New Fangled Writing Machine

Few authors have made an impact as enduring as literary icon Samuel Clemens, a man who, under his pen name, Mark Twain, wrote such classics as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a book which has been read by many millions of people around the world since its publication in 1884. It was ten years earlier, whilst

Then I recorded Space Oddity…

In November of 1970, a month after signing a five-year publishing deal with Chrys­alis Music, 24-year-old David Bowie wrote the following letter to Bob Grace, the man who signed him, and briefly filled him in on his life so far. Transcript follows. (Source: Any Day Now; Image: David Bowie in 1970, via.) Transcript November 17th,

Does IBM know that HAL is psychotic?

In August of 1966, 2 years prior to the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick wrote to the vice president of his production company and asked whether IBM — a company with whom Kubrick consulted during production, and whose logo briefly appears in the film  — were aware of HAL‘s murderous actions in the

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

Hot, Hot, Hot

In May of 2000, an episode of Will & Grace aired in which one of its gay characters, Jack, joins an ex-gay ministry in an effort to get close to, and seduce, its formerly gay leader, Bill (played by Neil Patrick Harris). Unsurprisingly, the ex-gay community — people who claim to have suppressed or sometimes even “cured”

Kiss my ass

In 1970, shortly after being elected Attorney General of Alabama, 29-year-old Bill Baxley reopened the 16th Street Church bombing case — a racially motivated act of terrorism that resulted in the deaths of four African-American girls in 1963 and a fruitless investigation, and which marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement. Baxley’s unwavering commitment to

Damn you all to hell

In July of 2012, in an admirable attempt to secure him as a guest on his Nerdist Podcast, Chris Hardwick sent a beautiful 1934 Smith Corona to noted typewriter collector Tom Hanks and popped the question. Within days, Hanks responded with the charming letter seen below, typed on the Corona. Unsurprisingly, the anecdote-filled podcast that resulted is

All of my friends were on the shelves above

Ray Bradbury was an outspoken supporter of libraries throughout his career, and the following letter to the assistant director of Fayetteville Public Library — in which he explains the race to write the novella upon which Fahrenheit 451 was eventually based — perfectly illustrates why. The letter was written in 2006 in response to a city-wide “Big Read,” in which Bradbury’s classic novel was

Things will just get better and better

In June of 2010, the lead singer of Eels, Mark ‘E’ Everett, wrote a lovely letter of advice to his 16-year-old self. The missive features in the wonderful book, Dear Me, and can be read below. Transcript follows. (Source: Dear Me: More Letters to My 16-Year-Old Self; Image of “E” via Gonzai.) Transcript Chateau E

Scientifically yours

I think it’s safe to assume that after NASA successfully landed two rovers on Mars in January of 2004, the momentous event was quickly eclipsed by the following letter of congratulations, sent to the JPL days later by a certain Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his accident-prone assistant, Beaker. Note: Although the Spirit rover’s initial problems were overcome, it’s unknown

I am your fellow man, but not your slave

In September of 1848, the incredible Frederick Douglass wrote the following open letter to Thomas Auld — a man who, until a decade previous, had been Douglass’ slave master for many years — and published it in North Star, the newspaper he himself founded in 1847. In the letter, Douglass writes of his twenty years as a slave; his

DON’T EVER STOP

One of the most popular letters on Letters of Note is Bowie’s charming reply to his “very first American fan letter” back in 1967, written excitedly when he was just 20 years old and yet to make his mark on the world, even typed on a sheet of his manager’s stationery for lack of his

Like all frauds your end is approaching

In November of 1964, fearful of his connection to the Communist Party through Stanley Levison, the FBI anonymously sent Martin Luther King the following threatening letter, along with a cassette that contained allegedly incriminating audio recordings of King with women in various hotel rooms — the fruits of a 9 month surveillance project headed by William

Scratching the Back of the Hand that Feeds You

In December of 1958, advertising executive Leo Burnett — a hugely influential force in the industry who had a hand in creating, amongst many other things, the Jolly Green Giant, Tony the Tiger, and Marlboro Man — sent the following memo to all staff within his agency, and reminded them of their unwritten duty to at least try

It’s just terrific

February, 1976. Producer Jan Harlan writes to Stanley Kubrick and speaks passionately about a new piece of technology so impressive that it could lead to “shots which would not enter your mind otherwise.” That invention was the now-ubiquitous Steadicam, and Harlan was right to be so impressed. Indeed, Kubrick shared his enthusiasm, so much so

