Victorian Advertising Lettersheets

by Tony Hitchcock

In the November 2010,issue of the PSS Journal Jim Brown enquires if any member has any information on the rarity, or otherwise, of these sheets and their value. I hope that the little I know will be of some assistance.

All the sheets have either embossed 1d STO dies ES7 or ES11; a few have ½d die ES18a, but the latter are not often seen. The last issues that came from the Edwardian era had stamp LW6 in scarlet and I was fortunate to see these some years ago. It seems that most, if not all, are rather difficult to find and some are only recorded from very few examples.

Pricing is again difficult and the only suggestion I can offer is to watch the auction houses! I have an old Phillips catalogue of illustrated envelopes and lettersheets dated 16 February 1989 in which prices range from 80-150 pounds and up to 400 pounds each but these are only estimates. Condition, as always, is important and very often these are poor, due in part to their large size and odd shape.

I have illustrated six sheets which date from 1874 to the early 1890s.

1. Farthing Patent Advertising Lettersheets.

This sheet carries embossed 1d ES7 and dates from 1874. The size is 345mm x 237mm, plus a top flap.

Outside and inside

Two adverts from the above lettersheet.

2. The Advertising Stamp Envelope Company.

Dating from 1877, the advertisers are from Birmingham and include a very interesting price list of coal per ton loaded onto trucks. Stamp is ES7; size is 300mm x 220mm.

Below - Enlargement of the panel above with details of The Advertising Stamped Envelope Company’s charges

3. Anglo-Colonial Letter Co. Ltd

Dating from late 1888, but only lasting about one year. The sheets bears a 1d embossed die ES.11. Tower Tea was advertised at between ¼d and 2 shillings per pound. Size was L shaped and 180mm x 123mm plus a side panel of 183mm x 120mm. The side flaps are not included.

Top Right - An advert from the other side of the lettersheet

Bottom Left - Details of the publisher on the underside of the flap

[Editor's Note: Alan Cotton has sent a scan of another example of an 'Anglo-Colonial Letter' advertising sheet. See p21]

4. The Halfpenny Letter Co. Ltd.

A very large sheet of double quarto size, some 408mm x 270mm bearing 1d embossed die ES11. Unlike Jim Brown's copy, mine emanates from Dublin in the 1880s and not from Scotland. The agent is Wm. Hickey, 19a, Mary Street, Dublin.

One half, of one side, of this lettersheet

5. The Halfpenny Closed Letter Co. Ltd.

This company published Henry Courts envelope, also bearing 1d ES11. It very interestingly has a coloured stick-in insertion showing the benefits of advertising through the scheme. The illustrator is George Cruikshank but this I think raises a problem! George Cruikshank Senior died on 1st February 1878 and the envelope was issued early in 1890. His son, born in 1866 and died in 1894, was also called George and he too was an illustrator. He thus lived during the currency of this envelope. My copy was cancelled at Paddington on 27 June, 1891 and addressed to Northampton.

Below - Detail of the publisher’s ‘offer’ from the panel above

6. The International Envelope Co. Ltd.

This has a ½d embossed stamp die ES18a (issued 1892) struck on this envelope and is one of the few with a ½d stamp. The copy I have is dated 1893 and is addressed to W.H.Smith and Son, Blackfriars Street, Manchester. These were sent to newsagents who sent in orders and invoices for advertisers.

[ Editor - the date on this advert is (10/93) whereas the date on the lettersheet flap is B.- 10/96. This may indicate that a number of these lettersheets were issued over the years ]

These envelopes give a very interesting window on the social customs and habits of the period to which much of our postal stationery belongs. When found at a reasonable price and in moderate to good condition, I think they should be acquired.

More information can be found in an excellent series of articles in
The GB Journal 1972 Vol. 10. A.N.WELSH: Advertising Lettersheets: p62, 89 and 108
The GB Journal 1973 Vol. 11. Advertising Lettersheets: p 14, 25,56.71 and 96.

This article first appeared in the November 2012 issue of The Postal Stationery Society Journal