Wednesday, 30 September 2009

P.S. This is my favorite memo ever

Ever since it first aired on television in 1997, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s hugely popular animated comedy, South Park, has courted controversy due to its crude jokes, deliberate lack of tact, and the creators’ steadfast refusal to self-censor or bow to external pressures. However, two years after the show debuted, a feature length film was released – South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut – and in order for it to gain an R rating, Stone and Parker had no choice but to chop and change certain scenes. This legendary memo, from Stone to the MPAA, was sent along with the movie’s second cut.

The first picture is of the whole memo; below that is a close-up of the text. Transcript follows. See also: Monty Python's I would like to retain 'fart in your general direction.'

(Letter taken from the More Letters of Note book; reproduced with Matt Stone's permission. For more info and to read reviews of that book, go here.)

Date: [Illegible]
To: [Redacted]
From: Matt Stone
CC: [Redacted]
Re: MPAA cut #2

Here is our new cut of the South Park movie to submit to the MPAA. I wanted to tell you exactly what notes we did and did not address.

  1. We left in both the "fisting" and the "rimjob" references in the counselor's office scene. We did cut the word "hole" from "asshole" as per our conversation.
  2. We took out the entire "God has fucked me in the ass so many times..." It is gone.
  3. Although it is not animated yet, we put a new storyboard in for clarification in the scene with Saddam Hussein's penis. The intent now is that you never see Saddam's real penis, he in fact is using dildos both times.
  4. We have the shot animated that reveals the fact that Winona is not shooting ping-pong balls from her vagina. She is, in fact, hitting the balls with a ping-pong paddle.
  5. We took out the only reference to "cum-sucking ass" in the film. It was in the counselor's office and we took it out.
  6. We left in the scenes with Cartman's mom and the horse as per our conversation. This is the one joke we really want to fight for.

Call with any questions.


P.S. This is my favorite memo ever.

Confide in me, Tom

In his later years, comedian Groucho Marx became the unlikely penpal of poet T. S. Eliot, and the following is just one of many witty letters sent back and forth between the pair. Some background: previous to this one, Marx had started a letter informally with "Dear Tom, If this isn't your first name, I'm in a hell of a fix! But I think I read somewhere that your first name is the same as Tom Gibbons', a prizefighter who once lived in St. Paul." to which Eliot replied, "I cannot recall the name of Tom Gibbons at present, but if he helps you to remember my name that is all right with me." Hence the first half of this letter...

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Dear Tom:

Since you are actually an early American, (I don't mean that you are an old piece of furniture, but you are a fugitive from St. Louis), you should have heard of Tom Gibbons. For your edification, Tom Gibbons was a native of St. Paul, Minnesota, which is only a stone's throw from Missouri. That is, if the stone is encased in a missile. Tom was, at one time, the light heavyweight champion of the world, and, although outweighed by twenty pounds by Jack Dempsey, he fought him to a standstill in Shelby, Montana.

The name Tom fits many things. There was once a famous Jewish actor named Thomashevsky. All male cats are named Tom -- unless they have been fixed. In that case they are just neutral and, as the upheaval in Saigon has just proved, there is no place any more for neutrals.

There is an old nursery rhyme that begins "Tom, Tom, the piper's son," etc. The third President of the United States first name was Tom ... in case you've forgotten Jefferson.

So, when I call you Tom, this means you are a mixture of heavyweight prizefighter, a male alley cat and the third President of the United States.

I have just finished my latest opus, "Memoirs of a Mangy Lover". Most of it is autobiographical and very little of it is fiction. I doubt whether it will live through the ages, but if you are in a sexy mood the night you read it, it may stimulate you beyond recognition and rekindle memories that you haven't recalled in years.

Sex, as an industry, is big business in this country, as it is in England. It's something everyone is deeply interested in even if only theoretically. I suppose it's always been this way, but I believe that in the old days it was discussed and practiced in a more surreptitious manner. However, the new school of writers have finally brought the bedroom and the lavatory out into the open for everyone to see. You can blame the whole thing on Havelock Ellis, Krafft-Ebing and Brill, Jung and Freud. (Now there's a trio for you!) Plus, of course, the late Mr. Kinsey who, not satisfied with hearsay, trundled from house to house, sticking his nose in where angels have always feared to tread.

However I would be interested in reading your views on sex, so don't hesitate. Confide in me, Tom. Though admittedly unreliable, I can be trusted with matters as important as that.

My best to you and Mrs. Tom

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

I did NOT hear the Martians "rapping on my chamber door"

For your enjoyment, two beautifully contrasting reactions to the original airing of Orson Welles' adaptation of H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds. For the uninitiated, on the evening of October 30th, 1938, the CBS Radio Network broadcast what sounded (to some) like a series of genuine news bulletins depicting the unfolding invasion of Earth by Martians. In fact, the public were listening to an episode of the radio drama series Mercury Theatre on the Air, directed and narrated by Welles himself. Despite warnings and announcements during the show, the airing caused widespread panic.

Here are just two of the 600+ letters sent to the FCC regarding the show. The first is from a city official, the second from a listener.

Transcripts follow. Images courtesy of the National Archives.

October 31, 1938

Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D. C.



To avoid a reoccurrence of a very grave and serious situation that developed in this community last night, due to the public's misinterpretation of the broadcast through WABC at about 8:15, dramatizing H. G. Wells' "War of the Worlds", which completely crippled communication facilities of our Police Department for about three hours, I am requesting that you immediately make an investigation and do everything possible to prevent a reoccurrence.

The situation was so acute that two thousand phone calls were received in about two hours, all communication lines were paralyzed and voided normal municipal functions. If we had had a large fire at this time it could have easily caused a more serious situation. Tremendous excitement existed among certain areas of this community and we were receiving constantly long distance phone calls from many states making inquiries of relatives and families thought to have been killed by the catastrophe that was included in the play.

I can conceive of no reason why the name of Trenton and vicinity should have been used on this broadcast. The State Police were equally handicapped and it is indescribable the seriousness of this situation.

Your prompt attention will be appreciated.

Very truly yours,



Aberdeen, S. Dak.
November 1, 1938

Federal Communications Commission
Washington, D. C.


I have read considerable concerning the program of Orson Welles presented over the Columbia Broadcasting System Sunday evening. I suppose that by this time you have received many letters from numerous cranks and crack-pots who quickly became jitterbugs during the program. I was one of the thousands who heard this program and did not jump out of the window, did not attempt suicide, did not break my arm while beating a hasty retreat from my apartment, did not anticipate a horrible death, did not hear the Martians "rapping on my chamber door," did not see the monsters landing in war-like regalia in the park across the street, but sat serenely entertained no end by the fine portrayal of a fine play.

The "Mercury Theatre" has been one of the radio high-lights of the week for me this fall. The program Sunday, I felt, was one of their better programs.

Should your commission contemplate serious measures toward the Columbia Broadcasting System my suggestion would be that the "Mercury Theatre" be directed to re-broadcast this program and the reaction of all the listening audience be solicited.

In the interest of a continuation of the fine things in radio today, I am,

Very respectfully yours,


J. V. Yaukey

P.S.- I am in the State Administrative office of the South Dakota State Employment Service and every member of our staff who heard the program subscribes to what I have had to say.

