Friday, 30 July 2010

I hear you like Tomato Soup

As product marketing manager for Campbell's, William MacFarland must have been overjoyed with the incredible public reaction to Andy Warhol's first exhibition as a fine artist in 1962, as present at the gallery was his now world-famous Campbell's Soup Cans piece: 32 silkscreened portraits, each representing a different variety of the company's soup product, all arranged in a single line. The work provoked huge debate in all corners of the art world and helped bring the Pop art movement to the masses; all the while holding a certain brand in the limelight.

In 1964, as Warhol's star continued to rise, MacFarland decided to make his pleasure known to the artist by way of the following letter. Some complimentary cans of soup soon followed.

Transcript follows.

Recommended reading: The Philosophy of Andy Warhol : (From A to B and Back Again).

Image from the collection of Billy Name, via

Campbell SOUP Company

May 19, 1964

Mr. A. Warhol
1342 Lexington Avenue
New York, New York

Dear Mr. Warhol:

I have followed your career for some time. Your work has evoked a great deal of interest here at Campbell Soup Company for obvious reasons.

At one time I had hoped to be able to acquire one of your Campbell Soup label paintings - but I'm afraid you have gotten much too expensive for me.

I did want to tell you, however, that we admired your work and I have since learned that you like Tomato Soup. I am taking the liberty of having a couple of cases of our Tomato Soup delivered to you at this address.

We wish you continued success and good fortune.


(Signed, 'William P. MacFarland')

William P. MacFarland
Product Marketing Manager

Thursday, 29 July 2010

What makes you think I hate the British?

An inquisitive letter from a Kansas City resident provoked this insightful typewritten reply from Mohandas Gandhi in 1925. Written to a Fred Campbell just over a year after being released from prison - he had served two years of a six year sentence following his promotion of the Non-cooperation movement - Gandhi took the opportunity to personally respond to the allegation that he 'hated' the British people.

Transcript follows.

148, Russa Road,
26th July 1925.

My dear young Friend,

I like your frank and sincere letter for which I thank you.

You seem to have taken it for granted that I hate the British. What makes you think so? I have hundreds of friends among the British people. I cannot love the Mussalmans and for that matter the Hindus if I hate the British. My love is not an exclusive affair. If I hate the British today, I would have to hate the Mohammedans tomorrow and the Hindus the day after. But what I do detest is the system of government that the British have set up in my country. It has almost brought the economic and moral ruin of the people of India. But just as I love my wife and children, in spite of their faults which are many, I love also the British in spite of the bad system for which they have unfortunately made themselves responsible. That love which is blind is no love, that love which shuts its eyes to the faults of loved ones is partial and even dangerous. You must write again if this letter does not satisfy you.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed, 'MKGandhi')

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

A Mad Rejection

There's nothing like a helping of light-hearted humour to ease the pain of rejection, as evidenced by this form letter from the offices of Mad magazine, one of the most influential humour publications ever released. The letter was sent to all unsuccessful submitters of material during the much-lauded reign of Al Feldstein.

Transcript follows. Enormous thanks to Christopher Lading for supplying this letter.

Recommended reading: The Art of Harvey Kurtzman: The Mad Genius of Comics.

485 MADISON AVENUE · NEW YORK N. Y. 10022 · PLAZA 2-7685

Dear Contributor:-

Sorry, but we've got bad news!

You've been rejected!

Don't take this personally though. All of us feel rejected at one time or another. At least, that's what our group therapist tells us here at MAD. He says we shouldn't worry about it.

So that should be your attitude: "What-Me worry?"

Besides - although you've been rejected, things could have been a lot worse. Your material might have been ACCEPTED!

Then where would you be?


(Signed, 'Al Feldstein')

Al Feldstein

P.S. Our group therapist also mentioned that many people are so rejected by a rejection that they don't try again. And we wouldn't want THAT! We really WOULD like you to keep sending us your article ideas and scripts. . .so we can keep sending you these idiotic rejection slips!

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

It is a lovely book

In 2012, Canadian author Yann Martel received a thoughtful thank you letter in the mail in response to his award-winning novel, Life of Pi. Such appreciative letters are understandably not a rarity for Martel, however the writer of this particular handwritten note, a fan who had recently read the book with his daughter, happened to be Barack Obama. Said the author:
"What amazes me is the gratuity of it. As you would know, there is a large measure of calculation in what public figures do. But here, what does he gain? I’m not a US citizen. In no way can I be of help to President Obama. Clearly he did it for personal reasons, as a reader and as a father. And in two lines, what an insightful analysis of Life of Pi. Bless him, bless him."
Transcript follows.


