From Heaven

Esteemed Canadian physician Sir William Osler is known by many as the “Father of Modern Medicine”. He both practiced and taught at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital, of which he was a founding professor, and helped to revolutionise medical education by introducing the now commonplace residency system: the training of doctors within the hospital itself.

Oh God for one more breath

On the morning of May 19th, 1902, a huge explosion ripped through Fraterville Coal Mine in Tennessee, its devastating power instantly killing most of the 216 miners who were below ground. For the 26 who survived the initial blast, a side passage of the mine proved to be a safe haven, but not for long—when

I am there in the sunset

There are more than 90,000 people buried at Mount Auburn Cemetery, a beautiful and sprawling garden cemetery in Massachusetts that was first opened in 1831. Beside one of the graves sits the following letter, written by a lady to the love she left behind. Much needed transcript follows. Larger image here. Huge thanks to Rosie. (Kindly

Don’t feel bad that I’m gone

In 1936, Jim Henson was born—a creative genius whose wide-reaching and positive influence on the population is rivalled by few in the world of entertainment, due to an incredible career that began in the 1950s when he created the now-adored Muppets. Henson passed away far too early, in 1990, aged just 53. Some time before, he wrote two letters

She was the music heard faintly at the edge of sound

Detective novelist Raymond Chandler‘s wife of 30 years, Cissy, died on December 12th, 1954 after a long and painful battle with pulmonary fibrosis during which the author wrote The Long Goodbye. As can be seen in the following touching and affectionate letter, written to friend Leonard Russell shortly after Cissy’s passing, Raymond was deeply affected by the loss

It’s a strange and confusing world

In October 1974, as he lay on his death bed at the end of a battle with cancer and reflected on his past, Clyde S. Shield (pictured above) wrote the following heartfelt letter to his 3-week-old grandson and offered some poignant advice for the road ahead. 30 years previous, Clyde had played a significant role in

Who is Karen Carpenter, really?

On February 4th, 1983, Karen Carpenter—one half of The Carpenters alongside her brother, Richard—passed away after suffering heart failure brought on by anorexia nervosa, an illness from which she had suffered for years. She was 32 when she died. One of her millions of fans was Kim Gordon, singer and bassist of Sonic Youth, a

Sleep well my love

The following heart-rending love letter was written by American World War II veteran Brian Keith to Dave, a fellow soldier he met and fell in love with in 1943 while stationed in North Africa. It was penned on the occasion of their anniversary and reprinted in September of 1961 by ONE Magazine, a groundbreaking pro-gay magazine first published in

I am sorry for your loss

In December of 2012, shortly after his wife passed away at the NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital, a local gentleman was sent a touching, eloquent letter of condolence in the mail by the doctor who had treated her in the emergency room. Such a lovely gesture, and I imagine an incredibly comforting note to receive at such a

Dear Friends

On December 14th of 1999, a few weeks after discovering he had colon cancer, cartoonist Charles Schulz wrote the following open letter and announced his retirement from drawing the Peanuts comic strip — a widely adored publishing phenomenon that was read by hundreds of millions of people during its 50 year lifespan. Sadly, just two months after writing the letter, on

With deepest sympathy, Fido

On April 12th of 1945, a few months before the end of World War II, the U.S. President of 12 years, Franklin Roosevelt, passed away after suffering a brain haemorrhage. He was 63-years-old. Nine days later, the following letter of condolence was printed in various newspapers, addressed to his beloved dog, Fala. It was written by Bob

I will always be there with you

On May 1st of 2003, just weeks after being deployed to Iraq, Army Pfc. Jesse A. Givens, of Springfield, Missouri was killed when his tank fell into the Euphrates river. He was 34-years-old. Shortly after his death, the following farewell letter was delivered to his bereaved wife, Melissa, and his 6-year-old stepson, Dakota (“Toad”). Melissa and

The sacrifice is not in vain

In November of 1918, just days after the end of World War I was announced, a young soldier named Richard Hogan was hospitalised in France with influenza. Two weeks later, he passed away. Shortly after his burial, Maude Fisher, the American Red Cross nurse who had cared for him during his final days, wrote the