Let the stillborn midget rest in peace

A fantastically informal letter from Richard Nixon to President Reagan in August of 1987, almost a year after the Iran-Contra scandal was uncovered. No stranger to scandal himself, Nixon commends Reagan's most recent speech, offers some advice and proceeds to end the note with a creative reference to the Tower Commission.



August 13, 1987

Dear Ron,

The speech last night was one of your best. What was even more important than what you said was that you sounded and looked strong. You gave the lie to the crap about your being over-the-hill, discouraged, etc.

If I could be permitted one word of advice: Don't ever comment on the Iran-Contra matter again. Have instructions issued to all the White House staffers and Administration spokesmen that they must never answer any questions on or off the record about that issue in the future. They should reply to all inquiries by stating firmly and categorically thaty the President has addressed the subject and that they have nothing to add.

The committee labored for nine months and produced a stillborn midget. Let it rest in peace!


(Signed 'Dick')

The Honorable
Ronald Reagan


In the month following the attacks of September 11th, seven letters, all of which contained anthrax spores, were sent to various high profile targets in America. As a result of these letters being sent, five people died and a further 17 subsequently contracted the disease. In July 2008, the FBI informed Dr. Bruce Ivins - a microbiologist who had assisted the FBI in their investigations following the attacks - that they would soon be pressing charges against him as he was now a key suspect. On July 27th, Dr. Ivins committed suicide.

Three of the letters follow.











Centre / Right:







Monday, 28 September 2009

He put up a great fight against Fritz

Below is a letter sent by the Australian Red Cross to the wife of Leslie Clark - a soldier who perished whilst fighting in France during the First World War - 8 months after her husband's death. The letter confirms his passing and then, using a quote from a fellow soldier, tells of a previous occasion when the late soldier bravely chased some Germans into a trench only to be wounded by a bomb. He was awarded a Military Medal.



Melbourne, 6th June, 1919

Mrs. L. N. Clark,

53 Gladstone Avenue,

Dear Madam,

re L/Cpl. L. N. Clark, No. 2647, 59th Battalion.

We have now received from our Agents a report in regard to the above named soldier stating that he died on the 5th October, 1918, result of bullet wounds to chest and abdomen at the 20th Casualty Clearing Station, France.

"He was buried at Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension 1½ miles East of Peronne D.G.R.E. L.S.6. 8277. "

This was certified by A.I.F. Headquarters, 17th March, 1919.

Sgt. W. J. Turner, No. 3627, 60th Battalion, has stated - "He was of 60th Battalion, C Companu 5 ft. 6, thin, 29th, 1918, at 2 p.m. his platoon was engaged repelling a bomb attack. He ran along the parapet chasing the Germans who were down in the trench. He was wounded in the leg and side by a German stick bomb. He was conscious and made his own way back to the Stretcher Bearers. He put up a great fight against Fritz and was awarded the M. M. for this action."

This report was confirmed by Q.M.S.O. Rasmussen, No. 6069.

On receipt of any further information, we will again communicate with you.

Your faithfully,


Hon. Secretary.


I leave it in your capable hands

For their ninth studio album, Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones aimed for the top and asked Andy Warhol to design what would become one of the most popular album covers of all time: a sleeve featuring a shot of Joe Dallesandro's crotch, a workable zip, and for the first time the band's tongue and lips logo as designed by John Pasche. Below is an early and charmingly relaxed letter from Jagger to Warhol concerning the job, in which he politely warns the artist of production difficulties associated with complex sleeve designs—advice that was then completely ignored by Warhol, who instead produced a cover that caused all manner of problems, including, most notably, scratched copies of the record itself.

Transcript follows.

(Letter from Mick Jagger to Andy Warhol, dated April 21, 1969: Collection of The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Reproduced with the permission of Mick Jagger.)

21st April, 1969

Andy Warhol,
33 Union Square,

Dear Andy,

I'm really pleased you can do the art-work for our new hits album. Here are 2 boxes of material which you can use, and the record.

In my short sweet experience, the more complicated the format of the album, e.g. more complex than just pages or fold-out, the more fucked-up the reproduction and agonising the delays. But, having said that, I leave it in your capable hands to do what ever you want...........and please write back saying how much money you would like.

Doubtless a Mr.Al Steckler will contact you in New York, with any further information. He will probably look nervous and say "Hurry up" but take little notice.




Bravo on your diffcult troubling work

The following note was written by Quentin Tarantino in May of this year whilst at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. In it, Tarantino congratulates fellow nominee Brilliante Mendoza on his film Kinatay, a movie which triumphed at the festival and beat Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds to win the Prix de la mise en scène (Best Director). On a related note, it's interesting to know that Tarantino hand writes all of his scripts, either in black or red ink.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of chuvaness.

Image: chuvaness


Dear Mr. Mendoza

Bravo on your diffcult troubling work. Your decission to never dramatize the murder, never indulge in movie suspense.... was bold, daring, and to me, the whole point of making the movie in the first place. I felt it was completely a eyewitness acount of a horroble murder. I believed everything I saw. Your point wasnt to dramatize it. It was to capture it.


Quentin Tarantino

I sure miss Mr Hardy

Until their final film in 1950, much-loved comedy act Laurel & Hardy appeared in over 100 movies together. Following a number of strokes Oliver Hardy passed away August 7th, 1957, and as a result Stan Laurel decided never to act again. From that point until his own death in 1965, Stan endeavoured to personally respond to all fan mail. The following letter was written May 10th, 1958, less than a year after Hardy's passing.

To read many more of Stan's letters, I suggest visiting this website.


25406,Malibu Road.
May 10th.'58.

Dear Charles:-

Thanks your letter,5th.inst.

Pleased to know the old L&H films are giving you so much pleasure & enjoyment. Not much to tell you about myself Charles, except that due to a Stroke about 3 years ago I am not able to work anymore so I was forced to retire. Anyway I am getting along Ok, am getting around pretty good & manage to keep busy, writing letters, watching TV. etc. Now that Mr Hardy passed on I would'nt want to work anyway - I sure miss him after the many years of Happy association.

Glad to know you recd. the little picture - am sending one enclosed for your friend Irwin Orenstein, please give it to him with my best wishes.

Bye Charles.

Good luck & God Bless.



Stan Laurel.

Friday, 25 September 2009


'The enclosed file is a memo from film composer Max Steiner to his fellow workers and superiors at Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO). Max Steiner was famed for his ability to create more than 40 cinematic scores a year and was one of the most wanted composers in Hollywood during the Golden Age. His work includes films such as “King Kong”, “Gone with the Wind”, “Now, Voyager” and “Mildred Pierce”.'

Many thanks to Matthew for sending the memo, and for his words.


Inter-Department Communication



Date: September 29, 1934



Effective Monday morning, October First, I can be found at the Studio during the hours: 9:00am to 12:30pm; and from 1:30pm to 6:00pm, every day except Sundays and Holidays. However, I WILL NOT be found, any longer, during the hours from 6:00pm to 9:30am next morning, as in the past.

Should this not be satisfactory to anyone, I shall be only too happy to cancel my contract.

Furthermore, I just received an offer from the President of the May Company, Eighth at Broadway, Los Angeles, California, who wants to obtain my services, on a long term contract, as a "BED-TRYER" and that looks awfully good to me.


