A string of veritable psychological peaches

In 1932, renowned Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung wrote a largely critical piece for Europäische Revue on the subject of Ulysses, James Joyce‘s groundbreaking, controversial, and famously challenging novel. From Jung’s essay: “I read to page 135 with despair in my heart, falling asleep twice on the way. The incredible versatility of Joyce’s style has a

Must we hate them?

In April of 1937, Jamaican-born mechanic Canute Frankson left his home in Detroit and travelled to Europe to join the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, a group of approximately 2,800 American volunteers who were keen to offer support in the fight against Franco and his supporters during the Spanish Civil War. Three months after arriving, Frankson wrote the following powerful

Don’t expect me to be sane anymore

In 1932, months after first meeting in Paris and despite both being married, Cuban diarist Anaïs Nin and hugely influential novelist Henry Miller began an incredibly intense love affair that would last for many years and, along the way, generate countless passionate love letters. Below, in my humble opinion, is one of the most powerful examples, written

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

How I would like to work for you!

In March of 1933, in an attempt to secure some work, 23-year-old Eudora Welty wrote the following charming letter to the offices of The New Yorker. Incredibly, they turned her down. Eudora went on to write numerous pieces for The New Yorker and later won multiple awards for her work, including, in 1973, the Pulitzer Prize

You’ve got to sell your heart

Late-1938, eager to gain some feedback on her work, aspiring young author and Radcliffe sophomore Frances Turnbull sent a copy of her latest story to celebrated novelist and friend of the family, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before long the feedback arrived, in the form of the somewhat harsh but admirably honest reply seen below. (Source: F.

Dear Einstein, Do Scientists Pray?

As one of the world’s great intellects and arguably the most famous of all scientists, Albert Einstein was regularly questioned about his views on religion. In January of 1936, a young girl named Phyllis wrote to Einstein on behalf of her Sunday school class and simply asked, “Do scientists pray?” Einstein soon replied. (This letter,

Forget your personal tragedy

In 1925, following publication of his magnum opus, The Great Gatsby, author F. Scott Fitzgerald began work on his fourth novel, Tender Is the Night—a tale about the troubled lives of Dick and Nicole Diver, a couple based largely on Gerald and Sara Murphy, a wealthy, popular couple who moved in the same social circles

Things to worry about

When he wasn’t busy writing some of the most critically lauded and enduring novels of the 20th Century, The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald could often be found penning the most fascinating of letters to such famous characters as his good friend, Ernest Hemingway; editor extraordinaire, Maxwell Perkins; and his wife and fellow author,

I like words

In 1934, a New York copywriter by the name of Robert Pirosh quit his well-paid job and headed for Hollywood, determined to begin the career of his dreams as a screenwriter. When he arrived, he gathered the names and addresses of as many directors, producers and studio executives as he could find, and sent them

The Empire State Building

Early-1932, after seeing a photograph in the New York Times of the great Helen Keller at the top of the newly-opened Empire State Building, Dr. John Finley wrote to her and asked what she really “saw” from that height. Keller — famously both deaf and blind from a very early age — responded with the incredible

Will you please have his place raided?

In September of 1931, with the sale of alcohol still banned in the U.S. due to prohibition, a frustrated housewife named Mrs. Hillyer wrote the following letter to the Seattle Bureau of Prohibition. Transcript follows. (Source: National Archives; Image above via.) Transcript Seattle, Wash.Sept. 22, 1931 Dear Sir: My husband is in the habit of

Never from so many at once

In 1932, a Mrs Randolph Frothingham, then President of the “Woman Patriot Corporation,” wrote a lengthy letter to the US government and demanded that Albert Einstein be barred from the country due to his being “affiliated with more anarchist and Communist groups than Josef Stalin himself.” The charges against him spanned 16 pages, and included

Damn

In 1939, two months prior to the release of Gone With the Wind, an American censor named Joe Breen decided that the word “damn,” as used in the now legendary line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” should be removed from the movie. Breen’s decision was based on the Hays Code, a set

On the Meaning of Life

In July of 1931, author and philosopher Will Durant wrote to a number of notable figures and asked, essentially, “What is the meaning of life?” His letter concluded: Spare me a moment to tell me what meaning life has for you, what keeps you going, what help—if any—religion gives you, what are the sources of

I know what love is

In 1936, in the midst of an unrelenting workload and the near-demise of his marriage, legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams suffered a nervous breakdown. After a stay in hospital, desperately in need of escape, Adams then returned with his family to the one place where he could find solace: Yosemite, California. Some months later, as

For Aspiring Editors

Young novelist William Saroyan dreamed of one day editing a magazine, and so in 1936 sought advice on that very aspiration from the great H. L. Mencken, a hugely influential man who had, in the 1920s, founded and edited his own title. Saroyan sent him a polite letter. Mencken responded with the priceless reply seen below.

