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COLLECTION Identifier: MS Am 1084 (328)

Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Civil War Commandery of the State of Massachusetts collection: Patriotic covers


This is a portion of the MOLLUS Civil War collection. It includes approximately 5000 unused United States Civil War patriotic covers (envelopes) printed or embossed with images. Covers are predominantly from the Union side, but there are a few from the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.).


  • 1861-1865

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.


9.2 linear feet (10 boxes and 1 volume)
Envelopes in this collection are unused, were printed in many ink colors, and some are also hand-colored. The size varies slightly, but most are approximately 8 x13 cm. (3 x 5 inches). Most envelopes are stamped with blue numbers on verso, probably done by the MOLLUS organization. This numbering order is no longer used to arrange the items (see arrangement note above). Unless stated otherwise, the envelopes can be assumed to be unused and the color of paper to be white. If the piece is not listed exactly as it appears in the Weiss catalog, it is cataloged near its variant and the details of variation noted. Text (sometimes called verse, title, and inscription in cover literature) is transcribed but normalized. A complete index to text appears in Weiss. If known, the following are noted: imprint names (publisher, printer or vendor), place of origination, date, color of ink design, envelope color, any manuscript annotations, unusual characteristics, and Weiss (and occasionally Walcott) number.

Biographical / Historical

The Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), one of the military societies founded at the close of the Civil War, was established on April 15, 1865 after the death of President Abraham Lincoln. Three Union Army officers met in Philadelphia to discuss the rumors from Washington of a conspiracy to destroy the Federal government by assassination of its leaders. The officers decided to form an organization that could help thwart future threats to the national government. A mass meeting of Philadelphia veterans was held on April 20, 1865, to pledge renewed allegiance to the Union and to plan for participation in the funeral arrangements for the President. The Philadelphia officers, who served as an honor guard for President Lincoln's funeral cortege, met again after the funeral was over to establish a permanent organization of officers and former officers patterned after the Society of Cincinnati established after the Revolutionary War. The name they chose, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, first appeared in a notice calling a meeting on May 31, 1865, at Philadelphia's Independence Hall.

The Massachusetts Commandery of MOLLUS was instituted on March 4, 1868, and organized two days later. There were 13 charter members who all became officers in the new organization. Brigadier General Francis A. Osborn was the first commander, followed by Generals Devens, Rockwell, and Martin. From early days they began to collect materials associated with the Civil War and for a time established a museum at the top of the Cadet Armory on Columbus Avenue in Boston. A significant part of the museum's collection was visual images associated with the Civil War, much of which was donated by MOLLUS members.

Patriotic cover art began to be produced extensively in the United States from the earliest days of the Civil War. Printing firms in both the North and the South produced covers including lithographed images printed (or occasionally embossed) on envelopes depicting satires of enemy politicians and generals, tributes to heroism, and a huge variety of other patriotic images using caricatures, allegories, slogans, portraits, etc. relating to Civil War events and personalities. The envelopes were intended to be used and they would show the patriotic feeling of the sender, or would express a particular political sentiment, often of a propaganda nature. The great majority of designs were created and sold during the war from 1861 to 1865, however some were also produced after the war, apparently for collectors.


The MOLLUS collection of patriotic covers is organized into series established by William R. Weiss, Jr. in his: The Catalog of Union Civil War Patriotic Covers. (William R.Weiss, Jr.: Bethlehem, PA, 1995). Weiss' work was based on the standard catalog first used to identify Civil War patriotic covers, The George Walcott Collection of Used Civil War Patriotic Covers (1943) compiled by Robert Laurence and commonly referred to as "The Walcott Book," and Robert Grant's The Handbook of Civil War Patriotic Envelopes and Postal History (1977).

Envelopes were sorted into the "Weiss" subject categories that reflect topics of the Civil War era; then arranged by Weiss number. The Weiss number is pencilled on the upper left hand corner on the verso of each piece. It should be noted that Weiss states that: 1) when there are two variant design subjects present on one envelope, the piece is listed under the subject that appears first in the topical outline ("subject order"); 2) designs are arranged by classification first; and dominant subjects come first. See Weiss for further explanation. If the envelope was not found in the Weiss book, it is recorded at the end of the appropriate series under the old Walcott number. If the piece is not found in either book, it is listed last in the appropriate series with a brief description. If the piece is a variant from the Weiss book listing, it can vary by: color of paper, color of ink, text, and publisher given or not given. If the item is not found in either book and it does not fit into any "like" series, it is described in series "L - Covers not classified in above series."