Mr. Martel —

My daughter and I just finished reading Life of Pi together. Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals.

It is a lovely book — an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling.

Thank you.

(Signed, 'Barack Obama')

Monday, 26 July 2010

"I told you so!"

In October of 1945, an article titled "Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?" was published in Wireless World magazine, in which world-renowned science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke discussed the idea that, in the near future, artificial satellites placed in a geostationary orbit (now sometimes known as a "Clarke Orbit") could be used as repeaters to relay radio signals.

Eleven years later, Clarke wrote the following letter to Andrew G. Haley. In it, he mentions the aforementioned article and then expands on his earlier writings by correctly predicting the future development of both satellite television and GPS.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Res Communis; Image: Arthur C. Clarke on the set of 2001, via.)

Aug 56

Dear Andy,

Odd that we should have crossed in the post!

I am afraid that I am too much out of touch with current communication theory and technique to provide much of value for you. (In any event, all my war-time experience was in radar, not radio.)

As you may know, my main interest in this subject is in the use of satellite relays, which I think may revolutionise the pattern of world communications. To the best of my knowledge, I was the first to suggest this possibility (see "Extraterrestrial Relays", Wireless World, October 45). By another odd coincidence I've just sent my agent an article on these lines, entitled "The Billion Dollar Moon", giving my latest view on this subject. My general conclusions are that perhaps in 30 years the orbital relay system may take over all the functions of existing surface networks and provide others quite impossible today. For example, the three stations in the 24-hour orbit could provide not only an interference and censorship-free global TV service for the same power as a single modern transmitter, but could also make possible a position-finding grid whereby anyone on earth could locate himself by means of a couple of dials on an instrument about the size of a watch. (A development of Decca and transistorisation.) It might even make possible world-wide person-to-person radio with automatic dialling. Thus no-one on the planet need ever get lost or become out of touch with the community, unless he wanted to be. I'm still thinking about the social consequences of this!

But as for details of frequencies and powers, I'll have to leave that to the experts to work out; I'll get on with my science fiction and wait to say "I told you so!"


(Signed, 'Arthur')

Arthur C Clarke

P.S. Any chance of seeing you in London? I leave for N.Y. on 28 August.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Characters are more important than jokes

In the 1980s, intrigued as to the techniques employed when producing one of the world's most adored comic strips, aspiring artist and Calvin and Hobbes fan Todd Church took a chance and sent an inquisitive letter to the offices of the strip's Kansas syndicate. A few weeks later - much to his surprise - Todd received a charming reply in the mail, from Bill Watterson himself. That letter can be seen below.

Transcript follows.

Dear Todd,

Thank you for your letter. Here are some general comic strip cartooning tips that I've tried to make helpful for people at all levels of advancement. I hope these will apply to your work.

1. Materials are not important, so long as your work reproduces and reduces clearly. It's what you do WITH the materials that counts.

2. I think characters are more important than jokes. Any cartoonist ought to be able to come up with funny gags, but the best strips have rounded, complex characters that readers can care about. Cartoon characters should be more than standing props to deliver jokes.

3. Don't imitate other strips. Editors are looking for something new and original.

4. Most importantly, have fun with your work, and practice writing and drawing all you can.

Good luck,

(Signed, 'WB Watterson')

W.B. Watterson

Thursday, 22 July 2010

24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not.

On the Friday closest to January 26th, in a tradition that began in the mid-1970s, students at Bates College in the U.S. take part in a drinking ritual: over the course of 24hrs, each participant must consume a total of 24 beers whilst carrying on with their daily routine. Known as Newman's Day, the ritual was born in response to a possibly mythical quote from the late-actor, Paul Newman, in which he supposedly noted, whilst making a speech on campus:
"24 beers in a case, 24 hours in a day. Coincidence? I think not."
A particularly rowdy Newman's Day in 1987 prompted then-dean Celeste Branham to proclaim the tradition 'over'; not long afterwards, Paul Newman himself heard of the development, and sent the following note to the college's president.

The tradition continues to this day.

Transcript follows.

April 20, 1987

Mr. Thomas Reynolds
President, Bates College
204 Lane Hall
Lewiston, ME 04240

Dear Mr. Reynolds:

I was surprised to learn that a day which was held in my honor was actually an excuse for drunkenness, disregard for property, disrespect for people, and deeds of questionable character. That the tradition of these activities has been wisely quashed by those in authority is indeed a relief.

I would like to propose that Paul Newman Day be reinstated under somewhat different guidelines; i.e., a day in pursuit of athletic excellence with paid attendance. The proceeds to be returned to the community in ways of your own choosing. I would be grateful to learn if the students find any merit in this.