America is pretty empty without you kids

Groucho Marx wrote this lovely letter to U.S. troops stationed in Suriname in 1943, in response to a request from a Corporal Darrow to send a morale-boosting message. Groucho doesn’t disappoint, and cracks a couple of gentle jokes about life back home and his attempt to grow some vegetables; there are even a few genuinely

A bag of wind

George Orwell wrote the following letter to his publisher, Frederic Warburg, in 1948. At the time, he was valiantly attempting to finish the first draft of his latest novel whilst “under the influence of” tuberculosis, and was still undecided as to the book’s title. Sadly, that book — the incredible Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in June the next year — would

Why don’t you write a story?

Below is a short, sweet, and very impressive letter written by Elizabeth Taylor in reply to a note from a downbeat fan whose pet bird, “Chips,” had recently passed away. Her gentle advice to the young girl — to write a story about the late-pet — is admirable; even more notable, though, is the fact

Herbs is his Majesty’s

On January 16th of 1980, Japanese customs officials found 7.7 ounces of cannabis in Paul McCartney‘s luggage as he entered the country, resulting in a 10-day stay in a Tokyo prison and the cancellation of the Wings tour of Japan. After being released, he was told never to return.  The highlight of the whole ordeal came five days

Space: The Final Frontier

On August 1st of 1966, just weeks before NBC’s season premiere of the original Star Trek series, two of the programme’s producers — Bob Justman and John Black — contacted Gene Roddenberry and asked him to quickly write the show’s now-famous opening monologue (see clip above), to be recorded by William Shatner. For the next

Stephen Hawking on Time Travel

In 1995, with their forthcoming 15th anniversary issue in mind, The Face magazine approached Stephen Hawking and asked him for a time travel formula. They soon received the following response by fax. Transcript follows. (Source: The Face’s former editors, Richard Benson & Johnny Davis; Image: Stephen Hawking, via.) Transcript UNIVERSITY OF CAMBRIDGEDepartment of Applied Mathematics and

Pornography is an attitude and an intention

Ever since it was first published in France in 1955, Lolita — Vladimir Nabokov‘s novel about a middle-aged man’s obsession with, and seduction of, a young teenage girl — has, unsurprisingly, courted controversy. The following letter was written by the author in 1956 to a friend named Morris Bishop, and offers in its third paragraph

Dear Princeton Law School

Early-1957, Harvey Wax — a young man hoping to one day become a lawyer — sent an application letter to Princeton University‘s Law School and crossed his fingers. A short time later, he received the following rejection letter. It never fails to amuse me. It’s worth noting that Mr. Wax subsequently applied to Harvard’s Law

When are you going to release my film?

Terry Gilliam faced a problem in 1985: Although it had been released without a hitch by distributors outside the US, his final cut of Brazil was deemed unfit for release in North America by executives at Universal. Faced with Gilliam’s stern refusal to re-edit his work and craft a more commercial movie as proposed, a

HAVE SECURED CONTRACT FOR BEATLES

On May 9th of 1962, after many weeks of trying, Brian Epstein met with the A & R man at Parlophone — George Martin — for a second time, and played him some more material by The Beatles. Martin wasn’t overly impressed with the songs, but provisionally signed the act on the strength of their manager’s enthusiasm, and on

A letter of thanks from Gil Scott-Heron

Back in 1997, TVT Records decided to reissue a handful of Gil Scott-Heron‘s albums — namely, Winter In America; The First Minute of a New Day; From South Africa to South Carolina; It’s Your World, and The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron. On March 27th, prior to signing the contract and receiving his advance, a clearly enthused Scott-Heron took some time to

Dear Mr. Vonnegut

In 1949, just a few years after surviving the bombing of Dresden as a POW, 27-year-old aspiring author Kurt Vonnegut submitted a written account of the event to The Atlantic Monthly for consideration, along with two other pieces. Below is the rejection letter he later received from the publication’s editor at the time, Edward Weeks.

