One “published and sold by George D. Jewett”, the other by “Wm. C. Hale”, both of Hartford, Connecticut: 1853. Envelope or Cover. Both envelopes are postally used and measure approximately 5” x 3”.
One features five morose workmen passing a bottle within a scroll that reads “Intemperance is the Curse of the World. Three vignettes on the left show a group of men brawling outside of a saloon, a woman and child entering a pawn shop, and several men using a hatchet and sledgehammer to destroy barrels labeled “Demon Gin” and “Rum”. On the right, above a slogan that reads, “Execution, Operation & the effects of the Maine Law” are two vignettes, one showing a happy couple in front a large home and a dignified man wearing a sash that reads “Love, Purity, and Fidelity” standing in an idyllic garden. It bears a North Chester, Massachusetts manuscript postmark dated June 20. It is accompanied by a Philatelic Foundation Expert Committee certificate attesting to its “Genuine Usage. The envelope contains a Quaker letter from Farmington, dated June 29, 1853 that reads in part:
“Friend Sewall Dear Sir: Mr Fields has proposed to purchase the Pew in the Meeting house owned by yourself & me on the condition that he can pay in boots & shoes at his shop. . .. “
The second envelope features a snake within a banner that reads, “Intemperance is the Bane of Society.” On the left are vignettes showing a drunken brawl outside a saloon, a woman selling her cooking pot to a pawn broker, a prostitute with breasts exposed dropping her young child to the ground while she sits in a drunken stupor at a street-corner gin stall (no doubt inspired by William Hogarth’s famous engraving, Gin Lane). The vignettes on the right show happy families with a large home, church, and “Savings Bank” in the background. The letter is franked with a 3-cent Washington stamp (Scott #11), struck with a barred cancel handstamp and a circular postmark that reads “New Britain / Ct. / Oct 23”. No contents.. Very good. Item #009766
These covers are based on a propaganda envelope designed by James Valentine of Dundee, Scotland. Valentine was a printer and active in a variety of progressive causes including prison reform, abolition, penny postage, and temperance. Valentine was an associate of Elihu Burritt, another all-round social justice activist who advocated the use of propaganda envelopes such as these to publicize causes via the mail.
These envelopes have been “Americanized” by referencing “the Maine Law”, which refers to that state becoming the first to fully prohibit (save for medicinal use) the sale of any alcoholic beverage in 1851. (For more information, see Bodily, Jarvis, and Hahn’s British Pictorial Envelopes of the 19th Century.)
Scarce. Stamp Auction Network and the Rare Book Hub show that only six Valentine-derivative temperance covers in similar condition have sold at auction since 2010 with an average sale price of $723.