Chicago: circa 1865. Unbound. This postally used cover promotes Artificial Leg Depots operated by Dr. Robert Bly in conjunction with the U.S. Government. It includes an illustration of the Bly artificial leg. The envelope bears an undated circular Chicago postmark and is franked with a 3-cent Washington stamp canceled by a segmented cork handstamp. The cover has some light soiling and is a little rough along the right edge where it was opened. Very good. Item #009251
In 1858, Dr. Bly created and patented a revolutionary new prosthetic device that was able to better imitate the movement of the human leg by incorporating a ball and socket ankle. The ball was made from ivory and the socket from rubber. This artificial leg provided more stable and gentle support as well as allowing its foot more natural inward and outward movement. During the Civil War, tens of thousands of men had their legs amputated, and demand for prosthetics was high. Expectedly, manufacturers fought hard for government contracts to provide artificial legs for the disabled. Although, Bly’s artificial leg was recognized as clearly a superior product, its cost was too great for the government to provide for all then men who needed one. Bly, however, was persistent, and after extensive negotiations, the government consented to him opening ‘government’ clinics throughout the country. While the government could not afford to cover the full cost of his devices, it allowed disabled soldiers to order a Bly leg if they agreed to pay the additional cost themselves. Bly opened his first clinic in Rochester, New York, but demand for his legs was so great that he soon began to expand business to the west and south. By the summer of 1865, he had established leg depots at New York City, Richmond, Augusta, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Chicago.A scarce philatelic record related to the astounding loss of limbs during the Civil War and the follow-on demand for prosthetic devices. As of 2019, no other advertising envelopes are for sale in the trade, held by institutions, or have been sold at auction, however an ex-library copy of a Bly advertising pamphlet is currently for sale by a bookseller and four of those pamphlets are held by institutions per OCLC.