God be with you

On September 29th, 1918, months before the end of World War I, a freshly assigned physician at Camp Devens military base in Massachusetts wrote the following letter to a friend and fellow doctor, and described a terrifying influenza epidemic that was now killing hundreds of his camp’s soldiers each day. The death toll in this

How the hell have you done it?

On April 18th of 1961, it was announced that iconic Hollywood star Gary Cooper was dying of cancer after a glittering 36 year career that saw him amass countless fans, plaudits, and awards across the globe. Weeks after that news broke, and just days before he died, Cooper received the following fan letter from Kirk Douglas,

There is no danger down here

On October 31st, 1918, as the First World War neared its end, celebrated war poet and officer of the Second Manchesters Wilfred Owen wrote home to his mother. Sadly, this would be his last letter. Four days later–exactly a century ago–Owen was shot dead as he led his company across the Sambre–Oise Canal. His mother

My heart almost stood still

On the evening of February 1st, 1924, the New York Symphony Orchestra played Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall in New York, conducted by Walter Damrosch. Thankfully for those who couldn’t attend, the performance was broadcast live on the radio. A couple of days later, the orchestra received a stunning letter of thanks from the unlikeliest of sources: Helen

Brown is as pretty as white

W. E. B. Du Bois accomplished more than most during a lifetime rich with admirable achievements. In 1895, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D at Harvard; he co-founded, in 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, an organisation that has fought tirelessly for racial equality since its inception;

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 see you, my beauty boy

For two months in 1974, as Richard Burton filmed his part in The Klansman, he and his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, moved to California with Cassius, just one of Taylor’s many beloved cats. Sadly, the trip confused Cassius somewhat and he soon went missing, never to return. Taylor wrote the following letter some time after his disappearance.

Your Loving Mother

On January 22nd of 1919, during her freshman year at college, 19-year-old Margaret Mitchell received word that her mother had fallen ill as a result of a deadly flu pandemic that was sweeping the globe, along with instructions from her father to return home. A few days later, she did just that, only to be greeted

The Matchbox

Born in 1893, English author and poet Sylvia Townsend Warner wrote seven novels in her lifetime beginning with Lolly Willowes – the quirky tale of a lady who moves away from home following the death of her father and, as is often the case, takes up witchcraft – the book for which she is now

Make your soul grow

In 2006, a group of students at Xavier High School in New York City were given an assignment by their English teacher, Ms. Lockwood, that was to test their persuasive writing skills: they were asked to write to their favourite author and ask him or her to visit the school. It’s a measure of his

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

Live as well as you dare

In February of 1820, on learning that his good friend, Lady Georgiana Morpeth, was suffering from a bout of depression, noted essayist and clergyman Sydney Smith sent her the following precious letter, in which he listed twenty pieces of advice to help her overcome “low spirits.” Two similarly helpful letters of advice—specifically on the subject of depression—spring

Thine in the bonds of womanhood

In the 1820s, having grown up on her father’s plantation amongst dozens of slaves — many of whom she had befriended and educated — Sarah Grimké began to tour the Northern United States giving anti-slavery lectures to all who would listen. She was joined by her sister some years later, by which time the talks also covered

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

Wretched woman!

In 1834, 21-year-old Jarm Logue (pictured above some years later) managed to steal his master’s horse and escape the life of slavery into which he had been born. Sadly, his mother, brother and sister remained. 26 years later, by which time he had settled down in New York, opened numerous schools for black children, started his

For your first Christmas

In December of 1915, as his infant grandson began to enjoy his very first Christmas, 60-year-old American journalist and diplomat Walter H. Page decided to mark the occasion by writing him the following letter — a wonderful, heartwarming celebration of their common interests which, as a result of its charm, was later published for wider consumption.

Our differences unite us

In 2012, 10-year-old Sophia Bailey-Klugh wrote and illustrated an endearing letter to U. S. President Barack Obama and, as the daughter of a gay couple, thanked him for supporting same-sex marriage. Her letter, and the reply she soon received, can be seen below. Transcripts follow each letter. (Huge thanks to Sophia’s family for allowing us to

Why I am an Atheist

In 1903, Kentucky-based newspaper “Blue-grass Blade” asked its readers to write in and contribute to a forthcoming feature named, “Why I am An Atheist.” Hundreds of letters soon arrived and many were subsequently reprinted in the paper; over a century later, in 2011, they were compiled to form the book, Letters from an Atheist Nation. Below

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

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 have not shot her yet

In 1927, the year after her first collection of poetry, Enough Rope, was published to rave reviews, the eternally sarcastic and rightly celebrated satirist, critic, and founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker, found herself in hospital suffering from exhaustion—a condition brought on, in part, by a turbulent affair with American publisher Seward

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

Why Explore Space?

In 1970, a Zambia-based nun named Sister Mary Jucunda wrote to Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, then-associate director of science at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, in response to his ongoing research into a piloted mission to Mars. Specifically, she asked how he could suggest spending billions of dollars on such a project at a time when so many children were starving on

To Hell with Hitler

In 1940, a year after fleeing Nazi Germany and setting up home in New York, the writer of the following letter attempted to enlist with the U.S. Armed Forces; however, his application was denied for one incredible reason: his uncle was Adolf Hitler. He wasn’t deterred, and two years later, a few months after his

Regarding your dam complaint

In December of 1997, as a result of an official complaint from a neighbour, a Michigan resident named Stephen Tvedten received, indirectly, a stern warning from the region’s Department of Environmental Quality in the form of a letter—a letter in which he was given six weeks to remove two “unauthorized” and “hazardous” dams from the

Oh my ass burns like fire!

