Collecting Vintage Gas Engine Envelopes

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The oldest envelope in Steve Barr's collection is this example from Welch & Lawson, New York City, dating to 1885. According to C. H. Wendel's American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, Welch & Lawson was one of the first companies to manufacture an integrated gasoline pumping engine.
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This particular example, produced for Associated's Chicago branch house, dates to 1921.
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This envelope from Kansas City Hay Press Co., Kansas City, Mo., dates to 1887. This was four years before the company introduced its now-legendary 'Lightning' engine.
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An envelope from the Richmond Engine and Pump Co. that dates to 1915.
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This colorful envelope from the Moline Pump Co., Moline, III., dates to 1905.
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By this time, manufacturers clearly appreciated and utilized envelopes as an advertising medium, throwing in some color to grab the eye of anyone who might handle the envelope.
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This envelope from the Challenge Co., Batavia, III., dates to 1900. Many companies used envelopes as a means to illustrate their offerings.
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An envelope from The Reeves Engine Co. dates to 1905.
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The front of another colorful envelope, this time from Associated Manufacturers Co., Waterloo, Iowa.
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The engine on this envelope from the Stover Mfg. & Engine Co., Freeport, III., appears to be a 2-1/2 HP Style W. Curiously, the Style W was produced from 1910 to 1915, but this envelope dates to 1918.

Steve Barr first caught the engine-collecting bug six years ago. As often happens, the bug bit hard, and Steve launched himself into finding old engines where ever and whenever he could. Since his first engine, he’s acquired a variety of old stationary engines ranging from the common to the obscure, and he now counts over 30 engines in his collection. As his engine collection grew, so did his interest in just about anything connected to stationary engine manufacturers from the early days of the industry.

Enveloping Interest
In the course of visiting a stamp show about four years ago, Steve came across an envelope stamped with the logo of Lansing Motor & Pump Co., Lansing Mich.

For stamp collectors, the value of the piece Steve found lay in the stamp affixed to the envelope. But for Steve, it was the printing on the envelope itself that grabbed his interest.

Finding that first envelope kicked off a new collecting hobby for Steve, and he started looking for similar pieces whenever the opportunity presented itself. Today, Steve has over 40 different envelopes in his collection, ranging from an 1885 envelope decorated with an inverted Lawson gas engine from Welch & Lawson of New York City to a colorful 1921 envelope from Associated Manufacturers Co., Waterloo, Iowa.

Finding Value
Steve finds most of his envelopes at stamp shows (where they are referred to as “covers”), and notes an envelope’s value depends in large measure on the stamp affixed to it. “The stamp used, the cancellation and overall condition greatly influence the price,” Steve says. The level of artwork also plays a role – generally speaking, the more artwork the higher the price. “Color adds a lot to the price, also the topic covered – windmills add additional value,” he notes.

Although stamp shows are a good place to find envelopes, Steve also finds them at auctions and on eBay. But, he notes, “Prices tend to be higher on eBay when they do show up.”

These old envelopes can show up just about anywhere, and as Steve has discovered, hunting for them – and finding them – is another great way to enjoy the old-engine hobby.

Contact engine enthusiast Steve Barr at: stevebarr@ameritech.net

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