Another link is broken

On January 30th of 1937, two years after his older brother, Baoth, succumbed to meningitis, 16-year-old Patrick Murphy passed away following a seven year battle with tuberculosis. The boys’ 20-year-old sister, Honoria, remained. A few days later, the children’s distraught parents, Gerald and Sara Murphy, received the following letter of condolence from their friend, F. Scott

Our Frank

On the night of December 21st, 1988, a bomb exploded on board New York-bound Pan Am Flight 103 and ripped the aircraft apart, its wreckage then raining down on the sleepy Scottish town of Lockerbie below. All 259 passengers and crew perished, as did 11 local residents. One of the passengers, 45-year-old Frank Ciulla (pictured above), had been travelling

Everything comes to an end

On November 9th of 2004, Stieg Larsson — journalist and author of the posthumously published Millennium series of novels, the first of which was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — passed away after suffering a heart attack. He was 50-years-old. The next month, Stieg’s long-term partner, Eva Gabrielsson, found the following letter amongst his

I beg you to take my child

In 1869, in response to a sharp rise in the number of babies being abandoned in New York, often in dangerous circumstances, The Foundling Asylum — run by Sister Irene Fitzgibbon, pictured above — opened to the public with a single white cradle on its doorstep, and immediately began to give safe shelter to unwanted infants. In the

How could you go ahead of me?

In April of 1998, shortly after excavating an ancient tomb in Andong City, South Korea, archaeologists were stunned to find the coffin of Eung-Tae Lee — a 16th-century male, now mummified, who, until his death at the age of 30, had been a member of the ancient Goseong Yi clan. Resting on his chest was

I shall always be with you

On June 8th of 1950, nine months after being arrested by the Czech secret police on suspicion of leading a plot to overthrow the Communist regime, 48-year-old socialist politician Milada Horáková was found guilty of “high treason” following a show trial that was broadcast on national radio, and in which she remained defiant. On the 27th of that

I am desperate to have some real fun

In January 1960, 9 years and 250 episodes after first being introduced to a baffled but delighted audience, The Goon Show’s final installment was broadcast on BBC radio, much to the dismay of its many fans. Written chiefly by Spike Milligan, the show’s 10 series had been a surreal mixture of sketches, music and general

What did you say? I can’t hear you…

On June 10th of 1967, Spencer Tracy — a Hollywood star who was nominated for nine Best Actor Oscars during his career, two of which he won — passed away after suffering a heart attack at the home he shared with his partner, Katharine Hepburn. Eighteen years later, Hepburn wrote him a letter. The clip above shows Katharine

Think always of me

In the early hours of October 16th, 1793, nine months after the execution of her husband, Louis XVI, the 37-year-old former Queen of France, Marie Antoinette, wrote the following tear-stained farewell letter to her sister-in-law, Madame Elisabeth, and her children. Just eight hours later, Marie Antoinette was beheaded. Her letter never reached Elisabeth. Transcript and

Must be raining in this old bunkhouse

Shortly after renowned “cowboy artist” Charles Russell passed away in 1926, his friend of many years, the popular American entertainer, Will Rogers, wrote him the following farewell letter. It was sent to Charles’s widow, Nancy. (Source: Dear Wit; Image: Horse of the Hunter, by Charles Russell, via.) Dear Charley, I bet you hadn’t been up there three days

Yours in distress, Alan

Alan Turing was a human being of exceptional intelligence — a mathematical genius — and worked as one of the leading code-breakers during World War II. He is also considered to be the “father of modern computing” thanks to his pioneering work in the field of computer science. In 1950, before the term “Artificial Intelligence” had been coined, he posed

I shall be waiting for you

In 1615, having successfully commanded an army at the Battle of Imafuku some months before, 22-year-old Japanese samurai and “peerless hero of the nation” Kimura Shigenari once again prepared to lead his men at the Siege of Osaka, despite his troops being heavily outnumbered. His young wife, Lady Shigenari, feared the worst and, having decided not

