Most pictorial envelopes approximately 3 x 5 1/2 inches. Printed or embossed with caricatures, allegories, slogans, portraits, etc. relating to Civil War events and personalities. The vast majority is Union-oriented, for example of George Washington, Jefferson Davis, Benjamin Franklin, or Abraham Lincoln. State seals figure prominently, as do flags. Other significant topics in the collection are animals (especially the eagle), liberty, soldiers, sailors, and Uncle Sam.
The New-York Historical Society's Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections owns approximately 3,000 unused envelopes dating from the Civil War years. Of these, 490 were scanned for this project. Most were produced by New York printers between 1861 and 1865. Some are quite crude; others are beautifully designed and executed, many in color, some gilt. Some envelopes show portraits or caricatures of politicians. A significant New York printer, Charles Magnus, is represented by thirty-six envelopes, many showing Civil War camp scenes derived from photographs.