Max Steiner

My good friend Roosvelt

In November 1940, thirteen years before spearheading the revolution that would ultimately see him replace dictator Fulgencio Batista as leader of Cuba, a teenage Fidel Castro—aged fourteen, not twelve as he inaccurately claimed—wrote a somewhat cheeky letter to the then president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and asked him for some money: a $10 bill, to be precise. Some time later, he received a standard reply from officials. His request for cash had fallen on deaf ears, as had his offer to reveal the wherabouts of Cuba's largest iron mines. Young Castro's priceless letter was rediscovered in 1977 by specialists at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Transcript follows.

(Source: National Archives; Image: Fidel Castro, via.)

Santiago de Cuba

Nov 6 1940

Mr Franklin Roosvelt, President of the United States.

My good friend Roosvelt I don't know very English, but I know as much as write to you. I like to hear the radio, and I am very happy, because I heard in it, that you will be President for a new (periodo). I am twelve years old. I am a boy but I think very much but I do not think that I am writing to the President of the United States. If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.

My address is:

Sr Fidel Castro
Colegio de Dolores
Santiago de Cuba
Oriente Cuba

I don't know very English but I know very much Spanish and I suppose you don't know very Spanish but you know very English because you are American but I am not American.

(Thank you very much)

Good by. Your friend,


Fidel Castro

If you want iron to make your sheaps ships I will show to you the bigest (minas) of iron of the land. They are in Mayari Oriente Cuba.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

My dear little one day old baby

Lilian Gollan wrote the following letter to her new daughter Wendy on November 29th, 1934, just a day after giving birth to her at Jessie McPherson Hospital in Melbourne. A photo of the mother and daughter can be seen here


"purity, truth and love."


My own dear Baby,
My dear little one day old baby,

You are sleeping so soundly I think I will write you a love letter.

Thankyou for coming, Baby dear, and giving me the greatest happiness I have ever known. My dreams of you are nearly as old as I am, for every dolly was my would-be baby and yesterday, just as the sun rose above a golden shaft into the room, the dream child became a real child and you were born - A whole 8lbs of you, with soft dark, hair, curly eyelashes, perfect half moons on your tiny fingers and the funniest little wriggling feet! Oh, the wonder of you!

My dreams for you also began years ago, Baby mine; a good heritage, which is better than a fortune, was my first dream and, though most imperfect of humans, your Daddy and I have tried to live with honesty and purity, sincerely to the best we could. I hope we have given you a good start.

Dreams of a lovely face and body, perfect in health, strong in character, with a happy loving nature are my dreams for you. Curiosity, imagination and ambition will grow in you, dear and the good God who gave us the gift of you, will give us wisdom to love you wisely all through your life.

From Your Mother.

The Wicca Ban

Julie Carpenter is a Wiccan; a Wiccan who at one time had a relationship with Jonathon Sharkey, a self-proclaimed Satanist and Vampire who at one time decided to run for Governor of Minnesota. As a result of the predictable media attention surrounding said campaign and subsequent unveiling of her own beliefs, Julie's then employer - Peterson Bus of Princeton - received the following letter from the Princeton Schools Superintendent, in which he requests the termination of her contract as a bus driver; a post she had, until this point, held for four years without blemish. A bizarre situation, elevated to comical heights by the final sentence in the second paragraph of this letter.

Related Metafilter thread here, along with an appearance by Julie herself.


January 13, 2006

Peterson Bus of Princeton, Inc.
% Tim Wilheim
Box 1002
Princeton, MN 55371

Dear Mr. Wilheim:

According to our pupil transportation services agreement under operations personnel/driver qualifications, the Princeton School District can require removal of any employee who, in the District's sole discretion, is deemed unsuitable to perform the transportation services to the District; provided further that the District shall make such request in writing and state the reason therefore, and agrees to discuss the matter with the Contractor, when requested to do so.

At this time, the Princeton School District is requesting that Julie Carpenter be removed from driving or having contact with students. It is our opinion that Ms. Carpenter does not serve as a role model nor is suitable to perform transportation services for the Princeton School District, in light of recent media reports of her husband/friend to be a vampire who is running for public office and Ms. Carpenter informing other bus garage employees that she is a witch.

If you would like to discuss this matter further, please contact me at (763) 389-6190.



Mark Sleeper
Superintendent of Schools

Blade Runner will prove invincible

In 1968, author Philip K. Dick’s post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—the story of a bounty hunter, Rick Deckard, whose job is to find and “retire” rogue androids—was published, almost immediately generating interest from film studios keen to adapt it for the big screen. Early talks and screenplay drafts failed to impress Dick; however, in 1981, by which time Ridley Scott was on board to direct a script rewritten by David Peoples, he caught a glimpse of the forthcoming film, now titled Blade Runner, which changed his mind entirely. That same evening, he excitedly wrote this letter to the production company responsible and shared his thoughts. The tragedy is, Philip K. Dick passed away 5 months after sending this letter, without seeing the finished film. It is now regarded by many as the greatest science fiction film ever made.

Transcript follows. This letter, along with 124 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note. For more info, visit Books of Note.

(Source; Philip K. Dick; Image: Philip K. Dick, via.)

October 11, 1981

Mr. Jeff Walker,
The Ladd Company,
4000 Warner Boulevard,
Calif. 91522.

Dear Jeff,

I happened to see the Channel 7 TV program "Hooray For Hollywood" tonight with the segment on BLADE RUNNER. (Well, to be honest, I didn't happen to see it; someone tipped me off that BLADE RUNNER was going to be a part of the show, and to be sure to watch.) Jeff, after looking --and especially after listening to Harrison Ford discuss the film-- I came to the conclusion that this indeed is not science fiction; it is not fantasy; it is exactly what Harrison said: futurism. The impact of BLADE RUNNER is simply going to be overwhelming, both on the public and on creative people -- and, I believe, on science fiction as a field. Since I have been writing and selling science fiction works for thirty years, this is a matter of some importance to me. In all candor I must say that our field has gradually and steadily been deteriorating for the last few years. Nothing that we have done, individually or collectively, matches BLADE RUNNER. This is not escapism; it is super realism, so gritty and detailed and authentic and goddam convincing that, well, after the segment I found my normal present-day "reality" pallid by comparison. What I am saying is that all of you collectively may have created a unique new form of graphic, artistic expression, never before seen. And, I think, BLADE RUNNER is going to revolutionize our conceptions of what science fiction is and, more, can be.

Let me sum it up this way. Science fiction has slowly and ineluctably settled into a monotonous death: it has become inbred, derivative, stale. Suddenly you people have come in, some of the greatest talents currently in existence, and now we have a new life, a new start. As for my own role in the BLADE RUNNER project, I can only say that I did not know that a work of mine or a set of ideas of mine could be escalated into such stunning dimensions. My life and creative work are justified and completed by BLADE RUNNER. Thank you...and it is going to be one hell of a commercial success. It will prove invincible.


Philip K. Dick

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Do Not Lose This Letter

At the height of the Cold War in 1957, the following, horrific letter was issued to key personnel working on the biological weapons program (BW) at Fort Detrick, this particular example having landed in the lap of someone within the Atmospheric Sciences division. In a nutshell, anyone who received a letter similar to this one was guaranteed a swift exit should a non-fatal nuclear attack occur, followed by relocation to another facility where the BW program could continue. As John Ptak notes, this was essentially a 'Get Out Of Hell Free' card.