He’s here, living and vivid and unforgettable forever

On September 30th of 1955, less than a month before his most celebrated turn as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause graced the screens, 24-year-old James Dean died shortly after his Porsche collided with another car at high speed. His funeral was held nine days later in Fairmount, not far from the farm on which he

The most beautiful work of all

Punk pioneer Patti Smith and influential photographer Robert Mapplethorpe enjoyed a close, often intense relationship that began in 1967 when 20-year-old Patti moved to New York City. The pair hit it off immediately, and for the next seven years they lived together in Manhattan. In 1989, 22 years after first meeting and by which time

I love my wife. My wife is dead.

Richard Feynman was one of the best-known and most influential physicists of his generation. In the 1940s, he played a part in the development of the atomic bomb; in 1986, as a key member of the Rogers Commission, he investigated the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and identified its cause; in 1965, he and two colleagues

I shall always be near you

In 1861, as the American Civil War approached, a 32-year-old lawyer named Sullivan Ballou left his wife of five years and two sons at home, and joined the war effort as a major in the Union Army. On July 14th of that year, acutely aware that particularly perilous times were ahead, he wrote, but didn’t

To My Old Master

In 1864, after 32 long years in the service of his master, Jourdon Anderson and his wife, Amanda, escaped a life of slavery when Union Army soldiers freed them from the plantation on which they had been working so tirelessly. They grasped the opportunity with vigour, quickly moved to Ohio where Jourdon could find paid

“Our little baby is dead”

On April 14th of 1851, Dora Dickens, the ninth child of Charles Dickens and his wife, Catherine, died unexpectedly after suffering convulsions. She was just 8-months-old. The next morning, Charles wrote the following letter to Catherine — miles away from home recuperating from an illness, oblivious to the situation  —  and, in an effort to break the news

I know, Mother, I know

In 1969, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Anne Sexton wrote the following, overwhelmingly heartfelt letter to her 15-year-old daughter, Linda, after battling mental illness for much of her adult life; a battle, in fact, that saw her take up poetry on the advice of her therapist. Sadly, just five years after this emotional missive was penned, Anne

Please don’t give in

On August 11th of 2007, a 12-year-old girl named Amy wrote the following heartbreaking letter to her father, 47-year-old Garry Newlove, as he lay comatose in hospital. The day before, she, her two sisters and her mother had looked on in horror as he was savagely beaten by a gang of youths outside their home. Sadly,

Good Bye, Son

Christopher was just 3 years of age and largely oblivious to the impending tragedy when, on August 11th of 1991, his dad wrote him this heartbreaking farewell letter. The next year, his father passed away after losing a battle with leukemia. He was 38-years-old. Transcript follows. (Source: Christopher; used with permission. Many thanks to Alec

COME AT ONCE HANK IS DEAD

Millions of hearts broke in 1953 when, on January 1st, the news of the death of 29-year-old Hiram Williams began to circulate. Hiram was better known to most by his stage name, Hank Williams; a talented young man who recorded hit after hit during his short but illustrious country music career. Sadly, addictions to alcohol and

My work is done. Why wait?

On the evening of March 14th, 1932, the founder of Eastman Kodak and inventor of roll film, George Eastman, gathered a group of his friends at his home in order to witness a change of his will. Eastman was 77 years of age, and for the past few years had seen his health decline rapidly

Sweetheart come

On February 7th of 1909, a 30-year-old mother of two by the name of Emma Hauck was admitted to the psychiatric hospital of the University of Heidelberg in Germany, having recently been diagnosed with dementia praecox (schizophrenia). The outlook improved briefly and a month later she was discharged, only to be readmitted within weeks as her condition deteriorated

There is no way to replace Walt Disney

On December 15th of 1966, less than two months after the discovery of a malignant tumour in his left lung, Walt Disney passed away. Hours later, his brother Roy sent the following memo to all employees of the company. In the following days, Roy Disney announced the postponement of his retirement; he then spent the next

You are directly responsible for the loss of our son’s life

The following angry letter was sent to then-U.S. President Harry Truman in 1953 by the father of George Banning, a young soldier who had recently been killed whilst serving in the Korean War. When Truman passed away 20 years later, this letter was discovered in his desk along with Banning’s posthumously awarded Purple Heart. Transcript follows.