Organized into the following "Weiss" series:
  1. A. Famous people (FP)
  2. ___ 1. George Washington (FP-GW) Box 1
  3. ___ 2. Abraham Lincoln (FP-AL) Box 1
  4. ___ 3. Winfield Scott (FP-WS) Box 1
  5. ___ 4. George McClellan (FP-GM) Box 1
  6. ___ 5. Elmer Ellsworth (FP-EE) Box 1
  7. ___ 6. John C. Fremont (FP-JF) Box 2
  8. ___ 7. Portraits - Military (FP-PM) Box 2
  9. ___8. Portraits - Non-military (FP-PNM) Box 2
  10. B. Scenes (SC)
  11. ___1. Military battles, expeditions and troop movements (SC-MB) Box 2
  12. ___2. Military - non-battle (SC-NB) Box 3
  13. ___ 3. Washington, D.C. scenes (SC-DC) Box 3
  14. ___4. Non-Washington scenes (SC-NW) Box 3
  15. C. Corps (CO) Box 3
  16. D. Regiments (RE) Box 3
  17. ___1. Larger size designs (RE-L)
  18. E. States (ST) Box 3 (through ST-59) Box 4 (from ST-60)
  19. F. Caricatures (C)
  20. ___1. Animals - dogs (C-A-D) Box 4
  21. ___2. Animals - elephants (C-A-E) Box 4
  22. ___3. Animals - horses and mules (C-A-H) Box 4
  23. ___4. Animals - reptiles (C-A-R) Box 5
  24. ___5. Animals - rodents (C-A-RO) Box 5
  25. ___6. Animals - others, including insects (C-A-O) Box 5
  26. ___7. Birds (C-B) Box 5
  27. ___8. Blacks (C-BL) Box 5
  28. ___9. Devils (C-D) Box 5
  29. ___10. Flags (C-F) Box 5
  30. ___11. Ships (C-SH) Box 5
  31. ___12. Skulls (C-SK) Box 5
  32. ___13. Other (C-O) Box 5
  33. ___14. Union overprints on Confederate designs (C-C-U) Box 5
  34. ___15. People (C-P-A through C-P-Z) Box 5 (through C-P-D) Box 6 (from C-P-E)
  35. G. Eagles (E)
  36. ___1. Facing left (E-L) Box 6
  37. ___2. Facing right (E-R) Box 6 (through E-R-108) Box 7 (from E-R-109)
  38. H. Flags (F)
  39. ___1. Overall designs (F-O) Box 7
  40. ___2. Two or more flags (F-T) Box 7
  41. ___3. Flags facing left (F-L) Box 7
  42. ___4. Flags facing right (F-R) Box 7 (through FR-200 Box 8 (from F-R-199)
  43. I. Male designs (M)
  44. ___1. One male with no flag (M-A) Box 8
  45. ___2. Male with one or more other person (M-T) Box 8
  46. ___3. With flag, but not holding the flag (M-F) Box 8
  47. ___4. On flagpole (M-P) Box 8
  48. ___5. Holding a flag and flag points right (M-R) Box 8
  49. ___6. Holding a flag and flag points left (M-L) Box 8
  50. J. Female designs (F)
  51. ___1. With one or more person (F-P) Box 9
  52. ___2. Sitting alone (F-SI) Box 9
  53. ___3. Standing, no flag (F-ST) Box 9
  54. ___4. Standing, with flag (F-F) Box 9
  55. K. Other subjects (O)
  56. ___1. Bells (O-B) Box 10
  57. ___2. Cannons (O-C) Box 10
  58. ___3. Poems (O-P) Box 10
  59. ___4. Shields (O-S) Box 10
  60. ___5. Stars (O-ST) Box 10
  61. ___6. Transportation (O-T) Box 10
  62. ___ 7. Westervelt designs (O-W) Box 10
  63. ___8. Words U.S., Union, etc. (O-US) Box 10
  64. ___9. Miscellaneous (O-M) Box 10
  65. L. Covers not classified in above series
  66. ___1. Tract House (L-1) Box 10
  67. ___2. Country flags (L-2) Box 10
  68. ___3. Miscellaneous (L-3) Box 10
  69. M. Scrapbook of clipped covers

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

*2001M-13. Deposited by the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, 1938 ; gift 1974 May 20.

Separated Materials

The remainder of the MOLLUS collection, including images, manuscripts, and printed material, is described in Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, collector. Civil War collection: Guide (MS Am 1084).

General note

Work used for series: William R. Weiss, Jr. The Catalog of Union Civil War Patriotic Covers. William R. Weiss, Jr.: Bethlehem, PA, 1995.

Processing Information

Processed by: Allison Andrews and Megan O'Shea with the assistance of Richard Miller and Bonnie Salt
Link to catalog
Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. Commandery of the State of Massachusetts, collector. Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States Civil War Commandery of the State of Massachusetts collection: Patriotic covers: Guide.
Houghton Library, Harvard College Library
Cataloging of this collection was made possible by the Ruth Miller Memorial Philanthropic Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more. The library's holdings of primary source material are managed by an expert staff and shared with scholars, students and the public in the reading room.

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