(Signed, 'Paul Newman')

cc: Laurette A. Cousineau
P.S. My office address is: 500 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Neo-Nazis, Syphilis, and World War III

In 1972, a far-reaching neo-Nazi organisation discreetly began to contact various high-profile authors in the U.S. with a view to enlisting their help; the plan being to covertly plant codewords into millions of science fiction novels and spread a secret message to certain sections of society. The message related to a new, deadly, and incurable strain of syphilis - deliberately unleashed on the country by enemies of the U.S. - that was currently sweeping the land at an incredible pace, its existence denied by the government. This was, in fact, the beginning of World War III.

The scene I just painted was lifted from the following two letters - intriguing letters to say the least - both of which were written by science fiction novelist Philip K. Dick in 1972 and sent, in all seriousness, to the FBI. Interestingly, within two years Dick began to experience the 'visions' he would later document in his book, Exegesis.

Transcripts follow.

Letter #1

Letter #2


Letter #1
October 28, 1972

Federal Bureau of Investigation
Washington, D.C.


I am a well-known author of science fiction novels, one of which dealt with Nazi Germany (called MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, it described an "alternate world" in which the Germans and Japanese won World War Two and jointly occupied the United States). This novel, published in 1962 by Putnam & Co., won the Hugo Award for Best Novel of the Year and hence was widely read both here and abroad; for example, a Japanese edition printed in Tokio ran into several editions. I bring this to your attention because several months ago I was approached by an individual who I have reason to believe belonged to a covert organization involving politics, illegal weapons, etc., who put great pressure on me to place coded information in future novels "to be read by the right people here and there," as he phrased it. I refused to do this.

The reason why I am contacting you about this now is that it now appears that other science fiction writers may have been so approached by other members of this obviously anti-American organization and may have yielded to the threats and deceitful statements such as were used on me. Therefore I would like to give you any and all information and help I can regarding this, and I ask that your nearest office contact me as soon as possible. I stress the urgency of this because within the last three days I have come across a well-distributed science fiction novel which contains in essence the vital material which this individual confronted me with as the basis for encoding. That novel is CAMP CONCENTRATION by Thomas Disch, which was published by Doubleday & Co.


Philip K. Dick
3028 Quartz Lane Apt. #2
Calif 92361.

P.S. I would like to add: what alarms me most is that this covert organization which approached me may be Neo-Nazi, although it did not identify itself as being such. My novels are extremely anti-Nazi. I heard only one code identification by this individual: Solarcon-6.
Letter #2
November 4, 1972

Inspector Shine
Marin County Sheriff's Office,
Marin County Civic Center,
San Rafael,
Calif 94903.

Dear Inspector Shine:

As you may recall, on or about November 17, 1971, my house at 707 Hacienda Way, Santa Venetia, was extensively robbed. The last time I talked to you, during February of this year, you informed me that you had broken the case; a man named Wade (Jerry Wade I believe) had been arrested with the Ruger .22 pistol of mine stolen during this robbery. I have been in Canada and now in Southern California and hence out of touch. Have any more of my possessions been recovered? Have there been any more arrests made? Do you have anything more you can tell me at this date?

While I was in Canada evidently my house was robbed again, during March of this year. I did not know this until what remained of my things arrived down here; my realtor, Mrs. Annie Reagan, had stored them, and at least one entire room of stuff is missing: the bedroom in which the control system of the burglar alarm was located, the one room not covered by the scanner. Obviously it was robbed by someone who intimately knew the layout of the alarm system and how to bypass it. I recall that Inspector Bridges thought that the November 17 robbery was an inside job, at least in part. I believe that this later robbery in March of this year proves it. Only two or three persons that I can recall knew the layout of the burglar alarm system. One was Harold Kinchen, who was under investigation by Airforce Intelligence at Hamilton Field at the time I left (Mr. Richard Bader was conducting the investigation; through Sergeant Keaton of Tiberon he asked me to come in and give testimony. It had to do with an attempt on the arsenal of the Airforce Intelligence people at Hamilton on I recall January first of this year). I have more reason to believe now than I did then that Kinchen and the secret extralegal organization to which he belonged were involved in both robberies of my house, although evidence seemed to point more toward Panthers such as Wade. I say this because this is Orange County where I live now, and I have come to know something about the rightwing paramilitary Minutemen illegal people here -- they tell me confidentially that from my description of events surrounding the November robbery of my house, the methods used, the activities of Harry Kinchen in particular, it sounds to them like their counterparts up there, and possibly even a neo-Nazi group. Recently I've obtained, by accident, new information about Kinchen's associates, and the neo-Nazi organization theory does seem reinforced. In this case, the November robbery was political in nature and more than a robbery. I have thought this for some time, but until now had less reason to be sure.