Frederick, Maryland


10 July 1957

TO: (Removed)

1. In the event of a mass destruction attack on Fort Detrick with the resulting loss of Biological Warfare physical facilities, it is anticipated that it will be necessary to re-establish BW activities at some other location. In order to accomplish this in the most expeditious manner, the availability of certain designated operational personnel, who have considerable knowledge and experience in the present BW Program, is deemed essential. It is therefore the intent of this headquarters to provide for the evacuation of such designated key personnel in the event of an attack so that they will be available to re-establish BW activities as deemed necessary by the Department of Defense.

2. This letter serves as notification that you have been selected as a member of this group which is to be evacuated. Until more appropriate identification can be issued, this letter will serve for such purposes in evacuation proceedings and should, therefore, be kept on you person at all times.

3. The following plan has been devised for evacuation of key personnel:

    a. Evacuation procedures will be executed upon receipt of telephonic notification to your division office from this headquarters. Each division or seperate office will be responsible for expiditious notification of its key personnel.

    b. From the time of Warning YELLOW (attack likely) to the time of Warning RED (attack imminent) a maximum period of four (4) hours is anticipated. Evacuation will take place between one (1) and four (4) hours after receipt of Waring YELLOW.

    c. Assembly area for evacuation will be the Field Housw, Bldg. T-838, both for on-duty and off-duty hours.

     (1) Upon receipt of notification during on-duty hours, key personnel will immediately proceed to the assembly area on foot and report to the Evacuation Officer.

     (2) During off-duty hours, upon receipt of Warning YELLOW (3 to 5 minute blast of siren), key personnel will proceed by private transportation to Gate No. 1 at Fort Detrick, thence on foot to the assembly area and repot to the Evacuation Officer. Personnel arriving alone in private vehicles will leave such vehicles in the parking lot outside Gate No. 1 with keys in the ignition. (For such an emergency, the lot will be guarded). Personnel who are transported to the installation by dependent or other personnel will release such transportation at Gate No. 1.

4. A practice alert to test this evacuation plan will be held in conjunction with local Civil Defense exercises. You are urged to cooperate with the above plan for your own safety and for the assured continuation of the BW capability.


Colonel, CmlC

Misbehaver in the caferteria is unexcecpable

Michael Levy, a dean at I.S. 051 Edwin Markham in New York, sent the following letter to pupils' homes back in 2007 following a food fight in the school cafeteria. Bearing in mind the yellow highlighting in the picture isn't comprehensive with regards to errors, see how many mistakes you can spot. Although such errors aren't unique to this letter, the sheer number of gaffes in this particular example resulted in Mr Levy becoming a local celebrity for all the wrong reasons and the victim of a disciplinary meeting with Principal Della Rocca. Related article here.


I.S. 51 Markham Middle School
20 Houston Street
Staten Island N.Y., 10302

To the parents or guardians of the Health Academy 8th grade

Today Monday April 30th 2007, during out 6th period lunch many of the 8th graders were throwing food. The 8th grade section of the caferteria was left a mess with garbage left an all tables on the floor of that section. This type of behavior is unexcecpable at any grade especially the 8th grade. After discussing with our Principal Mrs DellaRocca we are now holding the entire health academy out of all senior activates (including prom and trip). It makes no difference if your child was directly involved or not, this is an action which affects the entire Academy.

As we enter May and the weather continues to get warmer many students from the impression that their work is done. Until the last day of school in June they are expected to follow all school rules. I am asking for your cooperation in keeping out school a safe and clean learning environment.

Please review this letter with your child, please sign the bottom, and have the letter returned to me. Failure to return this letter will automatically keep your child off of the senior activates list. Each student that returns this letter will be review on a case by case situation. If your child is removed from the senior activities list or had no plans of attending any activity and continues to throw food or misbehaver the school has no choice but to suspend the child.

Thank you for your cooperation in keeping our school a safe and clean place to learn. Any questions or comments feel free to contact me at the school.


M. Levy
Health Academy Dean

It was hard to give five sons to the Navy

November, 1942: Five brothers, all serving on the same vessel during World War II, are killed in action as a result of said warship sinking at the Battle of the Solomons. Two months later, after hearing no word from the Navy regarding her sons' well-being, Alleta Sullivan writes the following, deeply moving letter to the Bureau of Naval Personnel. Alleta promptly received a reply from President Roosevelt. That letter can also be read below.

As a result of the Sullivans' plight, the U.S. military introduced the Sole Survivor Policy. The policy attempts to ensure that, should a family member be lost during military service, any remaining siblings be exempt from service.

Transcripts follow.

Recommended reading: Left to Die: The Tragedy of the USS Juneau.


Waterloo, Iowa
January 1943

Bureau of Naval Personnel

Dear Sirs:

I am writing you in regards to a rumor going around that my five sons were killed in action in November. A mother from here came and told me she got a letter from her son and he heard my five sons were killed.

It is all over town now, and I am so worried. My five sons joined the Navy together a year ago, Jan. 3, 1942. They are on the Cruiser, U.S.S. JUNEAU. The last I heard from them was Nov. 8th. That is, it was dated Nov 8th, U.S. Navy.

Their names are, George T., Francis Henry, Joseph E., Madison A., and Albert L. If it is so, please let me know the truth. I am to christen the U.S.S. TAWASA, Feb. 12th, at Portland, Oregon. If anything has happened to my five sons, I will still christen the ship as it was their wish that I do so. I hated to bother you, but it has worried me so that I wanted to know if it was true. So please tell me. It was hard to give five sons all at once to the Navy, but I am proud of my boys that they can serve and help protect their country. George and Francis served four years on the U.S.S. HOVEY, and I had the pleasure to go aboard their ship in 1937.

I am so happy the Navy has bestowed the honor on me to christen the U.S.S. TAWASA. My husband an daughter are going to Portland with me. I remain,


Mrs. Alleta Sullivan
98 Adams Street
Waterloo, Iowa


My dear Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan:

The knowledge that your five gallant sons are missing in action against the enemy inspires me to write you this personal message. I realize full well there is little I can say to assuage your grief.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy, I want you to know that the entire nation shares in your sorrow. I offer you the condolences and gratitude of our country. We who remain to carry on the fight must maintain spirit, in the knowledge that such sacrifice is not in vain.

The Navy Department has informed me of the expressed desire of your sons, George Thomas, Francis Henry, Joseph Eugene, Madison Abel, and Albert Leo, to serve in the same ship. I am sure that we all take heart in the knowledge that they fought side by side. As one of your sons wrote, "We will make a team together that can't be beat." It is this spirit which in the end must triumph.

Last March you, Mrs. Sullivan, were designated to sponsor a ship of the Navy, in recognition of your patriotism and that of your sons. I understand that you are now even more determined to carry on as sponsor. This evidence of unselfishness and of courage serves as a real inspiration for me, as I am sure it will for all Americans. Such acts of faith and fortitude in the face of tragedy convince me of the indomitable spirit and will of our people.

I send you my deepest sympathy in your hour of trial and pray that in Almighty God you will find the comfort and help that only He can bring.

Very sincerely yours,


Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

All of this is nonsense

Leave It To Beaver was an American sitcom which ran from 1957 through to 1963. During a particular episode of the show's second season, Theodore Cleaver brought a letter home from school, written by his principal. For a fleeting moment as Theodore's father reads the letter, the text is visible on screen. Thankfully (courtesy of Shorpy) we can now enjoy that very letter, as it was actually written by (presumably) the prop department.



Mr. Ward Cleaver
485 Mapleton Drive
Mayfield, State

My Dear Mr. Cleaver:

This paragraph has absolutely nothing to do with anything.
It is here merely to fill up space. Still, it is words,
rather than repeated letters, since the latter might not
give the proper appearance, namely, that of an actual note.