I’m 82 and hate it!

Despite suffering quite heavily from emphysema and Parkinson’s disease during his final years, horror legend Vincent Price still kept up with his correspondence. Below are three postcards written by Price in the early-’90s to friend Bob Miller. Each touch on the declining health of both himself and his wife, Coral, who died in May of 1991 after

Your happiness means my happiness

On August 6th of 1962, a day after 36-year-old Marilyn Monroe passed away, the following unsent letter, addressed to ex-husband Joe DiMaggio, was discovered at her desk, folded up in her address book. It is thought they were planning to remarry. Transcript follows. (Source: MM-Personal: From the Private Archive of Marilyn Monroe; Image: Joe DiMaggio &

It’s better to burn out than to fade away

On April 8th of 1994, an electrician discovered the body of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain at the musician’s home in Lake Washington with a shotgun resting on his chest, a bullet wound to his head, and the following handwritten letter on a nearby table. Addressed to “Boddah”—apparently the name of Cobain’s imaginary childhood friend—the letter is

I want us to break up the act

At their peak during the late-60s/70s, Morecambe and Wise were arguably Britain’s most celebrated comedy act. The duo regularly attracted the biggest names in showbiz to appear on their show (Elton John, The Beatles and Tom Jones, to name but a few); the Morecambe & Wise Show Christmas Special of 1977 famously pulled in a record-breaking audience

To my family — from Dad

At approximately 12:15pm on February 26th, 1993, Carl Selinger entered elevator number 66 on floor 43 of the World Trade Center in New York and began the ascent to his office. Almost immediately the elevator came to an abrupt halt, and within minutes the confined space began to fill with smoke. Unbeknownst to Carl, at

The romantic Mr Carlin

It was in June of 1998 that legendary comedian George Carlin married Sally Wade. Tragically, just two days before their tenth anniversary, he passed away. Below is just one of countless love letters he wrote to his wife during their time together, many of which feature in her memoir, The George Carlin Letters: The Permanent Courtship

My husband John Lennon was a very special man

In October of 2000, 20 years after shooting and killing John Lennon, Mark Chapman became eligible for parole whilst imprisoned at Attica Correctional Facility. Below is the poignant 3-page letter sent to the parole board by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, in which she eloquently opposed his release. Of course, Chapman was denied, and has since been refused

Being an actor is the loneliest thing in the world

A dispirited James Dean hand-wrote the following note as he sat in a restaurant in 1952, months after moving to New York in a bid to further his acting career. Full-time auditioning in the Big Apple clearly left Dean feeling a little isolated. Two years later, Dean would reluctantly move to L.A. to shoot East

This “evil” was the greatest which can befall a man

When he wrote the following letter to George Eveleth in 1848, Edgar Allan Poe‘s wife, Virginia, had been dead for almost a year, having finally succumbed to tuberculosis after first contracting the disease in 1842. The latter part of this letter — the rest of which mainly concerns his ultimately unpublished journal, The Stylus —

Darling Goodnight and Goodbye

In 1918, aged just 18, Rattanbai ‘Ruttie’ Petit converted to Islam and married a man 24 years her senior: then-president of the All-India Muslim League and eventual founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The following few years were blissfully happy for the newlyweds, but a rift soon developed as Jinnah’s hectic political life took hold. In

To: My widow

On January 17th of 1912, following years of preparation, British explorer Capt. Robert Falcon Scott and his team reached the South Pole — an incredible feat that was quickly overshadowed upon arrival by the news that the race had already been won 33 days previous, by the Norwegians. Scott’s team, demoralised and tired, soon began their ill-fated