As to the motive of the assault I'm not sure at all. Possibly it had to do with my published novels, one of which dealt with Nazi Germany -- it was extremely anti-Nazi, and widely circulated. I know for a fact that Harry Kinchen and the Japanese relatives he had through his wife Susan had read it. Kinchen's Japanese-born mother-in-law, Mrs. Toni Adams, had read the novel in the Japanese edition. Beyond any doubt, Kinchen is an ardent Nazi trained in such skill as weapons-use, explosives, wire-tapping, chemistry, psychology, toxins and poisons, electronics, auto repair, sabotage, the manufacture of narcotics. Mr. Bader is of course aware of this. What I did not pass on to anyone, because I feared for my life, is the fact that Kinchen put coercive pressure, both physical and psychological, on me to put secret coded information into my future published writings, "to be read by the right people here and there," as he put it, meaning members of his subversive organization. As I told you in November, he accidently responded to a phonecall from me with a code signal. Later, he admitted belonging to a secret "worldwide" organization and told me some details.

The coded information which Kinchen wished placed in my novels (I of course refused, and fled to Canada) had to do with an alleged new strain of syphilis sweeping the U.S., kept topsecret by the U.S. authorities; it can't be cured, destroys the brain, and is swift-acting. The disease, Kinchen claimed, is being brought in deliberately from Asia by agents of the enemy (unspecified), and is in fact a weapon of World War Three, which has begun, being used against us.

In a recent confidential discussion which I had with my Paris editor, a close friend of mine, this editor ratified my conviction that to allow this coded "information," undoubtedly spurious, to get into print, would be a disaster for this country. These neo-nazis or whatever they are would "break" their own code and make public this phony information, thus creating mass hysteria and panic. There is, of course, no such new untreatable paresis, despite rumors we have been hearing from Servicemen returning from Viet Nam. I have contacted the F.B.I. on the advice of my editor-publisher friend, but I felt I should contact you, too. You may wish to pass this information about the coded information in novels onto Mr. Bader.

I will hope, then, to hear from you. Thank you.


Philip K. Dick
3028 Quartz Lane #3
Calif 92361.

P.S. Harold Kinchen introduced me to only one individual, who asked me to write for his underground pornographic publications; I refused. By accident I recently learned that this man, "Doc" Stanley, of Corte Madera, "was a student of the speeches of Hitler during his college days at the University of Chicago, advocating their doctrines and reading them to people." Neither Stanley nor Kinchen mentioned this to me.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Planning Mount Rushmore

In 1927, sculptor Gutzon Borglum began work on what was to become one of the most iconic landmarks in the world: Mount Rushmore. Whilst preparing to start work on the gigantic sculpture, initially intended to feature just the heads of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Borglum wrote the following letter - complete with a very rare prelimanary sketch - to his friend and collaborator Jesse Gove Tucker to discuss his current progress and plans.

Transcript follows.

Metropolitan Club
Washington, D.C.

My dear Jesse:

This is the first time I've been alone for it seems weeks and now only because a friend has failed in an appointment = so I'm sending you a line - I've had a two hours talk with Norbeck, who you know is head of the Black Hills park. I can't tell you all we talked about but it amounts to this. He goes home as soon as congress adjourns and jumps at once in to the monument work = meantime I go to Texas on the fifteenth stopping in Raleigh: where you and I should have a talk = that talk should deal with the question - number of men - money necessary to start and possibly cut the Washington Head on shoulder of cliff this summer. Very little cutting required, state will furnish power drills, tents and studio. They have some money = I shall not need any this year, as much as I need that work shall be under way. I want to make the models small one is now done - Then I want to turn the job over to you or Villa under my guidance. When we meet we will go carefully into costs and I will fix things so you can take up the work as you wish. It would mean a great deal to me to have this going at once - please do not say anything about it but bear in mind the stone is this shape. So you see there is little real cutting:


I want if possible - you spend a couple of days with me at Raleigh and then I'll push on to Texas although I don't want my plans known.

The Big Sims needed for the big work is well in sight - and I have no worry about it = What we must do now is organize our selves - and start = The Stephens Statue came from the Governor's Committee of the State of Ga. - and I'm curious to see what the effect will be in Atlanta = Coin Sale here is failure - This is their final effort = and now they tell me Lackman has quit and a cheaper contractor is to do the work.

What this all means I don't know - but what is really being done is as disgraceful as it would be possible to imagine - I did not believe when they failed to get a sculptor - failed to get money - failed to get public sympathy they would still persist in letting a man of this commercial type of stone cutter contract for work this report tells me they are doing.

