The Crenshaw Envelope

The Crenshaw envelope, bearing the stamped name “Robert W. Blair,” one of a set of 28 envelopes, all (but one) lost. Published by the United States Department of the Interior in 1930, the envelopes ostensibly contain topographic maps relating to the geology and mineral resources of northwestern Alaska. Of interest to paper ephemerists, however, is not the maps inside the envelopes but the envelopes (re: envelope, since there is only one surviving copy) themselves (itself) which is constructed from rare parchment from the Tudor era, brought to the United States in the 1630s and used by John Winthrop as letter-paper that was eventually destroyed in a fire in 1710. The few scraps of parchment that survived eventually made their way to Maryland, and then to Washington, D.C., where they were used during the paper shortages of the late 1920s to make map envelopes for the Department of Interior’s Geologic Survey Bulletins. Formerly known as the “Blair” envelopes, the designation was changed to “Crenshaw” after research revealed that “Robert W. Blair” was a false name, a stand-in for “RWB,” the initials for “Red, White, and Blue,” “RWB” being shorthand for a white nationalist group that flourished in Maryland during the early twentieth century, headed by Robert Crenshaw.

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