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 Library Envelopes Sent Through the Mail

Envelopes which have been sent from or to libraries through regular mail channels constitute one of the most interesting areas of postal librariana. These envelopes contrast markedly from from "souvenir envelopes". 

Libraries have been using the mail system to conduct their daily business throughout their history. It is impossible to determine how many envelopes have been mailed from or to libraries, but it certainly is in the tens of millions. The vast majority of these envelopes have been routinely discarded as is common business practice. Because of their ephemeral nature, those remaining may number only in the thousands or tens of thousands. No one knows for sure. In any case, library envelopes are scarce and difficult to locate. 

I began collecting envelopes related to libraries as a result of my interest in library postage stamps and an interest in library history. Stamp collectors often collect envelopes as well as postage stamps. Envelopes are referred to as covers by philatelists.

One of the most interesting aspects of library cover collecting is that you can never know what is out there waiting to be discovered. I have searched through hundreds of thousands of covers at stamp shows and on the Internet looking for these elusive treasures. By aggressively searching for library covers and with the assistance of a number of cooperative stamp dealers and collectors, I have accumulated a collection of several thousand items from all over the world and from many different time periods. I have created an exhibit that includes many of my American library covers.

Collectors of covers say that every cover has a story. The story they are referring to is often only the story of how the cover got from one place to another through one or more postal systems. I am also interested in that story, but I am equally interested in the story the cover tells about libraries and librarians. Sometimes the stories turn out to be mysteries as well.  The covers below are good examples of this.

Links to pages on this site with images of commercial envelopes related to libraries:

Abiel Abbot and the Peterborough Town Library
http://www.libraryhistorybuff.org/peterborough.htm

Benjamin Franklin Stevens
http://www.libraryhistorybuff.org/bfstevens.htm

The R. A. Brock Covers
http://www.libraryhistorybuff.org/envelopes-brock.htm

New York Mercantile Library Delivery Stamps
http://www.libraryhistorybuff.org/nyml.htm

Civic Advertising Envelopes
http://www.libraryhistorybuff.org/envelopes-civic.htm

The Wisconsin Free Library Commission
http://www.libraryhistorybuff.org/wflc.htm

World War I and the American Library Association
http://www.libraryhistorybuff.org/ala-ww1.htm

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Last updated: 01-12-09   2005-2009 Larry T. Nix
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