Well my affairs are going better - It's time and the long sad service is over—that is I have plenty of new and very remunerative work in hand = that is beginning to pay above my expenses = give my love to your dear family = Cliff and Charles —

Affectionately Yours

(Signed, 'Gutzon Borglum')

Haven't time to read this over.

Monday, 19 July 2010

The best reappraisals are born in the worst crisis

On February 11th of 1961, just a week after her final movie was released to disappointing reviews, a depressed, exhausted and frequently ill Marilyn Monroe admitted herself for psychiatric treatment in New York. Whilst there, Marlon Brando sent the following note of support. Tragically, just over a year later Monroe passed away.

The note sold for $36'000 in 2005.

Transcript follows.


Marilyn Monroe
Nurological Institute Clinic
Presbyterian Hospital
168th & Broadway
New York City, N.Y.

Dear Marilyn:

The best reappraisals are born in the worst crisis. It has happened to all of us in relative degrees. Be glad for it and don't be afraid of being afraid. It can only help. Relax and enjoy it. I send you my thoughts and my warmest affections.


Friday, 16 July 2010

You're chaining up far too many women

Particularly during its infancy in the 1940s, the sight of its numerous characters being bound, dominated and disciplined was an incredibly common occurrence for readers of the Wonder Woman comic. However, it was a certain method of restriction - being chained, specifically - and its repeated usage that sparked the following glorious letter to the strip's creator (and psychologist), Dr. William Moulton Marston. Written in 1943 by the founder of All-American Comics, Maxwell Gaines, the letter was sent to Marston along with a complaint from a reader and, more intriguingly, a sadly-now-elusive list of alternative methods by which to keep a woman confined.

Transcript follows. Initial image found at Comic Book Resources.

September 14, 1943

Dr. William Moulton Marston
Cherry Orchard
Rye, New York

Dear Doc:

Attached is a copy of a letter which came in yesterday's mail. I'd like to discuss this with you the next time you come in.

This is one of the things I've been afraid of, (without quite being able to put my finger on it) in my discussions with you regarding Miss Frank's suggestions to eliminate chains.

Miss Roubicek hastily dashed off this morning the enclosed list of methods which can be used to keep women confined or enclosed without the use of chains. Each one of these can be varied in many ways - enabling us, as I told you in our conference last week, to cut down the use of chains by at least 50 to 75% without at all interfering with the excitement of the story or the sales of the books.



M. C. Gaines, President


Thursday, 15 July 2010

I'm afraid I thought this one as dire as its title

In May of 1974, after reading through a pilot script written by John Cleese and his then-wife, Connie Booth, a clearly unimpressed 'comedy script editor' by the name of Ian Main sent the following memo to BBC Television's Head of Comedy and Light Entertainment. Luckily for the general population, and thanks in no small part to the persistence of Cleese and Booth, Main's opinion was ultimately ignored by his superiors and a year later the script had evolved into a programme which to this day is considered one of the funniest ever to grace our screens. The show was Fawlty Towers.

Speaking in 2009, John Cleese said of this very memo, "It just shows you people have no idea what they are doing."

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

From: Comedy Script Editor, Light Entertainment, Television
Room No. & Building: 4009 TC
Tel. Ext.: 2900
date: 29.5.1974.

To: H.C.L.E.

I'm afraid I thought this one as dire as its title.

It's a kind of "Prince of Denmark" of the hotel world. A collection of cliches and stock characters which I can't see being anything but a disaster.

(Signed, 'I.M.')

(Ian Main)


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Tesla's Death Ray

In his later years, the supremely gifted Nikola Tesla announced to the public the ongoing development of Teleforce, a stunningly powerful, highly controversial new invention that was to act as an instrument of national defense. Dubbed 'The Death Ray' by press, Tesla's charged particle beam weapon promised, initially via a 1934 New York Times article:
[to] make war impossible [by sending] concentrated beams of particles through the free air, of such tremendous energy that they will bring down a fleet of 10,000 enemy airplanes at a distance of 250 miles from a defending nation's border and will cause armies of millions to drop dead in their tracks.
Despite much provisional interest, funding ultimately proved impossible to obtain, as illustrated by the letter below sent by a clearly passionate Tesla to a dubious Samuel Kintner of Westinghouse Electric in response to such a rejection. By the time he passed away in 1943 Tesla had unsuccessfully approached many other companies - and even the governments of numerous Allied countries directly - in an effort to bring Teleforce to fruition.

Transcript follows. Note: I've cleaned up the image to improve readability. The original can be seen here.

