1864. Unbound. 22 postally used envelopes, each with the same imprint on the reverse, “Tract House, 929 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia.” Large vignettes with either a Bible verse or encouraging aphorism are printed in the front of each, and related smaller vignettes and short pithy phrases are on the reverse. All are franked with 3-cent Washington stamps (Scott #65) postmarked at various locations, and all are in much better shape than usually found. Unfortunately, there are no letters. Very good. Item #009236

During the Civil War, a number of printing houses sold patriotic envelopes and lettersheets, often as ‘kits,’ for use by civilians and soldiers alike. They were most popular during 1861 and 1862, when Union confidence was high and the horrors of war yet unrealized. The American Tract Society was already a long-time publisher of religious tracts that were distributed by colporters and at Tract House in several cities. The Tract House of Philadelphia produced less jingoist, religious and temperance designs, however as noted philatelist, Richard Frajola,deter,omed it “evidently came late to the game and few of their envelopes were used and have survived.” It appears that their printing life-span was quite short as they are not listed in the Society’s House catalog, Publications of the American Tract Society, September, 1864. See Ten Years of Colportage by the American Tract Society, “Dating American Tract Society Publications through 1876” by S. J. Wolfe, and “Tract House Patriotics” by Richard Frajola. Not listed in Weiss.

This collection of Tract House covers were all sent by Musician Oliver Shibley of the 31st Iowa Volunteers to his wife at home in Clarence, Iowa. Although the regiment served from October of 1862 to June of 1865, Oliver use of these covers ends in March of 1864, probably when he used the last from his kit. The letters are dated in pencil on the reverse and postmarked from Illinois (Cairo), Tennessee (Memphis, Nashville), or Mississippi (Vicksburg), and follow the path of the 31st’s campaigns which included the Battles of Chicasaw Bayou, Arkansas Post, Snyder’s Bluff, Vicksburg, and Lookout Mountain. Docketing on one of the Memphis envelopes reads “Received July 11th / Vicksburg”. It no doubt contained news of the fall of the city on July 4th.

This is the most complete group of these exceptionally scarce envelopes known. In 2010, Fajola created a philatelic exhibit using 21 of these exact envelopes. In it, he noted, “Quite probably the covers represent a nearly complete set of the different designs. . . .” The covers are from the Floyd E. Risvold Collection was sold during Spinks-Shreves Galleries Sale 121 in January of 2010. While none of these envelopes are currently for sale in the book-ephemera trade, individual examples occasionally show up in philatelic catalogs with sales prices exceeding $300. OCLC shows that nine examples are held by the Free Library of Philadelphia, and an unreported number by the Library Company of Philadelphia. The American Antiquarian Society has 14 examples in its holdings.

Price: $3,000.00