I sure am thinking of you

On October 8th, 1916, seven months after his first comic strip debuted in the Chicago Herald, 24-year-old cartoonist Elzie Segar took out a sheet of his employers’ letterhead and wrote and illustrated the following love letter to then-girlfriend, Myrtle Johnson. Three years later, by which point he had married his sweetheart, his third comic strip – Thimble

Father, you asked me recently why I am afraid of you

Growing up in the shadow of someone as loud, opinionated and aggressive as his father was almost too much to bear for novelist Franz Kafka. In fact, so emotionally scarring was their relationship that, on November 10th of 1919, then-36-year-old Franz began to write the following desperate letter to Hermann in an effort to candidly

Looks like books are coming to an end

From the pen of To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee comes a downbeat letter written in September of 2008, at a time when a flurry of worrying developments in the world of traditional book publishing had seemingly brought about – in Lee’s words – “the last of the wine”. Just months earlier the CEO

Some mean man killed my dady too

Above: Monroe Young Jr. III On November 22nd of 1963, whilst travelling through Dealey Plaza in an open-top limousine, then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy was tragically shot dead; millions of stunned people around the world immediately began to mourn. On December 1st, 1963, just over a week later, a young empathetic schoolboy named Monroe Young Jr. wrote the following heartbreaking

Be an unbeatable person and avenge my death

On the evening of May 23rd, 1945, in the Japanese town of Chiran, Masanobu Kuno sat down and hand-wrote the following farewell letter to his 5-year-old son, Masanori, and 2-year-old daughter, Kiyoko. The next day, Captain Kuno proudly boarded his explosive-laden aircraft, took to the skies and, as did thousands of other Kamikaze pilots during World War

Wow! Am I fucked up

On April 8th of 1954, less than two years before his untimely death at the age of 24, promising young actor James Dean left New York and headed for Los Angeles in order to prepare for his first starring role in a Hollywood movie, as Cal Trask in East of Eden. The change of scene was

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

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

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

We are sinking fast

Two telegrams, both sent within hours of each other and both painting an entirely different picture of the same tragic situation. The first, received by S. S. Birma at approximately 01:40hrs on April 15th, 1912, is the last complete distress call to have left the radio room of RMS Titanic, the passenger steamship which –

I am excited about going into space

In 1985, having been selected by NASA from a pool of thousands, 37-year-old social studies teacher Christa McAuliffe began preparations in an effort to become the first ‘teacher in space’. The project was the result of a very successful effort by the U.S. government to provoke wider public interest in the STS-51-L space program, and

I will be stopping Calvin and Hobbes

Click here to embiggen Late-1995, ten years after it was first syndicated, Bill Watterson sent the following letter to the thousands of newspapers which carried his widely-adored Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, in doing so announcing the forthcoming end of its run. True to his word, on December 31st of that year the final, 3’160th

Beloved Father

Wishing for some form of acknowledgment from her estranged father in 1702, twelve-year-old Jahanna wrote the following heartbreaking letter to Peter Besallion, a French Canadian who at the time was a successful Indian trader living in newly-formed Philadelphia. Unfortunately any response that may have been sent is yet to be unearthed, but it is known that young

Send cask arsenic exterminate aborigines

This 1907 telegram was sent by a Charles Morgan to Henry Prinsep, a man seemingly based 2200km away in Perth who at the time was Chief Protector of Aborigines for Western Australia. Following the arrival of British settlers in the 18th century, Australia’s indigenous population were slowly faced with disease, loss of land, stolen generations and general

Lou Gehrig’s Disease

In July of 1939, after nine years of fruitless treatment, multiple sclerosis sufferer Bess Bell Neely took a chance and wrote to baseball legend Lou Gehrig in the hope that he may be able to help. Gehrig himself had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis the previous month following a visible decline in his health

I had seen Amelia Earhart!

