When selecting the right custom envelopes, it is beneficial to understand how envelope sizes came about so we will need to take a trip back in time. In the beginning, the very earliest of beginnings, an envelope could be many things, a leather-wrapped parchment or even sealed in clay. It’s been an essential part of the communication process throughout history, a sort of silent messenger. There are references to envelopes being used to deliver important messages throughout the Bible. However, in modern times, we don’t reach for a wax-sealed scroll or sheet of clay to protect our precious messages as they are sent out into the world. We use paper. So how did we get from there to here?  The Envelope Manufacturers Association (EMA) Guide to Envelopes & Mailing will provide a useful map for this journey.

The modern envelope was created in 17th century Europe as a way to keep communications between merchants and noblemen confidential. But only the wealthiest could afford to use an envelope. By 1840 an Act of British Parliament created the model for most modern day postal systems. That act also created penny postage and the first prepaid “postal wrapper” which was an early version of the modern envelope. The message was written on the inside of the wrapper which was then folded into an envelope before being sent on its journey.  Fast forward to today where over 185 billion envelopes are produced each year. So who came up with the wide variety of envelope sizes we use today?

Bringing Custom Envelopes To America

First produced in the mid-1840s, custom envelopes in America were usually cut from a template and folded by hand. By the 1850s hand-folded envelopes were being replaced by machine-made envelopes. It was faster and less expensive. A good machine operator could make up to 150 envelopes per hour. Envelopes were mainly for personal use as people wrote letters as a primary form of communication with their friends, family and business acquaintances.  As envelopes became more popular and more easily accessible, more and more sizes were made. Any size and shape of custom envelopes could be made by hand. However, machine-made envelopes created the need for standardization. Shortly after the Civil War, with machine-made envelopes reaching a new height in popularity, it became necessary to categorize the various sizes and shapes of envelopes available. This was the beginning of standardization. William Irwin Martin of Samuel Raynor & Company, based in New York City, developed the first listing of envelope sizes and types for the Stationers Handbook in 1876. Prior to this, each company had slightly different sizes so ordering a #9 from one company could be quite different from a #9 at a different printer.

A Few Points On Sizes of Custom Envelopes

Mr. Martin’s original listing included 10 different sizes of business style envelopes using a number system based on the various die sizes that were available to the printing industry at that time. They ranged from the smallest business size envelope, the #6¼, measuring 3 ½ x 6 inches to the largest, #14, measuring 5 x 11 ½ inches.  These are the letter style envelopes. According to The History of Envelopes by Robert H. Ramage, some of the other quainter envelope styles ranged from the smallest Note size, the #2, the Billet-Doux or “love note” size at 2 ½ x 4 ¼ inches to the #3 “Ladies Note Size” at 2  x 4 ¾ inches through three different sizes of Drug Envelopes as well as Pay, Glove, Wedding and Mourning patterns. The only one still used regularly today is the #10 envelope at 4 1/8 x 9 ½ inches. Many of the other sizes are close…usually within a  to ¼ of an inch for both height and width.

A listing of modern envelope sizes from Letter Jacket includes 17 different sizes, ranging from 3 ¼ x 7 inches up to 12 x 15 ½ inches and numerous styles including regular, window, catalog, booklet, banking and church envelopes. Whatever you need, whether it’s personal, business or both, custom envelopes exists to provide that much needed personal touch and answer that need.

So regardless of the size or style of envelope you need, Letter Jacket’s high-quality envelopes are the perfect solution and available in multiple sizes, shapes, and colors. Each envelope can be printed with custom art, courtesy of Letter Jacket’s intuitive ordering system.  

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