When Einstein wrote to Gandhi

In 1931, Albert Einstein wrote the following short letter of admiration to another of the world’s greatest minds, Mohandas Gandhi. Despite their intentions, the pair never met in person. Einstein can also be heard speaking of Gandhi in the above clip — an excerpt from an interview recorded in 1950, two years after Gandhi’s death. Transcript

It is the woman who pays

Says Marianne: “In 1990 my husband passed on; I was 36-years-old and left with 3 small children. For some reason I wrote to Kurt Vonnegut and thanked him for his books and his compassion. I did not expect a reply. He must have been a kind man, as he sent this to me within a

The delusion

A grieving father named Robert S. Marcus — then-Political Director of the World Jewish Congress — was the recipient of the following letter of condolence in 1950, not long after his son succumbed to polio. It was written by Albert Einstein. Transcript follows. Image courtesy of On Being. Image: On Being Transcript February 12, 1950

Some Thoughts on Our Business

20 years ago, in January of 1991, a very critical 28-page internal memo — written by the then-head of Disney’s film studios, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and distributed to his fellow executives in an effort to refocus their approach — was leaked to the press, and instantly became talk of the industry. The recent release of the big-budget Dick

THE INFERNAL MACHINE

In July of 1954, just a few months after the release of Live and Let Die, Ian Fleming wrote the following letter to his publishers, Jonathan Cape, and suggested some names for the next installment in the James Bond series. “The Infernal Machine” was named as his favourite, but clearly not for long. At the foot

Who do you think you are — Marilyn Monroe?

Amusing proof, if it were needed, that Marilyn Monroe was difficult to pin down at times, even for New York Times journalists on deadline. The month after this letter was sent, Monroe began shooting her final movie, The Misfits, and not long after that she was admitted to a psychiatric clinic in New York. She described

May we all get better together

In 1985, following a complaint from a local reader, staff at the public library in the Dutch city of Nijmegen decided to remove Charles Bukowski’s 1983 collection of short stories, Tales of Ordinary Madness, from their shelves, whilst declaring the book “very sadistic, occasionally fascist and discriminatory against certain groups (including homosexuals).” In the following

Dejobbed, bewifed, and much childrenised

On February 2nd of 1929, the following hilarious letter of complaint was sent to a government official in Calabar, Nigeria, by a “bewifed” and “much childrenised” ex-employee who had recently been “dejobbed” due to his apparent laziness. It is unknown whether he was subsequently “rejobulated.” The letter is now held at the National Archives, is

Everyone should have a reserve

With a net worth of $38bn, investor Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest men on the planet. In 1970, he discovered the following letter in a safe deposit box along with the $1,000 cash mentioned therein. 30 years earlier it had been sent by his grandfather, Ernest — a grocery store owner — to Warren’s uncle, Fred,

You are the future. You can make a difference.

Christopher Reeve graciously sent this touching letter of advice to students at University Heights Middle School, California, in 1999, in response to a request for some inspirational words by their teacher, Walt Owen. It was dictated four years after the tragic accident that left the Superman star in a wheelchair for the rest of his

We want more Coca Cola

[We now have a postal address. More details here.] As World War I continued in April of 1918 and temperatures soared in Waco, Texas, 4’000 U.S. soldiers at Camp MacArthur faced a morale-denting dilemma in the form of a Coca Cola shortage. Obviously this was an unacceptable situation, and so, as troops faced “defeat at

Keep the faith!

Back in the early days of Apple, Inc., long before he began sporadically responding to emails from customers, the inimitable Steve Jobs could sometimes be found signing computer chips, attaching them to sheets of Apple stationery, and then replying to fans of his company. One wonders how many of these now hang framed around the world.

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

It’s more likely that I was doing 911km/h

When Auckland resident Justin Lee received the above speeding ticket back in 2004, he noticed a typo: according to said notice, the infringement in question had taken place 30 years beforehand, in 1974, on the day he was born. His entertaining response can be read below, followed by the subsequent reply from the New Zealand Police. Transcript

Each of you is special just because you’re you

In January of 1990, a 6-year-old boy named Christopher wrote to Fred Rogers — host of the widely-adored children’s programme, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — and asked if he could visit the show’s studio. The lovely rejection he soon received can be seen below, as can both a letter of thanks subsequently sent to the studio by Christopher’s impressed father

Marlon I respect you enormously

Late-April of 1973, just a month after Marlon Brando famously turned down an Academy Award for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Francis Ford Coppola wrote him the following letter and asked him one final time to star as a young Vito in the next installment. Brando’s financial demands, coupled with the Oscar