From your friend “Babe” Ruth

Says Dawn: My late-father’s friend, Freddy, contracted Polio when they were kids, and apparently he had a tough time of it. A couple of weeks into his lengthy stay at the Children’s Hospital in Boston, Freddy (a baseball nut) was given this letter. It was from his hero, Babe Ruth, and is just so sweet.

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

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,

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

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.

I had to turn down BLACK SPRING

On September 8th of 1936, Bennett Cerf – co-founder of Random House – wrote the following letter to author Henry Miller. In it, he rejected Miller’s third novel, Black Spring, adding that it hadn’t “the faintest chance of achieving commercial success in America.” Miller’s reaction to Cerf’s appraisal can be seen by way his brief handwritten annotation at the foot of the

To the Boy Scouts

According to his wife, Olave, an envelope marked ‘In the event of my death’ was carried by Robert Baden-Powell whilst on his travels in later life. Inside, along with various other important documents, was the following undated letter; written by Baden-Powell, founder of the Scout Movement, and addressed ‘To the Boy Scouts’. It was read

More close-ups, more money

As U.S. audiences continued to be wowed by Hedy Lamarr‘s glamorous turn in Algiers, Oscar-winning movie producer David O. Selznick was both blatant and determined in his efforts to capitalise on the natural beauty of Ingrid Bergman whilst filming her Hollywood debut – Intermezzo – in 1938; so much so that he wrote the following memo to the movie’s director, editor

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]

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

Yours Faithfully, Adolf Hitler

In September of 1931, a young British journalist working for the Berlin office of the Daily Express invited the most unlikely of figures to contribute to a forthcoming feature in the newspaper. The feature in question was to be a series of articles relating to the current financial crisis in Britain, each written by a

To All Potty-Mouthed Inbetweeners

At the risk of featuring too much Disney-related correspondence within such a short space of time, here we have an intriguing inter-office memo passed on to all members of the studio’s Inbetween Department in 1939 due to an influx of ‘gross language’ amongst certain artists. It seems the management were concerned about the impact of

How to Train an Animator, by Walt Disney

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the following eight-page memo. Written by Walt Disney in December of 1935 to Don Graham — a highly respected art teacher from Chounaird Art Institute tasked with helming art classes for Disney animators — this missive signalled the birth of a structured training program that would subsequently enable

Wills are subject to change

During his final fourteen years, actor W. C. Fields enjoyed an oft-turbulent relationship with Carlotta Monti, a minor actress who became his mistress in the early 1930s. In 1939, midway through their affair and with marriage out of the question (Fields, although separated, still had a wife), Monti informed Fields of her intention to marry another

The Birth of Public Enemy No.1

In March of 1933, eight years after being jailed for a failed attempt to rob a local grocery store, future ‘public enemy‘ John Dillinger wrote the following demanding letter to his father in an attempt to secure his own early release. Luckily for Dillinger, but not so much for the rest of the population, his

All you speak of is real to me

The late, great, Forrest J. Ackerman – legendary science fiction fan; originator of the phrase ‘sci fi’; editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland; unstoppable collector of memorabilia, and creator of Vampirella – once wrote a charming letter to novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs. Ackerman was 14 years of age at the time, and had just spent

You must know again my reluctance to marry

In May of 1932, 34-year-old pioneering aviatrix Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean following a 14 hour, 56 minute flight from Newfoundland to Northern Ireland in her single engine Lockheed Vega 5B—just one of many aviation records that she broke during a lifetime fuelled by ambition. Earhart was

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

Advice for an aspiring architect, in 1931

In December of 1931, as the Great Depression took hold, a young man by the name of Richard Crews wrote to a number of prominent architecture firms in the city of Chicago. Soon to enter the profession himself, Crews was curious to learn about an established architect’s typical working day, and so sent letters to

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 painted you a letter

Russian-born artist Moses Soyer wrote a number of letters to his teenage sons; nearly all replete with fantastic illustrations as charming as those seen below. This particular work of art was sent to David in the late 1930s while he attended summer camp miles from home, and must’ve been a perfect remedy for homesickness. Similar

Superman: The Man of Tomorrow

In 1934, four years before the superhero finally found a home at National Allied Publications, Jerry Siegel desperately needed an artist to work on his as-yet-unsuccessful Superman strip as a result of Joe Shuster‘s temporary departure. In an effort to secure his services, Siegel wrote the following letter to Buck Rogers artist Russell Keaton. Ultimately he

