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In Kentucky, E Is For Envelopes

Creative Commons

Airheads...charcoal...Hot Pockets...   It's Manufacturing Month in Kentucky.

The state Cabinet for Economic Development has launched a social media campaign to celebrate -- A to Z -- products that are made in the Commonwealth. So far this month, we've learned (or have been reminded) that Kentucky makes Airheads candy, duct tape, and Hot Pockets.

There’s another product the state produces that we can’t live without - envelopes.

Maynard Benjamin is a renowned envelope historian and head of the Envelope Manufactures Association. His journey to the sleeves that hold our coveted messages started as a kid when he used to collect Civil War letters.

Before we go any further, Benjamin wants to get one thing out of the way. Here’s what he says you should know about the sticky stuff that you lick on the back of envelopes:

“The gum, not glue, the gum is not made out of horse hooves, it’s made out of sugar and starch," he says. "I just don’t understand where people come up with these things."

In Kentucky, companies such as Western States Envelope and Label, and Papercone employ almost 200 people. But Benjamin says the sector is much bigger than that.

“The paper-based communication chain is as large as the oil and natural gas industry, is as large as the airline industry,” he says. “Airline industry may have more jobs than we do but the asset value is similar.”

Benjamin says there are more than 125,000 jobs just in Kentucky related to envelope manufacturing. That includes printers, mailing room operators, and truckers. If you add together all the jobs related to the industry, he says, that amounts to a sales revenue of about $7.5 billion for the state.

As for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development's social media campaign for Manufacturing Month, they are currently up to the letter J, which stands for Jif Peanut Butter made in Lexington. Here's the list so far:

A: Airheads candy (Erlanger)

B: Brakes (Elizabethtown, Walton, Danville)

C: Charcoal (Albany, Burnside, Summer Shade)

D: Duct tape made by Berry Plastics (Franklin)

E: Envelopes (Erlanger, Louisville)

F: Filtration products made by C.I. Agent Solutions (Louisville)

G: Gorilla Glass, a brand of specialized toughened glass used in smartphones (Harrodsburg)

H: Hot Pockets (Mt. Sterling)

I: Iodine (Covington)

J: Jif Peanut Butter (Lexington)

Roxanne Scott covers education for WFPL News.