Old Advertising Images from Postal Items (4)

advertising image for soap on an envelope

As soon as envelopes were used for sending business letters and advertisements in the mid-19th century, it was quickly realized that the envelope (cover) itself could be an advertisement; the potential customer could be influenced before they even tore open the envelope. Even if someone did not see the contents, they saw the logo and image.

When postal cards were created later in that century, businesses found them very useful for advertisements (and they only cost a penny). The images on postal items from around the turn of the 20th century are very collectable. I hope that this group (4 of 4) of such images provides a window into those times far gone. Many of the advertising images are examples of the finest art of the engraver and illustrator.

If you are interested in collecting advertising covers, be sure to check out Jim Forte's postal history search page. Just search for 'advertising'.

(Legal Stuff) These images are provided for educational and research purposes ONLY. If you use them for anything commercial, you are on your own. Some of the images here, although scanned from items over 100 years old, may STILL be COPYRIGHT or TRADEMARK for the companies that use them. In some cases, the companies may STILL be using them in 2020. You have been warned.


Bookseller Overall Ad Cover -- This nice overall printed advertising cover is from B. N. Rowe of Santa Ana, California. It was sent in 1889.

Advertisement for Flour -- This advertising cover touts 'Miles J.E.M. Flour'. The cover is cancelled by the very rare Milam and Holmes machine cancel dated in 1897.

Overall Ad Cover for Put-in-Bay Ohio -- This cover has multiple interests: (1) It pays first class postage with a Parcel Post stamp, used in August 1913, (2) The stamp is cancelled by a Columbia slogan cancel associated with the big event in Put-in-Bay, and (3) the cover is an overall printed advertisement for a resort on South Bass Island, Put-in-Bay, Ohio

Nice Advertising Cover from a Nursery -- While not showing an illustration, this cover is still quite nice, showing quality printing in blue, which provides a frame for the return address of The Nelson Callender Nursery, Thompson, Pennsylvania. The cover is cancelled in 1893.

Music Publisher Advertising Cover -- This cover is nearly full of advertising copy, showing what the White, Smith and Co. publishers offered. It was sent from Boston in 1883, and shows a Wesson handstamp canceller.

In that era before the Victrola (and radio), the sheet music publishing business was very big, as everyone needed some music to put on their parlor piano.

Logo of the Insurance Department of Kentucky -- This cover is cancelled by the very rare Milam and Holmes machine, 1897. Note that the logo of this state department has a belt design incorporated into it.

Buck Brothers Tools Logo of Deer Head (with Rack) -- This cover has an excellent image of a buck with rack. It advertises the tools from Riverlin Works, Millbury, Massachusetts. The cover is cancelled 1912.

A history article about the Buck Brothers.

Top Logo on Cover -- Illustration from cover advertising Snow King Flour, from around 1900.

Tea Advertisement -- This is the image of the return address portion of an illustrated cover from a grocer. The illustration is printed in a very nice carmine color, and includes not only the tea packaging, but the hand holding it. The name of the company selling this tea appears to be the Martin Gillet Co., Baltimore, Maryland. This cover dates from about 1900.

The label on the package states that the tea is 'pure'. This was a major issue in those days, as tea adulturation was very common. In fact, many products were filled with trash and junk to cheat the consumer. The Pure Food and Drug Acts of those times were an attempt to prevent such cheating. Until very recently, there was an official 'Tea Taster' for the United States, a position created more than 100 years ago to test and approve all imported tea products.

"Sphincter Grip" Flexible Spring Steel Galvanized High-Pressure Hose -- I found this image on an advertising envelope for flexible steel high-pressure hose. The name of the product appears to be the "Sphincter Grip" hose. Note the patent dates. The envelope dates from around 1900.

L. C. Smith Typewriter -- This advertisement appeared on a cover from the L. C. Smith company, an early manufacturer of typewriters. Note that the image shows the typewriter breaking both the pen and the sword!

When I was in school in the late 1950's and early 1960's, I learned to type on such a monster. Take it from me, the Smith typewriter is very heavy!

The cover dates from about 1900.

Shovel -- This is the "American Shovel" and the manufacturer is quite proud of it. This was part of an advertising cover for a hardware store, about 1900.

Scrubine Soap -- This is a great color image advertisement. It is on an envelope from the wholesaler for the soap, and dates from the 1900's. The company listed in the ad is C. O. Strutz of Chicago, Illinois.

Flax and Hand Logo -- This logo is quite interesting. I don't have any more information about it, so I have to guess that the company made linens. The "FLAX" name is in the middle of the hand, and the hand is surrounded by flax leaves. Most unusual. Dates from the 1880's.

Logo for Bear Lithia Spring Water -- This scan is from the left-hand portion of an illustrated advertising envelope from 1912. There is strong collector interest in this type of cover, primarily because the illustrations are very colorful, and their presence often enhances the value of the postal history item. This cover advertises Bear Lithia Water. I like it because it has a bear in the illustration.

I have some experience with Lithia Water, at least that from Ashland, Oregon. I spent three summers during college in Ashland, the Western 'home' of Lithia Water. Around the turn of the 20th century, Ashland was a watering hole, much sought-after by people taking the 'cure'. (Note that Lithium has been used as a medication for many years.)

While mineral springs are still very popular in Europe (and fully integrated into the health-care system), they declined in the U. S. early in the 20th century. Undoubtedly, Bear Lithia Water was a popular 'remedy' in its time.

Unfortunately, the lithia water in Ashland had a very strong metallic flavor, and you had to hold your nose and drink it quickly. I have been told that the brand of water advertised here does not have a strong flavor, and the springs are still operating in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

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Updated 7/22/20, 2:59 PM