History of Envelopes - Fun Facts

information from Wikipedia and U.S. Post office

Prior to 1845, hand-made envelopes were all that were available for use, both commercial and domestic. In 1845, Edwin Hill and Warren De La Rue were granted a British patent for the first envelope-making machine.

The "envelopes" produced by the Hill/De La Rue machine were not as we know them today. They were flat diamond, lozenge (or rhombus) -shaped sheets or "blanks" which had been pre-cut to shape before being fed to the machine for creasing and made ready for folding to form a rectangular enclosure. The edges of the overlapping flaps treated with a paste or adhesive and the method of securing the envelope or wrapper was a user choice. The symmetrical flap arrangement meant that it could be held together with a single wax seal at the apex of the topmost flap. (That the flaps of an envelope can be held together by applying a seal at a single point is a classic design feature of an envelope).

Have a print project in mind?

Use our easy online forms to place an order or request an estimate, or give us a call at (360) 738-4931. We are open and ready to help, Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM!

Nearly 50 years passed before a commercially successful machine for producing pre-gummed envelopes effectively as we know them today appeared.

The origin of the use of the diamond shape for envelopes is debated. However as an alternative to simply wrapping a sheet of paper around a folded letter or an invitation and sealing the edges, it is a tidy and ostensibly paper-efficient way of producing a rectangular-faced envelope. Where the claim to be paper-efficient fails is a consequence of paper manufacturers normally making paper available in rectangular sheets, because the largest size of envelope that can be realized by cutting out a diamond or any other shape which yields an envelope with symmetrical flaps is smaller than the largest that can be made from that sheet simply by folding.

The folded diamond-shaped sheet (or "blank") was in use at the beginning of the 19th century as a novelty wrapper for invitations and letters among the segment of the population that had the time to sit and cut them out and were affluent enough not to bother about the waste offcuts. Their use first became widespread in the UK when the British government took monopoly control of postal services and tasked Rowland Hill with its introduction. The new service was launched in May 1840 with a postage-paid machine-printed illustrated (or pictorial) version of the wrapper and the much-celebrated first adhesive postage stamp: the Penny Black- for the production of which the Jacob Perkins printing process was used to deter counterfeiting and forgery. The wrappers were printed and sold as a sheet of 12, with cutting the purchaser's task. Known as Mulready stationery, because the illustration was created by the respected artist William Mulready, the envelopes were withdrawn when the illustration was ridiculed and lampooned. Nevertheless the public apparently saw the convenience of the wrappers being available ready-shaped, and it must have been obvious that