Hotel New Yorker
New York, N. Y.
April 7, 1934

S. W. Kintner, Esq
Westinghouse Electric & Mfg. Co
Pittsburgh, Pa.

My dear Mr Kintner:

I was glad that you did not put the matter before Mr Merrick for I found after careful thought and figuring that it would take much more money to carry out my proposal which I made to you on the spur of the moment stimulated by the pleasure of our meeting and your warm response. The Westinghouse people made a friendly gesture and I wanted to meet them in the same spirit by giving them the first opportunity on discoveries which I honestly believe to be more important than any recorded in the history of invention.

I have groped for years trying to find some solution of the most pressing problem of humanity that of insuring peace and, little by little, I have been led to the ideal means to this end. For they will afford perfect protection to every country without providing a new implement for attack. The International Peace Conference will insist on its immediate and universal adoption, for as long as the countries are imperfectly protected invasions are sure to occur.

I note your suggestion but am at a loss to see how to carry it out. Rest assured though, that I shall always hold your people in high regard and if I ever find it in my power to advance their interests I shall spare no effort.

The skepticism of your expert was expected. He is probably under the sway of the modern illusionary ideas and the abler he is the more apt is he to be in error. But I have demonstrated all the principles involved and am going ahead with perfect confidence which all the experts in the world could not shake.

Yours very truly,

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Your work was inadequate and inexcusably negligent

Letter removed at the request of Hunter S. Thompson's Estate.

Monday, 12 July 2010

He was there with you on the bridge

During his seven acclaimed years as Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Patrick Stewart was the recipient of numerous notes of thanks from viewers. The touching letter shown below was written in 1992 to Stewart, not by a fan directly, but by the parent of a young man afflicted with Duchenne muscular dystrophy who until recently had avidly followed Picard's every move. Such was its impact, one of his parents chose to thank Stewart and the rest of the cast and crew on his behalf.

Transcript follows. The letter was found at the blog of award-winning visual effects artist Doug Drexler.

Dear Mr Stewart

I am writing to thank you for all the pleasure that you gave my son [redacted] in your role as Jean-Luc Picard, Captain of the USS Enterprise.

For the past ten years [he] had been severely disabled by the inexorable effects of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy - a disease that slowly degenerates all muscle tissue. [He] had great courage and refused to give in to his worsening disabilities. Inevitably his heart muscles became so weak that they could function no longer and [he] died peacefully on the evening of his 20th birthday, 30/12/91.

His great passion was Science Fiction and while a fan of the original "Star Trek" he greatly prefered "Star Trek The Next Generation". He had of course seen you before, as "Karla" in the Smiley stories, as "Sejanus" in I Claudius and of course as "Gurney" in Dune, I think he was quite bucked to see you as captain on the bridge of the Enterprise.

All through last year Wednesday evening was his highlight of the week, his excitement being matched only by his anger if "Star Trek TNG" was cancelled. I think that in his imagination he was there with you on the bridge, free of any disability, sharing to the full in all your adventures - he never missed one.

Please forgive me for writing to you this was but I felt that it was important for you to know that while "Star Trek TNG" might be regarded by some as trivial light entertainment it gives real pleasure and has great significance for others.

Once again my thanks for all the pleasure that you gave my son during his short life - and please, if you can, pass on my thanks to the remainder of the cast and everyone involved in the production of the programme.

Yours sincerely

Friday, 9 July 2010

A tomb of the mind and a dungeon of the body

Deafblind author Helen Keller spent her lifetime campaigning on behalf of various causes, in particular the American Foundation for the Blind. It was therefore with great satisfaction for Keller that, in 1950, a committee specifically dedicated to the study and support of the deafblind population was set up within the AFB, and in typical fashion Keller immediately set about promoting it. Below is the moving letter she wrote to a number of potential sponsors in order to secure financial backing.

Transcript follows.


15 WEST 16th STREET, NEW YORK 11, N. Y.

April 25, 1950

Dear Mr. Luhrs:

I am indeed happy to inform you that a Committee on the Deaf-blind of America has been started. It is one of the departments of the American Foundation for the Blind with which I have worked for twenty-seven years.

All that time there has burned within me an unceasing pain because the problems of the doubly handicapped remain for the most part unsolved, and I have made one attempt after another in their behalf.

Now that there is a Committee to study their needs, I am writing to you because it offers a wonderful opportunity for your noble impulses -- effective aid to the most appealing and loneliest group of human beings on earth. They are widely scattered over a vast continent, and it will require careful study and patient research if they are to be properly served.