I love life too much

In 1985, 24-year-old Kirk Bloodsworth was sentenced to death after being wrongly convicted of the rape, mutilation, and first-degree murder of a 9-year-old girl named Dawn Hamilton. He spent the next eight years in jail — two of which he spent on death row, awaiting execution — until, in 1993, he became the first such

Frank Sinatra on Crossword Puzzles

When he wasn’t charming audiences with his singing and acting skills, the inimitable Frank Sinatra could often be found with his head buried in a crossword puzzle. In fact, such was his love of the trusty crossword that, when he was referenced in the New York Times crossword in the early 1980s, he wrote a

HOPE THEY KEEP YOU

On July 15th of 1971, U. S. President Richard Nixon shocked the nation by announcing his intention to visit the People’s Republic of China and meet with Chairman Mao. Understandably public reaction was mixed, as illustrated by the following: Two of many messages sent to the White House in response — the first from a

With great respect, Marge Simpson

Barbara Bush received a letter from the unlikeliest of sources in 1990, after an article in People magazine quoted the First Lady as saying The Simpsons “was the dumbest thing [she] had ever seen.” Marge Simpson‘s polite response can be seen below, followed by the transcript of an apologetic letter from Barbara Bush in reply.

You are the hippest of cats

The following note was written by Audrey Hepburn in 1961, shortly after hearing the musical score for her latest movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for the first time. Such was her delight, she wrote a charming letter of praise to its composer, Henry Mancini; a man who would later be awarded an Academy Award for his efforts. Short, but

SEVEN LITTLE MEN HELP A GIRL

When, in early-1986, Disney executives decided to change the title of their upcoming animated feature from ‘Basil of Baker Street’ to the less ambiguous ‘The Great Mouse Detective‘, its production team were less than pleased. One animator in particular, Ed Gombert, harnessed his displeasure to comical effect by creating, and circulating, the following: a fake memo

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

He is talented to the point of genius

One of Orson Welles‘s biggest supporters during his early years was a man called Roger Hill. Hill was Welles’s teacher and later headmaster at Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois, and, having spotted the future filmmaker’s talents very early on, spent a great deal of time and effort adapting the curriculum to suit his skills. The

We must stop not meeting like this

The following ridiculous letter — and I mean that in the best possible sense — was written in 1982 by chat show host Michael Parkinson, and sent to a friend and much-loved comedian who was an interviewee of his on numerous occasions: Spike Milligan. I’m afraid I have nothing to offer in terms of context, however

Dear Loser

Here, in all its glory, is the form rejection letter sent to unsuccessful acts in the 1990s by legendary record label Sub Pop. Just to clarify: “Dear Loser” appeared at the top of all Sub Pop rejection letters. What’s not to love? Transcript follows. Image courtesy of MoLo_trash at Flickr. Image: MoLo_trash Transcript From… Sub

Thank you for the dream

One rainy Sunday afternoon in 1989, with encouragement and much-needed help from her father, a 7-year-old girl named Amy decided to send something to Roald Dahl. Taking inspiration from her favourite book, The BFG, and using a combination of oil, coloured water and glitter, Amy sent the author a very fitting and undeniably adorable gift: one of her

The Beatles was too much

On February 28th of 1977, the manager of the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren, sent the following telegram to the NME. In it, he confirmed the sacking of Glen Matlock from the band as a result of his constant talk of Paul McCartney and The Beatles, and then officially announced the introduction of Sid Vicious to the

For your confidential information

Ian Fleming caused quite a stir in 1957 with the release of From Russia with Love, due in no small part to what seemed to be the death of James Bond at the novel’s close. In fact, so concerned were 007 fans that the author quickly amassed thousands of worried letters. Ever the storyteller, Fleming

COPY TO HUGH HEFNER

When he wasn’t making the population laugh as part of Monty Python, the late-Graham Chapman could sometimes be found penning amusing letters. Below are just two brief examples — the first written by Chapman to his bank manager; the second to an amorous female fan. Enjoy. Transcripts follow each image, both of which are from the

POSSIBLE ACTIONS TO PROVOKE, HARRASS, OR DISRUPT CUBA

On February 2nd of 1962, Brig. Gen. William Craig sent the following memo to Brig. Gen. Edward Lansdale, commander of the Kennedy administration’s Operation Mongoose — a secret project kick-started by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in order to “help Cuba overthrow the Communist regime.” This particular memo, entitled “POSSIBLE ACTIONS TO PROVOKE, HARRASS, OR DISRUPT CUBA,”

ENERGY EQUALS MASS TIMES THE SPEED OF LIGHT SQUARED STOP

Back in 1936, renowned sculptor Isamu Noguchi was in Mexico working on a 72-ft-long public mural when he hit a snag: for some reason, he couldn’t precisely recall the famous formula, E=mc². Rather than risk a mistake, he decided to seek advice and wired his good friend, Buckminster Fuller — a famed architect and great admirer of Einstein — for clarification.

