Why bother writing a letter when the envelope says it all? In the 1840s and 50s, envelopes with humorous scenes or advertisements pre-printed on them were common. When the 1860s embroiled the U.S. in Civil War, envelopes became the perfect delivery medium for propaganda. Today, hundreds of examples survive, preserved in archives and collections, and they remain a potent reminder of the prevailing attitudes, prejudices and regional beefs of the time. (They're also great examples of a uniquely 19th-century form of really overwrought sarcasm.) Here are some of the craziest. A probably self-evident warning: some of these are pretty racist. Link via boingboing.
"To cure rebellion: this is the pill that will cure or kill." Obviously a Union envelope, and a devilishly sarcastic one at that.
"The cause of all our troubles." A stomach-turner, I know. The question is: do you think this is a Union envelope, or a Confederate one?
This one speaks for itself. Nice detail here. The soldier hung from a tree forming the "D"? A-plus!
Another Union envelope, urging Southerners to give up on that whole "secession" thing. (Guess the illustrated envelope campaign didn't go so well.)
"Martyr" is such a charged word ...
No text necessary. An abolitionist image if there ever was one.
Get it? Ass!
Much more can be seen at the New York Historical Society's website.