What a dandy car you make

From 1932 until its bloody conclusion in May of 1934, Bonnie Parker, Clyde Barrow and an ever-changing gang of accomplices became a nationwide talking point as a result of a murderous crime spree which spanned the Central United States. Naturally, such a high-profile criminal gang depended on high-powered transport to evade the authorities and judging

Unhappy Franksgiving

A mild panic swept over the U.S. in 1939, following a brave decision by President Roosevelt to move Thanksgiving forward from the final Thursday of November to its penultimate Thursday, in an effort to lengthen and boost Christmas spending after the holiday during what were the last groans of the Great Depression. In the days

Dear Mayor of New York City

It’s no wonder that in a city as large and populous as New York, a steady stream of letters are written to the Mayor throughout the year by its citizens, the majority having been penned for different reasons. Below are just four such letters that I have plucked – with permission – from a truly

This issue transcends all others

2 years prior to Hitler‘s rise to power in 1933, Germany was chosen as host of the 1936 Olympic Games. As the games approached and Hitler’s regime shocked the world, the air was filled with rumours of boycott, both from individual athletes and entire governments. Walter White, then executive secretary of the NAACP, wrote a

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

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,

Einstein’s One Great Mistake

On August 2nd, 1939, after consultation with fellow physicists Leó Szilárd and Eugene Wigner, Albert Einstein signed the following letter to then-U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt. The letter warned that the construction of an atomic bomb using uranium was indeed possible, advised the U.S. Government to invest time and money into its research, and then hinted that

Homosexuality is nothing to be ashamed of

In 1935, the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was contacted by a worried mother who was seeking treatment for her son’s apparent homosexuality. Freud, who believed that all humans are attracted to both sexes in some capacity, responded with the following letter of advice. (The letter was later passed on to Alfred Kinsey and reproduced

UNADULTERATED HOGWASH

Whilst working for Leon Schlesinger Productions in the early 1930s, animators Tex Avery, Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett were highly instrumental in the development of the Looney Tunes cartoons, during what would eventually be known as the ‘Golden Era’ of animation. Fast forward to 1969, and animation historian Michael Barrier interviewed Clampett about that very

I refuse to salute the flag

Jehovah’s Witness Billy Gobitas was just 10 years old when he wrote the following letter to the board of his school in Pennsylvania. A few weeks previous, Billy had refused to salute and pledge allegiance to the flag during school, on the basis that it violated a commandment in Exodus 20:4-6. Both Billy and his

I did NOT hear the Martians “rapping on my chamber door”

For your enjoyment, two beautifully contrasting reactions to the original airing of Orson Welles‘ adaptation of H. G. Wells‘ The War of the Worlds. For the uninitiated, on the evening of October 30th, 1938, the CBS Radio Network broadcast what sounded (to some) like a series of genuine news bulletins depicting the unfolding invasion of

TO ALL LOVERS OF NIGHT SHIFTS!

‘The enclosed file is a memo from film composer Max Steiner to his fellow workers and superiors at Radio-Keith-Orpheum (RKO). Max Steiner was famed for his ability to create more than 40 cinematic scores a year and was one of the most wanted composers in Hollywood during the Golden Age. His work includes films such

My dear little one day old baby

Lilian Gollan wrote the following letter to her new daughter Wendy on November 29th, 1934, just a day after giving birth to her at Jessie McPherson Hospital in Melbourne. A photo of the mother and daughter can be seen here.  Source Transcript “purity, truth and love.” CuriosityAmbitionImagination My own dear Baby,My dear little one day

The child is in gut care

Toddler Charles Lindbergh Jr., son of famous pilots Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow, was abducted from his crib on March 1st, 1932. The following ransom note was found at the scene. Although the ransom was paid a month later, the child’s body was discovered just miles from the Lindbergh’s home on May 12th. The exposure

For the sake of humanity

On July 23rd of 1939, as tensions mounted in Europe following Germany’s occupation of Czechoslovakia, Mohandas Gandhi, the famously non-violent leader of the Indian independence movement, wrote a letter to the man who was orchestrating what would become World War II: the leader of Nazi Germany, Adolf Hitler. As it happens, Gandhi’s letter—a clear and

The creative work is performed by young men

Back in 1938, women who applied for animation jobs at Disney were destined to receive a visually attractive but ultimately depressing rejection letter like the one below — a missive in which it was advised to instead shoot for a lower star in the tracing department; a place where, it seems, ladies could be trusted with ink. Interestingly,