The Factory

The Factory, c.1966 | Image: Tuscene One can only imagine the parties that occurred on the fifth floor at 231 East 47th Street during the 60s, for this was Andy Warhol‘s Factory, the very studio in which his famous silkscreens were created on a daily basis; a veritable hot-spot that welcomed a steady stream of visitors that

To Our Very Best Pal JOHN WAYNE (Or Occupant)

It seems the jokes didn’t end when the cameras stopped rolling on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, the much-loved NBC comedy sketch show that originally ran from 1968 until 1973 and, over the course of its 140 episodes, featured countless appearances by celebrities. One such guest was John Wayne. He received the following fantastic letter of

I NEED TO TELL YOU MY EMOTION

From one master to another. A telegram received in 1968 by Stanley Kubrick shortly after the release of his cinematic tour de force, 2001: A Space Odyssey—sent to him by fellow filmmaker, Federico Fellini. Transcript follows. (Source: The Stanley Kubrick Archives.) Transcript SERCEIVED 4.9.68 DISTRIBUTION MR KUBRICK METROBRIT BORWO ERE STALBANS TELEGRAMS ONE MSGE FOR YOU720 1.55 LONDON

We were not found wanting

On November 27th of 1963, Charles Jack Price, then-Administrator of Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, proudly sent the following memo to all staff and made clear his appreciation for their professional conduct over the past week—a period during which, as the world’s population looked on in horror, the hospital had seen the deaths of

I have no personal knowledge of computers

June, 1956: Co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, Bill Hewlett, writes to then-Provost at Stanford and the man widely considered to be one of the “Fathers of Silicon Valley,” Fred Terman, “I have no personal knowledge of computers nor does anyone in our organization have any appreciable knowledge.” Terman was a member of the US Army Signal Corps‘ advisory board

I pity you

A highly unflattering Rolling Stone article about Queen‘s South American tour in 1981 — excerpt here — prompted the following scathing letter; originally written in a fit of rage by the band’s drummer, Roger Taylor, on an airline sickness bag. Unfortunately I’m unable to locate a picture of said sick-bag, so this image of the

The Internet Tidal Wave

May 26th, 1995: Bill Gates sends a memo, entitled “The Internet Tidal Wave,” to all executive staff within Microsoft. In it, he makes clear his intention to focus the company’s efforts online with immediate effect and “assign the Internet the highest level of importance,” going on to call it, “the most important single development to come

Subject: Toilet Paper

On June 11th of 1942 (not 1943, as the memo’s opening typo states), the Commanding Officer of USS Skipjack, Lt. Commander James Wiggins Coe, sent the following sarcastic memo to the Navy’s supply department at Mare Island. At this point it had been almost a year since crew aboard the submarine had placed a simple

Cannes is a place of mental humiliation

Below we have two letters from Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, both written in May of 1960, in which he makes clear his apparent hatred of awards ceremonies. The first letter, addressed to the founder of the Cinémathèque Française, Lotte Eisner, sees Bergman labelling the Cannes Film Festival as a “place of meat market and mental humiliation”; in

I will treasure your letter

In September of 2006, following a desperately sad childhood that saw both drug-addicted parents murdered and the care of her younger siblings left in her hands, 16-year-old Sacia Flowers decided to write to J. K. Rowling and thank her for creating Harry Potter, her “best friend” during the most difficult of times. Her letter can be

I am ashamed to share membership of the same party with you

Rather than congratulate Labor MP John Robertson following his being sworn in as a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council in 2008, famously outspoken former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, incredibly unhappy with Robertson’s conduct, chose instead to send him this wonderfully scathing letter. Indeed, Keating’s worst fears were realised in March of this year

You are the greatest film-maker at work today

Stanley Kubrick wrote the following gushing letter of praise in 1960 to the man he considered to be “the greatest film-maker at work today,” and who he later cited as a major influence on his work: Ingmar Bergman. Bear in mind also that Kubrick was only 31 years of age at the time and yet

Try again, won’t you?

