Learn About The History Of Envelopes

Learn About The History Of Envelopes

Envelopes as we know them were unheard of until the mid 19th century. Prior to this period envelopes were handmade or actually part of the letter. The letter would be folded in two and then a wax seal would be used. This involved a certain colour of wax being mantled onto the point where the paper meets and then a distinctive seal would be stamped into the molten wax.

The delivery of the folded letter with the wax seal unbroken would ensure that the letter had not been compromised, this was the first style of envelope. As time progressed handmade envelopes were commonplace and then in 1845 the first patent was passed for an envelope manufacturing machine. This revolutionised envelope production however the initial envelopes needed to be cut before being fed into the machine to form the rectangle design that would be sealed by a paste.

The British government then took monopoly control of the postal service and introduced the diamond design envelope and the first adhesive stamp, the Penny Black. The initial envelope was simply decorative wrapping and was a bit of a marketing gimmick with illustrations. These illustrations were not taken seriously and the line was recalled and remade with a different set of illustrations.

The usefulness of the wrapper, decorations aside was realised by the British public as they could put the letter into the envelope then affix a stamp meaning that the postage had already been paid, safe in the knowledge it would be delivered to the recipient. The diamond shaped wrapper spread across the globe and the foundations for the modern envelope as we know it were born.

The style of envelope has remained remarkably similar to the original diamond design and the major changes have been in the technical manufacture of envelopes. Modern designs have very specific requirements in most developed countries so machines are needed that can produce to these standards. As with most things there are international standard sizes and the American standard sizes.

With contemporary postage it is essential that not only the standard sizes of the envelopes are in place, but that the envelopes are formatted correctly with details. Due to the modern postal service using sorting machines the address details have to be entered in a standard place, in Russia they even provide boxes to write the relevant numbers in so that they are ensured to be read.

Envelopes have undergone mass changes over the years and they are still used for many diverse purposes. The aerogram is an extremely similar format to the older folded and sealed letter whilst the Japanese use decorative envelopes to make bereavement offerings at funerals. Envelopes are available from a wide variety of providers online and in a massive array of styles.

Dominic Donaldson is an expert on envelopes and contributes to trade publications on the subject.