On July 2nd of 1937, 39-year-old Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean whilst attempting to circumnavigate the globe in a Lockheed Model 10 Electra, just five years after famously becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Despite multiple search efforts, neither Earhart or her navigator Fred Noonan were ever found. Weeks

I am to be executed

For the best part of twenty years until she died, Mary Stuart was either imprisoned or on trial in England at the behest of her first cousin, Elizabeth I. Her entire life was anything but normal, having been crowned Queen of Scots at nine months of age, married and widowed by the time she was

Ordinary standards do not apply to Tesla

On January 4th, 1943, Slovenian-American author Louis Adamic wrote the following heartfelt letter to ex-President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. The letter concerned the alarming treatment and general well-being of Adamic’s friend, Nikola Tesla; an immeasurably important inventor whose impact on the modern world is still difficult to appreciate and who, despite his numerous

How many lives are you willing to sacrifice?

August 2nd, 1990: Tensions originating from the Iran-Iraq War spill over and Iraqi troops invade Kuwait. Within days they take control of the country and its oil fields. August 7th, 1990: Sensing the potential for a similar invasion of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, U.S. troops gather in the Kingdom in order to defend the area. Operation

Please Miss Hindley help me

In 1964, 22 years prior to her writing the following letter, Winnie Johnson’s 12 year old son went missing as he walked the short distance to his grandmother’s house in Manchester, England. Johnson’s worst fears were confirmed in 1985 – 21 years later – when ‘Moors Murderer‘ Ian Brady confessed to a journalist that he

I wish I could do a lot more for you

Since the character’s inception in the 1930s, the original creative forces behind Superman – and now their surviving families – have been disagreeing with publishers both behind closed doors and in court. From relatively petty arguments concerning the aesthetics of Superman’s jockstrap through to more pressing matters relating to legal ownership of the Superhero, all

I wish I could spare Nancy from this painful experience

On November 5th of 1994, five years after leaving office, 83-year-old Ronald Reagan hand-wrote the following open letter to the American people and revealed that he had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a surprisingly common, incurable form of dementia that affects many millions of people around the world. He lived with the disease for a further ten

This rain of atomic bombs will increase manyfold in fury

At 11:00am on August 9th, 1945, just a minute before the second atomic bomb in the space of three days was dropped on Japan, a B-29 bomber named The Great Artiste quietly dropped three canisters from the sky. Inside each of the canisters, alongside a shockwave gauge designed by American physicist Luis Alvarez, was an

You make school a perfect misery

Whilst a pupil at Rockdale Public School in Tasmania, schoolboy Athel Margett was so unhappy with the conduct of his teacher that he wrote the following letter of complaint to the man in question: Mr. Broome. The beautifully written protest eloquently offered the teacher a glimpse of life from the viewpoint of his humiliated, dejected

THIS IS NO DRILL

At 07:58am on December 7th, 1941, Commander Logan C. Ramsey ordered the following telegram to be sent to all ships in the Hawaiian area after watching a low-flying plane drop a bomb on Ford Island. Ramsey had in fact just witnessed the very beginning of a coordinated attack on Pearl Harbor in which the Japanese, over the

Hi. Buckley again.

In December of 1996, two years after his debut album had begun to attract near-unanimous critical acclaim, Jeff Buckley shunned the limelight and without fanfare embarked on a ‘Solo Phantom Tour’ in the U.S.. Assuming various aliases throughout the month (e.g. Smackrobiotic, Topless America, The Halfspeeds), Buckley entertained a number of small crowds in intimate

Best regards, Kurt

On August 2nd of 1993, Kurt Cobain wrote the following letter to a hero of his: Beat legend William Burroughs. Cobain had been a fan of Burroughs for many years and in 1992 even collaborated with the author on The “Priest” They Called Him; however, to Cobain’s dismay, they still hadn’t met. And so, during preparation for

Thousands of other Daddies went too…

On October 21st of 1942, not long after being called to New Guinea to fight the Japanese forces during World War II, a young Australian soldier named John Byrnes decided to write to his 2-year-old daughter in an effort to explain his situation. His letter can be seen below. It’s beyond beautiful. (Update: It seems

..the brains of a cross-eyed titmouse..

