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A Patriotic Cover from the Civil War, Sender Unknown

Updated: May 5

This patriotic cover from the Civil War is franked with a 3-cent US Scott Catalog #65 and was postmarked in Washington, DC on June 30, 1862. That was right towards the end of the Seven Days' Battles that lasted from June 25-July 1, 1862, and took place around Richmond, Virginia. Over 200,000 Union and Confederate troops engaged in those battles, and there were in excess of 36,000 casualties.


The scene on the front of the cover (Figure 1) is of a nurse aiding a fallen Zouave. Zouaves were infantry volunteers in the Union Army during the Civil War and wore uniforms modeled after the French Zouaves. The scene is cataloged as SC-NB-123 in Weiss and L-868 in Walcott.


The imprint on the flap on the back of the cover (Figure 2) is "J.G. Wells 165 William St." Per the 1865 New York City directory, John Gaylord Wells was a book publisher. He was born on August 4, 1821, in Connecticut and died on January 18, 1880, in New York City. His obituary in the January 23, 1880, issue of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reads:


John Gaylord Wells, the author of Wells' Every Man His Own Lawyer, died in New York Monday at the age of 59. Over 800,000 copies of his book were sold in this country. He was the originator also of the patriotic envelopes of the odes of the late war [Civil War]. He made several fortunes and lost them. Mr. Wells was born in Newington, Conn., in 1821, and his remains were taken there for burial to-day.


Another obituary that I found in the April 3, 1880, edition of The Republican Citizen of Paola, Kansas added:


He was originally a printer in Connecticut... He was the inventor of elastic type for printing on hard substances, and of several other ingenious contrivances, and spent $40,000 in protecting his patents in the courts. ... In January, 1878, he sprained his ankle stepping from a curbstone, which rendered amputation necessary, and from the effects of which he never recovered.


The epitaph on his tombstone at Newington Cemetery reads, "After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well."


His book, Wells' Every Man His Own Lawyer, was a 19th century version of LegalZoom.com. It included a wide variety of legal documents for use in every state, which numbered 31 when it was first published in 1857 (Figure 3). It underwent a number of editions, including one in 1879, the year before Wells's death, that included his portrait (Figure 4).


The envelope was addressed to Miss Mary Marriott who resided at 1138 Mt. Vernon Street in Philadelphia. Mary lived her entire life in Philadelphia, most of it at the Mt. Vernon address. (Indeed, that was her address in the 1900 census, the last census in which she appears.) Mary was born in the City of Brotherly Love on October 21, 1835, and died there at age 67 on December 22, 1902. She is buried at Laurel Hill West Cemetery in a plot with the remains of several members of her family.


I don't know much about Mary. I do know she taught school because that is her reported occupation in the 1870 US census, but I have no idea where and what she taught.


I know she never married because her status in the census reports was consistently single. In the 1880 census she was living with her mother Theodosia and brother Benjamin on Mt. Vernon Street, and in the 1900 census she was living at that same address with Benjamin and his wife Emma.


She also must have received some financial support from her brother William who died in 1892. After divvying up his possessions to his wife and children, William's will states "except so much of the said estate as it requires to continue the same arrangement with my sister Mary Marriott that we have now, so that she may receive the same interests she has been accustomed to during her life." His will also provides that should his children die without heirs before his wife, Mary and brother Benjamin would inherit his entire estate upon his wife's passing.


Benjamin passed away in 1906, four years after Mary, but his will contained this interesting provision: "I give and bequeath to my sister Mary, so long as she remains unmarried and during her natural life, the dividends accruing from thirteen shares of stock" in an insurance company (emphasis added). Was there a quid pro quo between Mary and her family, and if so, what was it? Her brothers William and Benjamin established a partnership in 1881 called Marriott Brothers, a coal delivery company. Perhaps the support Mary received was compensation for her support of this partnership and Benjamin's and William's families?


Mary's obituary in the December 25, 1902, edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer is painfully brief: "MARRIOTT - Morning of Dec 22, 1902, Mary daughter of late William and Theodosia Marriott. Relatives and friends are invited to attend funeral services on Friday morning at 10 o'clock at her late residence 1138 Mt Vernon. Interment private."


I don't have the letter that this envelope held, so I don't know who sent it and what they had to say. I thought it might have been from one of her brothers, but neither was in the Union Army in 1862. Was it from a suitor who perished during the Civil War? Is that why Mary never married? Was it from a friend describing the reactions in Washington, DC as news of the battles around Richmond trickled in? I suppose we will never know.


P.S. I acquired this cover for $400.00 at a Daniel Kelleher Auction on September 14, 2021.


Figure 1- Front

Figure 2 - Back

Figure 3 - Title page from 1857 edition

Figure 4 - John Gaylord Wells


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