Try to imagine, if you can, the anguish and horror you would experience bowed down by the twofold weight of blindness and deafness, with no hope of emerging form an utter isolation! Still throbbing with natural emotions and desires, you would feel through a sense of touch the existence of a living world, and desperately but vainly you would seek an escape into its healing light.

All your pleasures would vanish in a dreadful monotony of silent days. Even work, man's Divine heritage -- work that can bind up broken hearts -- would be lost on you. Family and friends might surround you with love, but consolation alone cannot restore usefulness, or bring release from that hardest prison -- a tomb of the mind and a dungeon of the body.

I doubt if even the most imaginative and tender normal people can realize the peculiar cruelty of such a situation. The blind who are taught can live happily in a world of sounds, and the deaf use their eyes instead of ears, but the deaf-blind have no substitute for sight or hearing. The keenest touch cannot break their immobility. More than any other physically fettered group, they need right teaching and constructive procedures to reclaim them to normal society.

Will you not, dear friend, give some thought to the Helen Keller Committee on the Deaf-blind, so that more of those who cannot see and hear may regain life's goodness and the dignity of useful work? I plead for your financial support of this work, where so much needs to be accomplished.

Trustingly and cordially yours,

(Signed, 'Helen Keller')

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Dear Rear Admiral

Harry Allen Smith, an American journalist, author and humorist whose work was particularly popular in the 1940s and 50s, wrote the following letter of thanks in 1975 to a Dr. Aubrey Wilcox. Wilcox was apparently Smith's proctologist, and it seems the brains behind an aptly shaped Christmas gift opened the previous day.

Transcript follows.


December 26 1975.

Dear Rear Admiral:

How appropriate---the candle with index finger extended, for use in massaging my prostate (while lit). I got two candles for Christmas---one from an Aubrey and one from Audrey Christie, the oldtime musical comedy star and one of our ancient friends. Yours, with the courtin’ fingers at the ready, was by far the more impressive.

Did I tell you about some son of a bitch sending me a tube of Preparation H, neatly fixed up to read “Preparation H. Allen Smith”? I don’t happen to have the piles, and I simply can’t throw anything like that away, so I have been assiduously searching for some friend who could use the goozlum. I can’t find a single god damn human being who’ll admit to having the screeching hemorrhoids.

I’ll just hold onto it and use it the next time I get a nosebleed.



Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Try not to make an ass of yourself

On the evening of July 6th, 1984, The Jacksons reunited and embarked on a 55-date tour of the U.S. and Canada. Prior to the Victory Tour's first show, the following "Good Luck" telegram was sent to Michael Jackson by his friend, Marlon Brando.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Heritage Auctions; Image of Brando & Jackson, via.)




Monday, 5 July 2010

Doctors always know best

The publication of Blaggard Castle - a 1932 comic book featuring Mickey Mouse and sidekick Horace Horsecollar, in which three mad scientists (Professors Ecks, Doublex and Triplex) claimed that X-rays, if fired at someone, would burn their brains - caused so much unease amongst young patients in Pennsylvania that a Dr. Reuben G. Alley was forced to complain to Disney Studios. A response came in the form of the following letter, written by Mickey Mouse himself in an effort to quieten the wards of Western Pennsylvania Hospital.

Transcript follows.


Dr. Reuben G. Alley
The Western Pennsylvania Hospital,
Pittsburgh, Pa.

Dear Doc:

I'm awfully sorry you had trouble on account of my adventures in the comic strip. Of course I know X-Rays can't hurt you, but Horace didn't know it and the professors are all crazy, so they didn't!

Do you see?

So I hope you'll show this letter to the little boy who was scared, and tell him that when anything gets wrong with ME, the first thing I do is go to a hospital. And then I do whatever the doctor tells me.

'Cause doctors always know best.

Your pal,

Mickey Mouse

Friday, 2 July 2010

This letter opens it wide for any con man to destroy us

Today, a humorously paranoid letter from late-author Ernest Hemingway in 1955, to a representative of his bank: Morgan Guaranty Trust Company. Hemingway was clearly worried about potential con men ringing the bank in his name, and therefore proposed a fresh identification process to foil any such attempts. The letter ends with a post-script that was obviously ignored.

EDIT: It's been pointed out by a few readers that the letter is likely a humorously sarcastic response to the bank's tight security following a failure on Mr. Manning's part to withdraw money on Hemingway's behalf. Indeed, it does seem to make more sense when read from that angle. Thanks for the input.

Transcript follows.



Dear Mr. Lord :

Sorry not to have your full and proper name but I do not have the opportunity to visit the bank as much as I should. have had an account with the Guaranty for around 30 some years now but most of the friends I had are dead.