For that matter, all of this is nonsense, and the only
part of this that is to be read is the last paragraph,
which part is the inspired creation of the producers of
this very fine series.

Another paragraph of stuff. Now is the time for all good
men to come to the aid of their party. The quick brown
fox jumps over the lazy dog. My typing is lousy, but the
typewriter isn’t so hot either. After all, why should I
take the blame for these mechanical imperfections, with
which all of us must contend. Lew Burdette just hit a
home run and Milwaukee leads seven to one in the series.
This is the last line of the filler material of the note.
No, my mistake, that was only the next to last. This is last.

I hope you can find a suitable explanation for Theodore’s
unusual conduct.

Yours truly,


Cornelia Rayburn

I ♥ U

Experts believe the following love letter to be approximately 100 years old. If you have some time to kill, I'd suggest attempting to solve the code yourself before looking at the transcript. The idea's simple: each image represents a piece of text, e.g. ☼day would translate as Sunday. Good luck.

Slightly larger photo here. More info here.

Transcript (Approximate Translation)

My Dearest Fanny,

I am writing these few lines to tell you that I cannot live any longer without you. I worship you always. I think you are a beauty and the nicest girl I ever saw and I adore you. Oh exquisite Fanny, do not despise me for loving you so well. I shall be broken-hearted if you desert me. Can you meet me on Monday night, when I will take you to the Star Music Hall. I hate that Bill Robinson, who is hanging after you and I intend to horsewhip him when I see him. I shall be delighted to hear from you at once. Do not let my suit be fruitless. Reply by next post to

Your loving

William Weightman

Monday, 21 September 2009

And a bomb was dropped

Written in April 1966 and now declassified, the following letter from then Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, W. J. Howard, to Chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, Chet Holifield, lists four separate incidents which resulted in nuclear weapons being lost and never recovered. According to Howard, the first two incidents listed in the testimony involved complete weapons, both of which are still missing today.

Weapon 1. Weapon 2.



22 APR. 1966

Honorable Chet Holifield
Joint Committee on Atomic Energy
Congress of the United States
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Chairman:

During my testimony of April 19th I was asked to furnish for the record a list of accidents in which nuclear weapons have been lost and never recovered.

There have been two such incidents involving complete weapons:

1. On 8 February 1958 near Savannah, Georgia, a B-47 carrying a (redacted) weapon collided with an F-86. The weapon was jettisoned in 100 feet of water in the Savannah River. The weapon was never recovered. This accident, including the weapon loss, was released to the press.

2. On 9 December 1965 in the western Pacific an A4 aircraft with a (redacted) weapon on board was lost over the side of the aircraft carrier USS TICONDEROGA in 2700 fathoms of water. The aircraft, pilot and weapon were not recovered. No public announcement of this incident has been made, nor is any intended. This subject is considered sensitive because of its potential impact upon visits of the TICONDEROGA and other warships to foreign ports. 

There have been two additional incidents resulting in the loss of weapons less capsules:

1. On 29 July 1957 at sea off the New Jerseay coast a C-124 lost power on two engines and was forced to jettison two (redacted) without capsules into the Atlantic Ocean. This accident was not released to the press.

2. On 25 September 1958 near Whidbey Island, Washington, a Navy P5M with its engine afire was forced to ditch. It carried a (redacted) weapon without capsule. Immediately after ditching the weapon was jettisoned in 1430 fathoms. This accident was not released to the press.

Sincerely yours,


W. J. Howard
Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Atomic Energy)


In 1957, following the announcement that the Soviets had trumped the U.S. with the successful launch of Sputnik 1, Australian schoolboy Denis Cox sent this urgent letter to the Royal Australian Air Force’s Rocket Range at Woomera, in an attempt to enter Australia into the Space Race. Much to Denis’ dismay, his letter, addressed to “A TOP SCIENTIST” and consisting of a basic rocket ship design accompanied by instructions for engineers to “put in other details,” fell on deaf ears; until, 52 long years later, in 2009, Denis’ original letter and rocket ship made the news after being featured on the website of the National Archives of Australia—as a result of the coverage, he finally got a wonderful reply from the Australian Department of Defence. Both letters can be read below.

Enormous thanks to Denis Cox.

The reply, 52 years later...

Australian Government
Department of Defence
Defence Science and
Technology Organisation

Mr Denis Cox


Dear Mr Cox,

I would like to thank you for your letter we received on 20th Oct. 1957 regarding the design of your rocketship. I apologise for the late response to your letters. You will appreciate, that as you requested “A Top Scientist” that uses the “WOOMERA ROCKET RANGE” it took a little while for your letter to get to me and in addition, it took some time to provide due consideration to your ideas.

In any case, I have included a picture of our latest flight of a hypersonic vehicle under the HIFiRE Program, so that you may see that many of your designs have merit. The fins are a little smaller, and on our work, we haven’t advanced sufficiently to put people on board, as you clearly indicated we should. Curiously enough though, people are still toying with the idea of combining rocket engines with turbines as suggested in your letter. These engines are now called Rocket Based Combined Cycle Engines and seem to work about as well as they did back in 1957! I am also quite interested in the shape of the fuselage, it actually shows a lot of merit!

I think that the most interesting statement you made in your letter was “YOU PUT IN OTHER DETAILS”. You were clearly going to be an excellent Program Manager, by providing those that know best the freedom in the matter to get it right. Furthermore, you did have your priorities right as “AUSTRALIAN MARKINGS” are the most prominent feature of the design.

I remember as a boy designing rocket ships and planes at about the same time that you wrote your letter. I don’t know why or how, but somehow I was lucky enough to get to a position where I now head a team that designs planes and engines that will soon fly at Mach 8, or around 9000km/hr. I am proud to tell you that these planes will have an “AUSTRALIAN MARKING” on them as you indicated they should have. My one hope is that we do a sufficiently good job that is worthy of the inspiration, dreams and hopes that you provided in your letter those many years ago.

Once again, thank you for your letter.


Allan Paul BSc PhD MEngSc
Research Leader Applied Hypersonics
Air Vehicles Division

Friday, 18 September 2009

From your Daddy and pal always

On September 27th of 1945, whilst on a ship headed for Sydney, Australian soldier Charles Castle wrote the following emotional letter to his young son after being released from Changi's Prisoner of War Camp — a camp at which he had been held captive for 3 years — and announced his imminent return. Charles eventually arrived home in January of 1946, nearly two years after his heartbroken family had been told, by telegram, that he was missing in action and to expect the worst.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Australia Post; Image: Prisoners of war at Changi, 1942, via.)


27th Sept




All you need is love

Stuart Sutcliffe joined The Beatles as bassist in May, 1960 (they were then known as The Silver Beatles). 15 months later, he left the band and enrolled in the Hamburg College of Art. However just months before he parted ways with the band, on the 31st April, 1961 - a date which doesn't actually exist - he wrote the following letter to his disappointed mother, Millie. A year later, Sutcliffe died in the arms of his fiance, Astrid, after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.


