Collecting Patriotic Song
and Poem Covers

By Bill Weiss

The song/poem envelopes produced by J.A. Howells of Jefferson, Ohio during the 1860-1866 period are, because they often were used by soldiers writing home, extensively collected as an important area of Civil War Postal History. Several books on Civil War patriotic covers include them, and most collectors of Civil War patriotic covers include them in their collections.

Larger firms, such as Magnus and Magee produced hundreds of different patriotic songsheet and lettersheet designs, but Howells was apparently the only printing firm which so widely produced these envelopes. Perhaps they were scared from competition by the famous TWENTY ENVELOPES OF VARIOUS SIZES, COLORS AND SONGS FOR TEN CENTS, which was printed on many envelopes.

Sometime in the early 1850s, the Howells family, which previously operated the Astabula Sentinel newspaper, moved to Jefferson, Ohio and subsequently established a business which primarily sold envelopes and paper products. The business must have been successful, for in 1866, a newspaper ad offered a wide variety of products including song sheets, song envelopes, patriotic envelopes, pens, games, scrapbooks, etc. Another ad offered an extensive selection of legal forms.

One famous Howells family member was William Dean (1837-1920), a successful author and poet. He was involved in the family business and some have speculated that it was he who composed most of the song verses found on the envelopes. Howells song verses always filled the left half of the cover and were surrounded by various fancy borders. A separate study might be made of the borders as many songs can be found with different style borders and on different color envelopes too.

As of 1995, I record over 100 different song titles published by Howells. Since some song titles can, as previously noted, be found with differing borders or color envelopes, this then presents the collector with a modestly challenging collecting field. I am not aware of anyone forming a complete collection. America
Angel of Patience, The
Army Hymn
Be Contented
Be Kind to Each Other
Beautiful Thoughts
Bend Softly Down
Beneath the Stars
Better Late Than Never
Blessed Be Letters
Brave at Home, The
Bruised Heart, The
Cause, The
Cavalry Charge
Cavalry Song
Country Home
Day, The
Days Gone By
Departed Youth
Do They Miss Me At Home?
Do They Think of Me At Home?
Fireside Memories
Flow On, Thy Shing River
Freedom's Triumph
From The Pen
God Save The Union
Hand to One Another, A
Home Again
How Is Gold Today?
Hymn for the Hour
I Love But Thee
I Miss Thee So
I Think of Thee
I Watch For Thee
Improve Lifes Hour
In Memoriam
Isle of Beauty
Kiss Me Before You Go
Last Star, The
Letter, A
Letter, The
Life Let Us Cherish
Lifes Labor
Live For Something
Long Ago, The
Message, A
By Beau Thats In The Army
My Country
My Friends
My Last Segar
National Song, A
Never Again
Never Despair
No Letter Yet
Nothing Is Lost
Not Forgotten
Not Married Yet
Ohio, The
On Guard
One Line From Thee
Promise of Wisdom, The
Robin Adair
Sit Down Sad Soul
Soldier, The
Soldier's Letter
Song My Mother Sang, The
Speak No Ill
Suicide, The
Sweets of Liberty
Sword, The
These Tears
Thou Art Not Forgotten
Thou Wilt Never Meet Me More
Thou Wilt Think of Me (Original)
300,000 Strong
Tis Home Where The Heart Is
Tis Sweet to be Remembered
To a Friend
To a Wife
To a Sister
To an Envelope
To an Old Friend
To Lucy
To My Brother
To The Absent
Today and Tomorrow
Too Late
Trip Lightly
Uncompleted Labors
Union Forever (2 styles)
Waiting For the Mail
We Miss Thee at Home
What Can the Matter Be?
When Through Life
World, The
Write Often
Write Soon