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A Civil War Patriotic Cover from 1862 Addressed to a Future Wisconsin US Senator

Many covers with patriotic themes were produced during the Civil War, especially in the North that had the supplies and the industrial advantages that the South lacked. There are entire publications dedicated to cataloging these covers. One is The George Walcott Collection of Used Civil War Patriotic Covers published in 1934. Another is The Catalog of Union Civil War Patriotic Covers by William R. Weiss published in 1995.


The design on the cover in Figure 1 is listed in both. It is number 2021 in Walcott and M-R54 in Weiss. The design is a bit reduced at left, but it is still an attractive specimen. What is most interesting to me is the flag. It has 34 stars, one for each state. From the North's perspective, one purpose of the Civil War was the preservation of the Union, which meant keeping all 34 states that had been admitted to the Union by 1861 in the fold. Of course, during the Civil War, the 34 states were divided between the 23 that kept true to the Union and the 11 that formed the Confederacy. This design seems to drive home the point that in 1862 the United States was comprised of 34 states and that is what the North was fighting for.


This cover was mailed on May 16, 1862, from Red Wing, Minnesota to Menekaunee, Wisconsin, a distance of some 300 miles.


Red Wing is a city on the Mississippi River roughly halfway between Minneapolis and La Crosse. In 1862, it was a small town with a population of about 1,300. Menekaunee, Wisconsin is some 55 miles northeast of Green Bay. Today, Menekaunee is a neighborhood in the city of Marinette in Marinette County, Wisconsin, but in 1862, it was a standalone, albeit small, town in Oconto County. (Marinette County was carved off from Oconto County in 1879.) I'm don't know the population of Menekaunee in 1862, but the entire Oconto County had a population of about 3,600 in 1860.


This cover is stamped with a copy of US Scott #65, a very common stamp that was first issued in 1861. The circular date stamp was well struck in Red Wing, although note that the month and year are upside down, while the date is right-side up. The stamp is canceled with a "PAID" stamp.


I have no idea who sent this cover or what was in it, but the recipient was Isaac Stephenson. There was only one such person by that name in Oconto County, Wisconsin in the mid-19th century and that was an Isaac Stephenson (Figure 3) who was born in 1829 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.


Isaac arrived in Wisconsin in 1841. For years he transported goods by schooner between Milwaukee and Escanaba, Michigan. He invested his earnings in timber land and become quite wealthy in the process. According to the Marinette City website:


Isaac Stephenson arrived in Marinette in 1858, when he purchased a quarter interest in the North Ludington Lumber Company sawmill. Over the next sixty years, Stephenson became a town supervisor, county board chairman, justice of the peace, member of the state legislature, a U.S. Senator, publisher of the Milwaukee Free Press, instigated the construction of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal, and owned iron mines in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He donated the Stephenson Public Library to the city, built the Stephenson Block, the Lauerman Brothers Company Department Store, and founded the Stephenson National Bank (i).


As for his US Senate seat, Isaac he was appointed to fill the unexpired term of US Senator John C. Spooner in 1907 and was elected to a full six-year term in 1909. He served in that capacity until 1915. His fellow Wisconsin Senator was the famous Robert M. Lafollette.


Isaac passed away in 1918 at age 88 in Marinette, Wisconsin. He is buried in a grand mausoleum at the Forest Home Cemetery in that town. Isaac was married three times. His first two wives died in 1872 and 1882, respectively, but his third wife survived him by seven years. He had ten children in total, two of whom died at very young ages in January 1861. His wives and his children are all buried at Forest Home Cemetery, many in the mausoleum with Isaac.

(i) History of Marinette | Marinette, WI. Also see the Eagle River Review, March 22, 1918, and the Free Press Prairie Farmer, Winnipeg, March 20, 1918.

Figure 1- Front

Figure 2 - Back

Figure 3 - Isaac Stephenson. Source: Find A Grave.

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