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U.S. Civil War Collection

Identifier: MSS-260 -BC

Scope and Content

This collection combines three collections of Civil War material. The material dates from 1858 to 1926. Virginia Langham Olmsted donated the original collection of 98 patriotic envelopes to the University of New Mexico in 1975. These patriotic envelopes depict Civil War cartoons from a Union viewpoint. Included in this group is an envelope decorated with a popular caricature of the early war period drawn in 1860 by Frank Beard, called "Why Don't You Take It?" The drawing is General Winfield Scott as a bulldog guarding a rib of beef (Washington, D.C.) from Jefferson Davis who appears as a greyhound. The cartoon sold over 100,000 copies, and was distributed widely in the North. A simplified version of the cartoon was also circulated on envelopes. Other images on the envelopes are American flags, eagles, and various designs of stars and the Liberty Bell. A number of the envelopes contain various images of Jefferson Davis as the devil, the fox from Aesop's grape fable, and a traitor being hung.

Material in folders 3 and 4 are two later additions to the original collection. They contain correspondence of Union soldiers to family members; military papers; orders; Quartermaster invoices; receipts; inventory and inspection reports for the New York Cavalry, 16th Regiment; pay vouchers for Union soldiers; requisitions from 1859 for Fort Adams, R. I.; and power of attorney documents dated May-June 1864, for Charles F. Blattan, an attorney in Missouri, to receive pay of various Union soldiers in Company C in the German Regiment, Missouri Volunteers (Benton County Home Guards). There are also orders and bonds of Confederate States of America, dating to 1864 and 1865.

In November 1999, two additional small collections were merged into this collection. The first consists of a single handwritten letter, dated Fort Craig, New Mexico, September 30, 1861. The letter was from W. Ayrs, a New Mexico volunteer, to William Borchert. At the end of his letter, W. Ayers asks to be sent more envelopes since he "can not get them for love nor money." This collection was originally MSS 204 SC, "W. Ayrs Letter."

The other small collection incorporated into this collection, formerly MSS 270 SC, "U.S. Civil War Maps" contains maps of Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Port Hudson; a plate from Harper's Weekly of eastern Virginia; article typescripts about Richmond, Va., Shiloh National Military Park, Chichmauga and Chattanooga National Military Park; and brochures on the Petersburg National Military Park, and Richmond, Va.

A fourth collection, Thomas I. Jones letter (MSS 155 SC) was incorporated into this collection in June 2000 (Folder 7).

A fifth collection, W. J. Stephens manuscript (MSS 135 SC) was incorporated into this collection in August 2000 (Folder 8). This collection consists of a letter written by Stephens, a Union soldier stationed at Camp Wilcox, Alexandria, VA, to his father. The letter is dated June 11, 1861.


  • 1858-1926

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.


In April 1861 the American Civil War began with the shelling of Fort Sumter near Charleston, S.C. America's costliest war lasted until April 1865. When it was over more than 620,000 Americans had been killed, the American national identity was preserved and chattel slavery ended.

Both the North and the South used various methods of propaganda to promote their causes. One was the patriotic envelope; a device also used during other American wars. Envelopes were decorated with flags, mottos, patriotic symbols and devices, portraits of generals, and small cartoons and caricatures providing commentary on the progress of the war and the changing sentiments of the people who used them. The envelopes reflect patriotism, sentimentality, and the realities of a soldier's life during wartimes. They also document battles, pay tribute to heroes, and satirize opposing views. These images were taken from lithographic cartoons or were drawn especially for the purpose of illustrating the envelopes. There are almost 2,500 distinct examples of Union patriotic envelopes; produced by more than 277 envelope printers and manufacturers during the Civil War. The illustrations range from simple drawings or engravings to elaborate lithographed scenes in nearly full-color. The envelopes were sometimes issued in series, with several numbered versions of a particular image.


1 box

Related Material

Eli H. Bailey Logbook, May 1, 1863 to November 8, 1863 Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico United States Army Quartermaster Contracts Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico

Relevant Secondary Sources

  • Benjamin, Maynard H.History of Envelopes, 1840-1900. [Alexandria, Va.]: Envelope Manufacturers Association, 1997
  • Giaquinta, Joyce, "Patriotic envelopes." The Palimpset, 55 (Nov/Dec 1974):178-183
  • Murrell, William. A History of American Graphic Humor, vol. I, (1747-1865). New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1933
  • Wait, Gary E. April 1997."Cartoons and Caricatures of the Civil War." Dartmouth College Library Bulletin, 37(n.s.) no. 2, p.1-8. [Online]: [15 October 1999]
Finding Aid of the U.S. Civil War Collection, 1858-1926
Processed by T.S. Reining
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • June 28, 2004: PUBLIC "-//University of New Mexico::Center for Southwest Research//TEXT (US::NmU::MSS 260 BC::U.S. Civil War Collection)//EN" "nmu1mss260bc.sgml" converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131