US Stamps

By John M. Hotchner

What is the tiny printing in the delivery address area of these advertising covers?

October 26, 2016 05:00 PM

  • Subtext covers are those such as this 1891 example where the address block is defined by a message in tiny letters about the product named in the ad. Such advertising covers are scarce, and the author is making a list of known examples. Linn’s readers are asked to contribute examples of which they are aware.
  • This subtext advertising cover sent in late December 1895 speaks of the virtues of the J. Howard Foote musical instrument and musical merchandise company, which had branches in New York and Chicago.

By John M. Hotchner

Look closely at the two advertising covers shown in this column: There is tiny text forming lines in the address area. I call such covers “subtext” covers, and last discussed them in the Feb. 18, 2013, issue of Linn’s

Generally, the message in these lines of text advances the advertising content.

Such covers constitute a small part of advertising covers, perhaps one in every 600 to 750 covers in a regular listing that I receive. They are worth hunting for, however, because they are often attractive and always interesting for the creativity of the extra message.

Connect with Linn’s Stamp News: 

    Sign up for our newsletter
    Like us on Facebook
    Follow us on Twitter

The first example is courtesy of Linn’s reader Dick Sheaff. Dated July 27, 1891, it is a bicolor ad cover for the Weaver Mailing Envelope & Box Company of Philadelphia, Pa. The subtext reads, “Metal Mailing Boxes, Metal Clasp Mdse, Envelopes and Book Corner Protectors, Officially Approved for Sending Samples and Small Packages Through the United States and Foreign Mails.”

The example from the Chicago musical instrument firm of J. Howard Foote is canceled Dec. 22, 1885. The subtext reads: “Established New York 1835, Chicago 1868. The oldest importing and wholesale music house in the country. The largest stock, finest quality and the most complete lines of instruments and musical merchandise. Northern wholesale and retail dealer in clarionic and orchestrones. Orders promptly and carefully attended to.”

I am compiling a list of known subtext covers, which is now up to about 30. I’ll bet before we are done, there will be more than 100. 

I will make this list available as an email attachment, so anyone who would like a copy can email me, John Hotchner, at If you prefer a hard copy, please send a stamped addressed business-size envelope and 10¢ in mint postage to me, John Hotchner, Box 1125, Falls Church, VA 22041-0125. 

If you have examples of subtext covers to report, please use the same addresses, and send a photocopy or scan of the cover or covers.