In the future when I should ever call on the telephone to make a request or issue an order I will identify myself as follows: This is Hemingway, Ernest M. Hemingway speaking and my serial number is 0-363. That is an easy number to remember and is not the correct one which a con man might have. A con character would say 364. So we will make it 363. Any character can then ask how many shares I own and I will reply truly to the best of my knowlege. If the bank has made any once contemplated mergers or there has been a split that I had not been informed of I might give an inaccurate answer.

This is getting too much like OSS so if anybody wishes to know whether it is actually Hemingstein speaking I will answer that I am a friend of David Bruce.

I know it is not right to kid with a bank and what your obligations are and I respect them. Hope you were nice to Mr. Manning who was doing me a favour. He was to make a highly legal purchase as a present for my wife which, if we worked fast, would arrive here next Monday evening. He is a very good guy and I hope you had a chance to meet him.

With sincere good wishes, I remain yours always,

(Signed, 'Ernest Hemingway')


This letter, of course, opens it wide for any con man to destroy us so please commit it to memory and destroy it.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Little Rock Nine

On September 25th of 1957, under the watchful eye of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, nine black teenagers nervously entered the previously all-white Little Rock High School to become students. A similar but unguarded attempt weeks earlier had been alarmingly unsuccessful, and even this subsequent military intervention - ordered by President Eisenhower no less - did little to prevent the unrelenting abuse unleashed on the Little Rock Nine over the next year.

Central to the area's desegregation - and therefore a major figure in the early stages of the entire civil rights movement - was Daisy Bates: publisher of the local black newspaper and President of the Arkansas branch of the NAACP. Below is a letter she wrote in December of that year to NAACP's executive director, Roy Wilkins, in which she updates him on the students' progress.

Transcript follows.

December 17, 1957

Mr. Roy Wilkins
20 West 40th Street
New York, N. Y.

Dear Mr. Wilkins:

Conditions are yet pretty rough in the school for the children. Last week, Minnie Jean's mother, Mrs. W. B. Brown, asked me to go over to the school with her for a conference with the principal, and the two assistant principals. Subject of conference: "Firmer disciplinary measures, and the withdrawal of Minnie Jean from the glee club's Christmas program." The principal had informed Minnie Jean in withdrawing her from the program that "When it is definitely decided that Negroes will go to school here with the whites, and the troops are removed, then you will be able to participate in all activities." We strongly challenged this statement, which he denied making in that fashion.

We also pointed out that the treatment of the children had been getting steadily worse for the last two weeks in the form of kicking, spitting, and general abuse. As a result of our visit, stronger measures are being taken against the white students who are guilty of committing these offenses. For instance, a boy who had been suspended for two weeks, flunked both six-weeks tests, and on his return to school, the first day he knocked Gloria Ray into her locker. As a result of our visit, he was given an indefinite suspension.

The superintendent of schools also requested a conference the same afternoon. Clarence and I went down and spent about two hours. Here, again we pointed out that a three-day suspension given Hugh Williams for a sneak attack perpetrated on one of the Negro boys which knocked him out, and required a doctor's attention, was not sufficient punishment. We also informed him that our investigation revealed that there were many pupils willing to help if given the opportunity, and that President Eisenhower was very much concerned about the Little Rock crisis. He has stated his willingness to come down and address the student body if invited by student leaders of the school. This information was passed on to the principal of the school, but we have not abandoned the idea. Last Friday, the 13th, I was asked to call Washington and see if we could get FBI men placed in the school December 16-18.

Thanks for sending Clarence to help. I don't know how I would have made it without him. I am enclosing a financial statement, and as you can see, we are in pretty bad shape financially. On December 18, we will probably have to make bond for three of our officials from the North Little Rock Branch. December 18, midnight, is the deadline for filing names and addresses of members and contributors. I have talked with Mrs. Birdie Williams, and we are attempting to have them spend the night away from their homes, because we have been informed that they plan to arrest them after midnite.

I am suggesting that a revolving fund be set up here of $1,000.00 to take care of emergencies, and an accounting could be given at the end of each month. We are having trouble getting cost bonds executed on the North Little Rock suit. We had to put up £510.00 collateral plus three co-signers. We informed Bob Carter of our difficulty, and he asked Jack to see what could be done on that end. Please check with him.

I have not heard anything from the scholarship trust papers. We have deposited the money received for the scholarship. Mrs. A. L. Mothershed, 1313 Chester Street, mother of one of the children, is serving as trustee.

I would appreciate hearing from you pertaining to the above mentioned matters at your earliest convenience.

I plan to attend the board meeting on January 6.


(Signed, 'Daisy Bates')


cc: Mr. Current