Wisconsin Library Heritage Center

The Wisconsin Library Heritage Center is a program of the Wisconsin Library Association Foundation promoting understanding and appreciation of the history of libraries and librarianship in Wisconsin.

Community Advertising Envelopes

Posted by Larry T. Nix
Larry T. Nix
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on Saturday, November 21, 2009 in Library artifacts

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One way that communities in the first two decades of the 20th century sought to attract new businesses was through advertising on envelopes.  These envelopes typically included pictures on the front of the envelope that depicted significant buildings and attractions in the community.  The back of these envelopes included written text which made the case for locating in a particular community. During this same period new public library buildings were being built in communities across the country, many as the result of grants from philanthropists such as Andrew Carnegie.  So it is not surprising that libraries are often one of the buildings being depicted on the front of the envelope. The envelope above is for the community of Stoughton and it has an image of the building that housed the city hall, the library, and the opera house. This envelope was mailed in September of 1905. In December of 1905 Stoughton received a grant from Andrew Carnegie to build a separate public library building. Both buildings are still in existence in Stoughton and the Carnegie building has been incorporated into an expanded public library. A previous post shows postcards depicting both buildings. A community advertising envelope for Sheboygan can be seen here. In 1992 the Postal History Foundati0n in Tucson, Arizona received a collection of 1,204 community advertising envelopes. An analysis of the envelopes found that Wisconsin communities had the second highest number of envelopes - 75. Only Michigan with 76 envelopes had more.


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