In the mid-1940s, before breaking through to become the successful novelist and prolific short-story writer many now remember, the late-John D. MacDonald was the recipient of countless dreaded rejection letters. Undeterred, he ploughed on. Some years later — at which point his services were very much in demand and he was selling his short stories

EGO-EGO-EGO!!!!

1997: Madonna writes to record producer and longtime collaborator Pat Leonard, and regretfully informs him of her desire to enlist the services of William Orbit to produce the remainder of her latest album, Ray of Light. Her decision to change direction would ultimately prove fruitful, with many critics heralding the finished record as one of

I await you Hollywood feverishly

At Long Last Love — Peter Bogdanovich‘s homage to 1930s Hollywood musicals, starring Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd — was famously savaged by critics when released in March of 1975, to the point where it was very quickly pulled from theatres to minimise damage. A response soon materialised from Bogdanovich in the form of the

Critics are venomous serpents that delight in hissing

When the movie Gilda was released in 1946 to less-than-stellar reviews, its lead actress, Rita Hayworth, immediately became somewhat dejected. Understandably keen to rebuild the confidence of his biggest star, Columbia Pictures‘ then-president, Harry Cohn, quickly assembled a list of quotes relating to the supposed uselessness of critics and included them in the following letter. Transcript follows. Image

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’re a schmuck

In October of 1974, to celebrate his post-retirement comeback, 59-year-old Frank Sinatra appeared in a televised concert at Madison Square Garden, New York. Reviews were mixed, but one person who was particularly unkind to Ol’ Blue Eyes was critic Rex Reed, who immediately savaged Sinatra’s voice, supposed arrogance, and appearance in his syndicated column. He even called Sinatra “Porky

I can’t look you in the voice

The late, great Dorothy Parker had many strings to her bow. She wrote hundreds of poems and short stories, many of which were published in magazines and books; she was a biting and much-loved book critic for The New Yorker in the late 1920s; in the 1930s, she moved to Hollywood to try her hand

SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS TO PLAYERS

[Warning: Extremely Colourful Language Ahead] This incredible, genuine memo, issued to all Major League Baseball teams in 1898 as part of a documented campaign spearheaded by John Brush to rid the sport of filthy language, was discovered in 2007 amongst the belongings of the late baseball historian Al Kermish, also a respected collector of memorabilia. Essentially

Gee whiz, that master alarm certainly startled me

Whilst working as “Chief of Apollo Data Priority Coordination” during the Apollo space program — or, as Gene Kranz fondly labelled him, “pretty much the architect for all of the techniques that we used to go down to the surface of the Moon” — NASA engineer Bill Tindall was renowned within the agency for the informal tone of the incredibly important

The human race is incurably idiotic

Few letters have entertained me more than this one, sent by noted writer H. L. Mencken to artist Charles Green Shaw in 1927. Written in list-form, the letter acts as a Mencken biography of sorts as he briefly — and more often than not, humorously — offers his views on a whole host of subjects, topics

May I suggest that Mr. Bond be armed with a revolver?

Late-May of 1956, James Bond author Ian Fleming received a politely critical letter from a firearms expert named Geoffrey Boothroyd. It began: I have, by now, got rather fond of Mr. James Bond. I like most of the things about him, with the exception of his rather deplorable taste in firearms. In particular, I dislike

It can never be as bad in fiction as it is in real life

On January 7th of 1964, having held his tongue for two months despite a steady stream of criticism, author Ken Kesey wrote the following letter to The New York Times in defence of the Broadway adaptation of his novel, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest; a stage show which had attracted a fair amount of

Permission to Synchronise

Tom West, c.1966 | Image: Jessamyn West, at Flickr When he wasn’t designing incredibly precise clocks at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in the 1960s, Tom West could often be found travelling the world with one in his possession, on his way to accurately set the time at a foreign satellite observatory. Unsurprisingly, suspicions were sometimes aroused

The links between science fiction & science are well established

The following stirring open letter was written by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry in 1980, and was essentially a rare public endorsement of the then-newly formed Planetary Society, an organisation started as a means to support the exploration of the Solar System and search for extraterrestrial life. Founded by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray and Louis Friedman in 1980, the

