I ran a picture of a cover for Flag Day that I felt stood on its own. But then I thought that the cover's story could be of interest to both stamp collectors and historians, postal and otherwise.
The envelope is an unused Civil War patriotic that lends itself to the balloon stamps that got an unofficial first day cancellation at the Smithsonian. One stamp in particular makes that choice a good one.
It is the Intrepid balloon stamp, featuring the Union's observational balloonist, T.S.C. Lowe, who with President Lincoln's recommendation and Gen. Winfield Scott's grudging approval received his commission to observe battles and "spy" on the Confederates.
One way Lowe convinced Lincoln to make him head of the Union's Aeronautic Corp was to send a message to the president via telegraph from the grounds of the Smithsonian, specifically where the Air and Space Museum is now located. That makes the Smithsonian cancel -- also a flag design -- apropos.
The eagle and flag design of the patriotic envelope seen above the stamps features four proper American flags and one shield with the stars and stripes. The basket that Lowe is in under the Intrepid has a stars and stripes design. And the Explorer II balloon stamp in the block of four features two flags flying beneath the gasbag.
So, total flags on one cover: nine. Not a record certainly -- a booklet pane of ten flag stamps on cover quickly eclipses it -- but certainly a good way to mark Flag Day in the U.S., and another example of covers marking history while being a part of it.