Dear Mother,

How are you and the family – happy I hope. As you said in your letter there is a gross misunderstanding on A Williams part in thinking I could possibly give even in a gift my last few precious paintings. I was under the impression that he was contemplating arranging a small exhibition in his new club. I will write to him and re-enlighten him. I am so happy you had such a nice time with my father and thank you for his address, but it seems rather impossible to collect anything substantial in the way of stamps to send just yet, but I will write. I have spent the last 2 weeks composing a letter for Hart at the college. He should have it now and I hope he replys. I'm still a bit sad that you think I’ve made a mess of my future, but out of it all I have something to really compensate – my love for Astrid which knows no boundaries and her love for me. I'm quite certain I will start teaching in September and hope to know for definite where in the next 2 or 3 months. I have enclosed some money but cant send much as I'm paying off the bank £8 plus £12 to college which I borrowed about 3 years ago and forgot about + guitar and amplifier.

I'm sorry you didn’t like the photo (I didn't actually but its very difficult to make double portraits) but never mind. Will write again soon, love from myself and Astrid to all at home. Your son Stuart xxxx

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Your girl, Frida

A parting note written by Frida Kahlo on the back of a depository envelope - used by Kahlo to hold jewellery during a stay at hospital - prior to a trip to New York. Her husband (for the second time), Diego Rivera, was painting a mural in San Francisco which now resides at City College. He was assisted at the time by fellow artist and mutual friend 'Emmy Lou' Packard. 


Diego, my love,

Remember that once you finish the fresco we will be together forever once and for all, without arguments or anything, only to love one another.

Behave yourself and do everything that Emmy Lou tells you.

I adore you more than ever. Your girl, Frida

(Write me)

Boom, boom, boom!

On January 30th, 1996, Evelyn Amato, a Manhattan-based thirtysomething, attended a performance of Cats on Broadway with fiance and family. As a result of an alleged incident involving Rum Tum Tugger during said performance, the following letter was sent by Miss Amato to producer Cameron Mackintosh in March of that year. Further to the letter of complaint, a lawsuit was filed in January of 1997. Miss Amato was seeking $6 million in damages. A related New York Times article from 1997 which confirms the authenticity of the letter can be read here.


March 18, 1996

Cameron Mackintosh
The Really Useful Company
The Shubert Organisation

Dear Sir or Madam:

My fiance Dennis bought two orchestra tickets to see "Cats" on the evening of Jan. 30, 1996. Eight members of Dennis' family also bought tickets. My seat number was K-102. Dennis' seat number was K-104.

About 15 minutes before intermission, Rum Tum Tugger (David Hibbard) came off the stage and went around a lot of people in the audience towards me. He was standing in front of me, staring. Before I knew it, he took my handbag off my lap and placed it on Dennis' lap. (He hit Dennis in the face with the strap.) He then grabbed me by both wrists and pulled me up hard from my seat.

I said "NO!" and sat back down. He pulled me again, harder, and lifted me from my seat. I again said "NO!" and sat down again. I couldn't understand what was happening. Why didn't he look for somebody else in the audience? Why didn't he leave me alone?

Then he climbed up on both armrails where I was sitting and, if I didn't move my head back, his groin would have touched my mouth. He was moving his hips forward and back, saying "Boom, boom, boom!" He shook my head from side to side, and messed up my long hair. To make it worse, there was a bright spotlight aimed right at me.

I couldn't believe it, the longest playing show on Broadway, and I went there to be humiliated in front of a packed audience and my fiance and his family. After intermission, I couldn't concentrate or enjoy the other half of the show. I was still shook up about what just happened. Dennis was upset, too, and my evening was just ruined.

When the show ended, people from the audience asked me if I was part of the show. When I answered, "No," they couldn't believe it. Afterwards, I unhappily went home, outraged and upset. To this day, I haven't been able to forget about it. I keep thinking about it over and over. Why did he deliberately set out to make me look like a fool? I felt terrible.

I believe that David Hibbard acted very unprofessionally. It was very unfair to me for him to get a cheap laugh at my expense. This has even caused a strain on my relationship with my fiance. (He felt that maybe he should have done something about it, when the "Cats" performer had his groin in my face.)

I never expected to go to a Broadway show and come out feeling so humiliated.



Evelyn Amato
1330 Park Avenue, Apt. 5G
New York, N.Y. 10029-6022

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

17 million Negroes cannot wait for the hearts of men to change

Jackie Robinson was an exceptionally talented baseball player. In fact, such was his talent that on Arpil 15th, 1947 he obliterated an unwritten policy within baseball that had, until that point, prevented players of African descent from joining teams in either the minor or major leagues. After his baseball career ended, Robsinson took an active role in the political world and fought, amongst other things, racial segregation. He sent the following powerful letter to President Eisenhower in 1958, in response to a speech in which the President called for patience from African Americans in their fight for civil rights.

(For the curious: Jackie Robinson was Vice President of the Chock full o' Nuts company from 1957 onwards, hence the letterhead.)

Transcript follows, as does Eisenhower's reply.

(This letter, along with 124 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note.)

May 13, 1958

The President
The White House
Washington, D.C.

My dear Mr. President:

I was sitting in the audience at the Summit Meeting of Negro Leaders yesterday when you said we must have patience. On hearing you say this, I felt like standing up and saying, 'Oh no! Not again.'

I respectfully remind you sir, that we have been the most patient of all people. When you said we must have self-respect, I wondered how we could have self-respect and remain patient considering the treatment accorded us through the years.

17 million Negroes cannot do as you suggest and wait for the hearts of men to change. We want to enjoy now the rights that we feel we are entitled to as Americans. This we cannot do unless we pursue aggressively goals which all other Americans achieved over 150 years ago.

As the chief executive of our nation, I respectfully suggest that you unwittingly crush the spirit of freedom in Negroes by constantly urging forbearance and give hope to those pro-segregation leaders like Governor Faubus who would take from us even those freedoms we now enjoy. Your own experience with Governor Faubus is proof enough that forbearance and not eventual integration is the goal the pro-segregation leaders seek.

In my view, an unequivocal statement backed up by action such as you demonstrated you could take last fall in dealing with Governor Faubus if it became necessary, would let it be known that America is determined to provide—in the near future—for Negroes—the freedoms we are entitled to under the constitution.

Respectfully yours,
Jackie Robinson 


Dear Mr. Robinson:

Thank you very much for taking the time to write me some of the thoughts you had after the meeting of the Negro leaders here in Washington. While I understand the points you make about the use of patience and forbearance, I have never urged them as substitutes for constructive action or progress.

If you will review my talk made at the meeting, you will see that at no point did I advocate a cessation of effort on the part of individuals, organizations, or government, to bring to fruition for all Americans, the enjoyment of all the privileges of citizenship spelled out in our Constitution.

I am firmly on record as believing that every citizen--of every race and creed--deserves to enjoy equal civil rights and liberties, for there can be no such citizen in a democracy as a half-free citizen.

I should say here that we have much reason to be proud of the progress our people are making in mutual understanding--the chief buttress of human and civil rights. Steadily we are moving closer to the goal of fair and equal treatment of citizens without regard to race or color.

This progress, I am confident, will continue. And it is gifted persons such as yourself, born out of the crucible of the struggle for personal dignity and achievement, who will help lead the way towards the goals we seek.


Everything you hear is true

A heartbreaking letter, and farewell, from a brother to his sister. At the time of writing, Herbert Langer was based in Terezín, a Czech town which was used as a Nazi German concentration camp by the Gestapo during World War II. Herbert's sister Elly - the intended recipient of the letter - was living in Beverly Hills, California during this period. The day after the letter was written, Mr Langer was deported to the death camp at Auschwitz where he later died.