Below is a fascinating letter from the creator of Tarzan and John Carter, Edgar Rice Burroughs, to his daughter in 1941, 29 years after the first Tarzan story was published. Burroughs penned a large number of letters during his lifetime but I chose to highlight this one for a few reasons: 1) The impressive letterhead

Life unworthy of life

July 1933: Adolf Hitler passes the Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, in turn enforcing the compulsory sterilisation of any citizen with a “genetic defect.” Defects include schizophrenia, deafness and even chronic alcoholism. In the coming years, approximately 400,000 sterilisations will be carried out. May 1939: Hitler — as per a request from

To my good friends ye Postmasters

Over 70,000 Londoners were left homeless in 1666 when, in the early hours of September 2nd, a fire that began in a bakery on Pudding Lane swiftly grew to consume and devastate the entire city. It is believed that approximately 13,000 residences burnt to the ground. As London’s first Post Office at Cloak Lane surrendered

I do hope my airplane crashes

New York attorney Phelan Beale reluctantly wrote the following, tragic letter to Edith Bouvier Beale in 1934, just before their divorce. The Great Crash of 1929 saw Phelan’s law firm begin to nosedive, but it was another five years before he had to reconsider the lavish lifestyle of his entire family, mother and sister included,

The lowest class of people I ever heard of

Whilst stationed in Egypt in 1941, Australian soldier Jim Moody befriended a stray puppy. The animal – Horrie – quickly became the entire battalion’s mascot and guard dog, accompanying them through Greece, Crete, Palestine and Syria. Horrie worked as a messenger, warned of approaching aircraft as a result of his acute hearing, and survived a

The result would be a catastrophe

Just 73 seconds after launch on January 28th, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle broke apart over the coast of Florida and ended the lives of all seven crew members. A subsequent investigation determined that an O-ring failure on one of the shuttle’s solid rocket boosters, coupled with extremely cold weather around the time of launch,

Please clean up the oil spill

On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker collided with Bligh Reef and proceeded to spill 40 million litres of crude oil into the sea, ultimately leading to one of the most devastating man-made disasters in history. According to the BBC, approximately ‘250,000 seabirds, nearly 3,000 sea otters, 300 harbour seals, 250 bald eagles

If I cannot live with you I will live alone

In 1818, at 23 years of age and whilst caring for his gravely ill brother who had contracted tuberculosis, celebrated romantic poet John Keats met the love of his life, Fanny Brawne. Less than a year later, Keats himself contracted the same disease and soon afterwards – on the advice of his doctor – reluctantly

My husband is planning “an accident”

According to her butler, Paul Burrell, the following four-page letter was given to him by Diana, Princess of Wales in October of 1993, ten months after her separation from Prince Charles was announced. Should it be genuine, it would seem Diana was under the illusion that Charles was planning an accident so as to clear the way

The things I saw beggar description

The concentration camp in Ohrdruf was the first to be liberated by U.S. forces during World War II, and just a week later, General Dwight D. Eisenhower paid a visit in order to survey the scene. The following letter, in which Eisenhower describes said experience, was written by the future President three days later and

I miss my brother

Thomas Hampton, a teenager from Leeds, England, moved to South Australia in 1922 in order to work as a Barwell Boy on a farm, owned by a Mr. Poysden. A year later he sent the following letter to the South Australia Immigration Department with a view to bringing his 12-year-old brother over from an orphanage

I would have gladly mingled with you

Ludwig Van Beethoven was one of the most famous composers of all time—a true musical genius whose accomplishments still influence and astonish to this day, centuries after his death. His life’s work seems even more impressive on learning that he started to lose his hearing in his late-twenties, a development which brought on bouts of

It will be sunny one day

Early-2006, during a bout of depression, a young lady by the name of Crystal Nunn wrote a desperate letter to Stephen Fry. Says Crystal: “I had no idea who to turn to. But I really needed someone to turn to and to ease the pain. So I wrote to Stephen Fry because he is my hero, and

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

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

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

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

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

Servant until death

Here’s an incredibly interesting letter from 1857, written by a lady called Vilet Lester and sent to someone by the name of Patsey Patterson. Vilet Lester was a slave and prior to this letter being written had at some point been owned by the Patterson family before moving on. In the letter she states that