I write for myself and I’ll say anything I damn well please

Back in December of 1996, worried about the influence of Green Day‘s “explicit” fourth album, Insomniac, on her 8-year-old son, an angry mother decided to write a slightly aggressive letter of complaint to the band. It clearly hit a nerve, and she soon received a handwritten response from then-24-year-old frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. Both letters

A library is many things

Early-1971, in an effort to attract as many youngsters to the premises as possible, Marguerite Hart — children’s librarian at the newly-opened public library in Troy, Michigan — wrote to a number of notable people with a request: to reply with a congratulatory letter, addressed to the children of Troy, in which the benefits of

This is Kurt Vonnegut, reporting from the afterlife

In a 1997 letter to Manhattan-based radio station WNYC, author Kurt Vonnegut pitches his idea for a series of fictional interviews with the deceased. In fact the idea came to fruition and numerous 90-second segments — one of which can be heard here — were subsequently broadcast, with interviewees ranging from the non-famous through to

Jim is fundamentally a respectable citizen

Two letters today, both of which concern Jim Morrison, frontman of The Doors, but each at different stages of his tragically short life. The first was lovingly penned by Morrison in 1954, then just 10 years of age, and is an incredibly sweet letter of thanks to his mother for having helped him “face all the

My favorite feature is the Obituary department

In 1961, the following submission letter — written by an aspiring author aged just 14 — arrived at the offices of Spacemen Magazine accompanied by a copy of “The Killer,” the polite youngster’s latest short story. Unfortunately for him the magazine’s editor, Forrest Ackerman, didn’t deem the tale worthy of inclusion at that point, and it would be another 33

On bureaucratese and gobbledygook

As a result of his influential stint as chairman of the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board in the 1970s, economist Alfred Kahn rightly became known as the “Father of Deregulation.” However, he also made a lasting impression on many due to the wider publication — initially in the Washington Star, and then the Post — of the following internal

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

GOD HELP YOU OUT, PAUL

In 1971, John Lennon wrote the following scathing missive to Paul and Linda McCartney in response to a letter from Linda in which she had chastised him for, amongst other things, not publicly announcing his departure from The Beatles. There was no love lost between the two couples at this point and this angry note was just

You’re a liar and a fraud

Despite having worked as an internationally-renowned stage magician for much of his life, it’s for his clinical investigations of all things paranormal and pseudoscientific — most famously his exposé of a certain spoonbender, The Truth About Uri Geller — that James Randi is best known. His no-nonsense approach in such matters is illustrated in the following letter, written in

As soon as I stop speaking the pearls disappear

It was in 1963 that Diana Vreeland became the highly influential editor-in-chief of Vogue, having previously worked at Harper’s Bazaar for 25 years first as a columnist and then fashion editor. Add to these achievements her “discovery” of both Lauren Bacall and Edie Sedgwick, plus her role as style-advisor to Jaqueline Kennedy whilst First Lady, and

love, thom

Below are two letters, both sent by Thom Yorke to fans of Radiohead — the first handwritten in 1994, pre-Bends, and the second typewritten in 1996. At this point in their career, Radiohead were still on the lower rungs of the ladder in terms of success, as evidenced by the earlier letter — written in the studio

Tell me, what is a “she-male?”

In this amusing note sent to the famous (but since closed) Gotham Book Mart in 2001, author John Updike thanks the manager, Andreas Brown, for his recently received copy of Field and Vision, but more importantly poses a couple of light-hearted questions relating to the packaging in which his order was wrapped. Transcript follows. Image supplied

Finished with the War: A Soldier’s Declaration

In July of 1917, mid-World War I, following a period of convalescent leave during which he had decided to make a stand by not returning to duty, celebrated poet Siegfried Sassoon sent the following open letter to his commanding officer and refused to return to the trenches. The reaction was widespread, thanks in no small part to

Shame on you Mr. Beck

On September 1st of 2009, in a nod to a joke made by comedian Gilbert Gottfried in which he repeatedly asked the audience not to spread a previously non-existent rumour about Bob Saget, Isaac Eiland-Hall launched the satirical website GlennBeckRapedAndMurderedAYoungGirlIn1990.com; its aim being to parody pundit Glenn Beck‘s often controversial style of political commentary. A subsequent complaint by