The letter is written in Czech, an English transcript follows. The second page can be seen here.


Teerzin, October 27th, 1944

My dearest Elly,

On September 6th, 1941, our father was taken prisoner and on November 11th, 1941 he died an honest man, decent and respected by everybody. The latest news which he sent to me and which was given to me here last year by a fellow-prisoner who knew his suffering and shared it, was that he felt alright. Our father fulfilled his duty, nobody fulfilled it for him.

Since 1939 I have worked conscientiously and I fulfilled honestly the duties to those who like myself were exposed to persecution and oppression. I am only sorry that I shall be unable to describe what I saw. All I am asking you, is that you believe always what you shall hear, because everything you hear is true. All you are going to hear is nothing compared to what I had to witness. I always had the most honest relations to everything.

Until today, thank God, I was able to save our family, with the exception of our father from the terrible fate, which overtook tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe millions. Tomorrow my family and the family of our sister have to start the trip which thousands before them had to take. If God will be gracious they may survive this hard time and the unjust fate. Alas, beginning tomorrow I can't guard or help them anymore. I only hope that there will be some people who will take care of them and I pray they will be granted some of the good dreams I cherished for them.

Tomorrow I am leaving, seperately from the others. Beginning tomorrow you shall never hear from me again. I shall vanish in the boundless spheres where those had to vanish who recognized and saw, what the whole world looked with crossed arms. We are in the war, we are enemies, we have to die like soldiers. In the next 48 hours my fate shall be accomplished, with me the fate of my wife Gerty. All I am asking you is to take care of our father's grave and if you should find us then bury us by him. Help our own and Gerty's families as much as possible, help them forget all the horrors they had to go through. They will need your help.

I pray that you remain healthy and brave and stay happy with your family and that you may never forget that all you shall hear is nothing compared to what millions of people had to suffer and go through.

May God bless you,



How can we stamp out this menace?

A flurry of letters similar to the one below - this particular example written by an irate parent to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1964 - resulted in a 31 month investigation by the FBI into the recording of the song Louie Louie by The Kingsmen. The initial uproar was a result of claims that the lyrics to this recording of Louie Louie were so obscene that lead singer Jack Ely had chosen to slur his vocals. As the red mist descended, lyrics such as 'A fine little girl..' became 'A fine little bitch..'. The words 'I smell the rose in her hair' were now 'I felt my boner in her hair'.

After more than two years on the case, the FBI declared they were 'unable to interpret any of the wording on the record'. Here is the song on Youtube.


FEB 7 1964

Mr. Robert F, Kennedy
Attorney General USA
Washington, D.C.

Dear Mr. Kennedy:

Who do you turn to when your teenage daughter buys and brings home pornographic or obscene materials being sold along with objects directed and aimed at the teenage market in every City, Village and Record shop in this nation?

My daughter brought home a record of "LOUIE LOUIE" and I, after reading that the record had been banned from being played on the air because it was obscene, proceeded to try to decipher the jumble of words.
The lyrics are so filthy that I can-not enclose them in this letter.

This record is on the WAND label #143-A and recorded by The KINGSMEN "a Jerden Production by Ken Chase and Jerry Dennon" and there is an address 1650 Broadway New York, N.Y.

I would like to see these people, The "artists", the Record company and the promoters prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

We all know there is obscene materials available for those who seek it, but when they start sneaking in this material in the guise of the latest 'teen age rock & roll hit record these morons have gone too far.

This land of ours is headed for an extreme state of moral degradation what with this record, the biggest hit movies and the sex and violence exploited on T.V.

How can we stamp out this menace? ? ? ?

Yours very truly,


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

I can and will do more good as a Federal Agent at Large

Elvis Presley was an avid collector of police badges and the owner of dozens from departments and agencies the length and breadth of the United States. But, there was one badge in particular that he was desperate to get his hands on—one which had, for a long time, proven elusive: a badge from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. In fact, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was so keen to obtain one that in December of 1970, he took a flight to the White House in order to hand-deliver this letter, written mid-flight, in which he cunningly offered his services in the war on drugs—as a “Federal Agent at Large.” His arrival at the White House gates proved effective. A few hours later, he had a meeting with President Nixon, gifted him with a Colt .45 pistol after a quick photocall, and asked for the badge he so wanted to own. Nixon obliged, they had their photograph taken, and the next day Elvis returned to Graceland.

All in all, an incredible and bizarre event, the official photos of which have since become the most requested in the history of the National Archives.

Transcript follows.

(Source: National Archives; Image: President Nixon and Elvis Presley, via.)

Dear Mr. President:

First, I would like to introduce myself. I am Elvis Presley and admire you and have great respect for your office. I talked to Vice President Agnew in Palm Springs three weeks ago and expressed my concerns for our country. The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do not consider me as their enemy or as they call it, the establishment. I call it America and I love it. Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out. I have no concerns or motives other than helping the country out. So, I wish not to be given a title or an appointed position. I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large and I will help out by doing it my way through communications with people of all ages. First and foremost, I am an entertainer, but all I need is the Federal credentials. I am on the plane with Senator George Murphy and we have been discussing the problems that our country is faced with.

Sir, I am staying at the Washington Hotel, Room 505-506-507. I have two men who work with me by the name of Jerry Schilling and Sonny West. I am registered under the name of Jon Burrows. I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent. I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing I can and will do the most good.

I am glad to help just so long as it is kept very private. You can have your staff or whomever call me anytime today, tonight or tomorrow. I was nominated this coming year one of America's Ten Most Outstanding Young Man. That will be in January 18 in my home town of Memphis, Tennessee. I am sending you a short autobiography about myself so you can better understand this approach. I would love to meet you just to say hello if you're not too busy.


Elvis Presley

P.S. I believe that you, Sir, were one of the Top Ten Outstanding Men of America Also.

I have a personal gift for you which I would like to present to you and you can accept it or I will keep it for you until you can take it.

The Father-in-Law of the Telephone

A few years after the telephone was introduced to the masses, Mark Twain made it clear that he wasn't a fan of the invention via an article he wrote for New York World. In response, Alexander Graham Bell's father-in-law - Gardiner Greene Hubbard - wrote a light-hearted letter to Twain. Soon after, the reply shown below was delivered to Hubbard in an enveloped addressed to 'The Father-in-Law of the Telephone'.


Hartford, Dec.27/90

Dear Sir:

I doubt if it can be arranged.

You see - 1. If it had not been for Professor Bell, there would not be any telephone; 2. & consequently no Hartford telephone; 3 - which makes him primarily & therefore personally responsible for the Hartford telephone. The Hartford telephone is the very worst on the very face of the whole earth. No man can dictate a 20-word message intelligible through it at any hour of the day without devoting a week's time to it, & there is no night-service whatsoever since electric-lighting was introduced. Though mind you they charge for night-service, in their cold calm way, just the same as if they furnished it. And if you try to curse through the telephone, they shut you off. It is this ostentatious holiness that grovels me. Every day I go there to practice & always get shut off. And so what it amounts to is that I don't get any practice that can really be considered practice. Well, as you see, yourself, the inventor is responsible for all this. For your sake I wish I could think of some way to save him, but there doesn't appear to be any. Now, then, reconcilement to his fate will be the next best thing. Let him come up & work the Hartford telephone till he pines for the solace & refuge of his long lost home.

Meantime, good wishes & a Merry Christmas to you, sir!

Mark Twain

Monday, 14 September 2009

It would be best for the country to keep baseball going

On December 7th of 1941, the Japanese Navy carried out a devastating attack on the U.S.'s naval base at Pearl Harbor, and ultimately sealed the Americans' participation in World War II.  Just a month later, Kenesaw Landis — then-Commissioner of Baseball in the U.S. — asked President Roosevelt whether the upcoming baseball season should be called off in light of current events.

Roosevelt replied with the letter seen below. Needless to say, baseball continued.

Transcript follows.


The White House

January 15, 1942.

My dear Judge:-

Thank you for yours of January fourteenth. As you will, of course, realize the final decision about the baseball season must rest with you and the Baseball Club owners -- so what I am going to say is solely a personal and not an official point of view.

I honestly feel that it would be best for the country to keep baseball going. There will be fewer people unemployed and everybody will work longer hours and harder than ever before.

And that means that they ought to have a chance for recreation and for taking their minds off their work even more than before.

Baseball provides a recreation which does not last over two hours or two hours and a half and which can be got for very little cost. And, incidentally, I hope that night games can be extended because it gives an opportunity to the day shift to see a game occasionally.

As to the players themselves I know you agree with me that individual players who are of active military or naval age should go, without question, into the services. Even if the actual quality of the teams is lowered by the greater use of older players, this will not dampen the popularity of the sport. Of course, if any individual has some particular aptitude in a trade or profession, he ought to serve the Government. That, however, is a matter which I know you can handle with complete justice.

Here is another way of looking at it -- if 300 teams use 5,000 or 6,000 players, these players are a definite recreational asset to at least 20,000,000 of their fellow citizens -- and that in my judgment is thoroughly worthwhile.

With every best wish,

Very sincerely yours,

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Hon. Kenesaw M. Landis,
333 North Michigan Avenue,

Friday, 11 September 2009

How noble a woman's heart can be

On July 17th of 1915, Winston Churchill wrote the following letter, sealed it in an envelope marked, "To be sent to Mrs Churchill in the event of my death," and then rejoined the army. Luckily, his wife, Clementine, never had reason to open it.

Churchill became Prime Minister 25 years later.

Transcript follows.

(Source: University of Cambridge; Image via.)

Do not grieve for me too much. I am a spirit confident of my rights. Death is only an incident & not the most important which happens to us in this state of being. On the whole, especially since I met you my darling I have been happy, & you have taught me how noble a woman's heart can be. If there is anywhere else I shall be on the look out for you. Meanwhile look forward, feel free, rejoice in life, cherish the children, guard my memory. God bless you.

Good bye.


The child is in gut care

Toddler Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of famous pilots Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow, was abducted from his crib on March 1st, 1932. The following ransom note was found at the scene. Although the ransom was paid a month later, the child's body was discovered just miles from the Lindbergh's home on May 12th. The exposure surrounding the kidnapping and subsequent trial led to it being labelled 'The Crime of the Century' by the press. Bruno Hauptmann was convicted of the kidnapping/murder and electrocuted 4 years later.


Dear Sir!

Have 50000$ redy 25000$ in
20$ bills 15000$ in 10$ bills and
10000$ in 5$ bills After 2-4 days
we will inform you were to deliver
the Mony.

We warn you for making
anyding public or for notify the Police
The child is in gut care.
Indication for all letters are
and three holes.

It is like confessing a murder

In November of 1859, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published. A truly groundbreaking book that would forever change our perception of the world, it instantly generated widespread debate and surprise. Darwin’s central theory of evolution was that a species, rather than being unchanging, will gradually transform over time according to its environment, with the most advantageous and therefore attractive traits of its individuals persisting. Fifteen years earlier, when Darwin first considered what was later termed “natural selection,” he wrote a letter to his friend, the botanist Joseph D. Hooker, in which, after discussing various plants, shells and fossils, he made mention of his world-changing theory and likened the revelation to “confessing a murder.”

Full transcript follows.

(Source: Syndics of Cambridge University Library.)

Down. Bromley Kent


My dear Sir

I must write to thank you for your last letter; I to tell you how much all your views and facts interest me. — I must be allowed to put my own interpretation on what you say of “not being a good arranger of extended views” — which is, that you do not indulge in the loose speculations so easily started by every smatterer & wandering collector. — I look at a strong tendency to generalize as an entire evil —

What limit shall you take on the Patagonian side — has d'Orbigny published, I believe he made a large collection at the R. Negro, where Patagonia retains its usual forlorn appearance; at Bahia Blanca & northward the features of Patagonia insensibly blend into the savannahs of La Plata. — The Botany of S. Patagonia (& I collected every plant in flower at the season when there) would be worth comparison with the N. Patagonian collection by d'Orbigny. — I do not know anything about King's plants, but his birds were so inaccurately habitated, that I have seen specimen from Brazil, Tierra del & the Cape de Verde Isd all said to come from the St. Magellan. — What you say of Mr Brown is humiliating; I had suspected it, but cd not allow myself to believe in such heresy. — FitzRoy gave him a rap in his Preface, & made me very indignant, but it seems a much harder one wd not have been wasted. My crptogamic collection was sent to Berkeley; it was not large; I do not believe he has yet published an account, but he wrote to me some year ago that he had described & mislaid all his descriptions. Wd it not be well for you to put yourself in communication with him; as otherwise some things will perhaps be twice laboured over. — My best (though poor) collection of the Crptogam. was from the Chonos Islands. —

Would you kindly observe one little fact for me, whether any species of plant, peculiar to any isld, as Galapagos, St. Helena or New Zealand, where there are no large quadrupeds, have hooked seeds, — such hooks as if observed here would be thought with justness to be adapted to catch into wool of animals. —

Would you further oblige me some time by informing me (though I forget this will certainly appear in your Antarctic Flora) whether in isld like St. Helena, Galapagos, & New Zealand, the number of families & genera are large compared with the number of species, as happens in coral-isld, & as I believe? in the extreme Arctic land. Certainly this is case with Marine shells in extreme Arctic seas. — Do you suppose the fewness of species in proportion to number of large groups in Coral-islets., is owing to the chance of seeds from all orders, getting drifted to such new spots? as I have supposed. —

Did you collect sea-shells in Kerguelen land, I shd like to know their character.?

Your interesting letters tempt me to be very unreasonable in asking you questions; but you must not give yourself any trouble about them, for I know how fully & worthily you are employed.

Besides a general interest about the Southern lands, I have been now ever since my return engaged in a very presumptuous work & which I know no one individual who wd not say a very foolish one. — I was so struck with distribution of Galapagos organisms &c &c & with the character of the American fossil mammifers, &c &c that I determined to collect blindly every sort of fact, which cd bear any way on what are species. — I have read heaps of agricultural & horticultural books, & have never ceased collecting facts — At last gleams of light have come, & I am almost convinced (quite contrary to opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable. Heaven forfend me from Lamarck nonsense of a “tendency to progression” “adaptations from the slow willing of animals” &c, — but the conclusions I am led to are not widely different from his — though the means of change are wholly so — I think I have found out (here's presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends. — You will now groan, & think to yourself ‘on what a man have I been wasting my time in writing to.’ — I shd, five years ago, have thought so. — I fear you will also groan at the length of this letter — excuse me, I did not begin with malice prepense.

Believe me my dear Sir
Very truly your's
C. Darwin