When he wasn’t busy composing some of the most beautiful music ever to seduce the human ear, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could often be found writing shockingly crude letters to his family. The fine example below (translated by Robert Spaethling) was penned to Mozart’s 19-year-old cousin and possible love interest,

Sex does not thrive on monotony

In the 1940s, at which point she — along with a collective of other writers that included her lover, Henry Miller — was earning $1 per page writing erotic fiction for the private consumption of an anonymous client, author Anaïs Nin wrote the following passionate letter to the “Collector” and made known her frustrations — frustrations caused by his repeated insistence

Oh Christ, the cook is dead

In February of 1977, a well-meaning teacher named Stephen Gard wrote to Spike Milligan after reading Monty, the third installment of Spike’s memoirs which focused on his life as a soldier in World War II, and asked some questions about the book. Says Stephen: “My letter was written as a fan, but it did ask

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

My mother declared my bedroom a disaster area

As one would expect, Ronald Reagan was the recipient of thousands of letters each month during his presidency–a mailbag so voluminous, in fact, that a gang of patient volunteers were tasked with opening them all on his behalf and passing him approximately 30 each week to read and respond to. This is just one example,

Part of this world, part of another

In 1970, when originally offered the lead role in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory by director Mel Stuart, the great Gene Wilder accepted on one condition. “When I make my first entrance,” he explained, “I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After

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

Ought women not to be abolished altogether?

On March 28th of 1912, an eminent bacteriologist named Almroth Wright wrote a lengthy, pompous letter to The Times in which he argued that women should not be allowed to vote, and in fact should be kept away from politics altogether, due to their supposed psychological and physiological deficiencies. Unsurprisingly his opinion generated many responses, the best

Bill Hicks on Freedom of Speech

As an outspoken stand-up comedian with strong, unbending views on the most divisive of subjects, the late-Bill Hicks was no stranger to controversy during his all-too-brief career. In May of 1993, less than a year before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 32, a live recording of Hicks’ Revelations show was broadcast

He has nothing left but his poker

In September of 1896, the head of the Atlantic City Railroad in New Jersey received the following letter of complaint from an unhappy local named A. T. Harris. Little else is known. (Source: The Oxford Book of Letters; Image via Wikimedia.) To the Superintendent, Atlantic City Railroad, Sept. 1896 Dear sir, On the 15th yore

He is called Mick Jagger

In April of 1962, 18-year-old Keith Richards wrote the following enthusiastic letter to his aunt, “Patty,” and described, amongst other things, an encounter some months previous that would ultimately change his life — the moment he met Mick Jagger for the first time since being childhood friends. Three months after the letter was written, “The

I do not like scolding people

Author Katherine Mansfield and editor John Murry met in 1911 and had a turbulent relationship by anyone’s standards: by the time they wed in 1918, they had split several times and seen other people; indeed, the pattern continued through their marriage. Three years after marrying, Mansfield wrote a stern letter to fellow author Princess Elizabeth

I am very real

In October of 1973, Bruce Severy — a 26-year-old English teacher at Drake High School, North Dakota — decided to use Kurt Vonnegut‘s novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, as a teaching aid in his classroom. The next month, on November 7th, the head of the school board, Charles McCarthy, demanded that all 32 copies be burned in the school’s furnace

Sorrow passes and we remain

In July of 1883, Henry James, the famed novelist responsible for writing, most notably, The Portrait of a Lady, received a worryingly emotional letter from Grace Norton, a friend of some years and successful essayist who, following a recent death in the family, had seemingly become depressed and was desperate for direction. James, no stranger

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

1984 v. Brave New World

In October of 1949, a few months after publication of George Orwell‘s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, he received a letter from fellow author Aldous Huxley, a man who, 17 years previous, had seen his own nightmarish vision of society published in the form of Brave New World, a book also now considered a classic. Having recently finished reading

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

You will then know how to talke to me

In September of 1864, as the American Civil War approached its conclusion, a slave-turned-soldier named Spotswood Rice wrote the following furious letter to his former owner, Katherine Diggs, and sternly warned her that she would soon be seeing him again: he was returning to Missouri, together with a thousand-strong army of black soldiers, to rescue

Deep sickness seized me

In October of 1819, 23-year-old schoolteacher Lucy Thurston and her husband, Asa, left their home in Massachusetts to become members of the first expedition of Christian missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands. Their efforts were welcomed, and for the rest of their lives they educated the locals, helped to build schools and churches, and even translated

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

Happy Birthday, Dickens

Image: Charles Dickens, via Lenin Imports Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of someone who, hopefully, needs no introduction: Charles Dickens — a man who wrote so many letters (some 15’000 have survived) it’s a wonder he ever found time to write the novels he did. Last month I featured the bleakest of letters, in

My muse is not a horse

In 1996, following the success of his band‘s ninth studio album, Murder Ballads, word reached Nick Cave that he had been nominated for an MTV Award, as Best Male Artist. That nomination was soon withdrawn, however, as a result of the following rejection letter from Mr. Cave to the event’s organisers. Nick very kindly agreed to

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

Thou eunuch of language

Robert Burns is considered one of the greatest poets ever to have lived. He was also, judging by the following letter, more than capable of responding to his few critics. It was penned in 1791 in response to a recent review that criticised a supposed abundance of “obscure language” and “imperfect grammar” in Burns’s poetry,

“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

Aida will gather dust in the archives

In May of 1872, having recently travelled twice to watch Aida, a disappointed Italian gentleman named Prospero Bertani decided to write a letter of complaint to the opera’s composer, Verdi, and ask for his money back; not just for the show, but for his expenses too. Amused, Verdi responded by forwarding the letter to 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

Everyone has to be a child

Back in 1998, The Economist ran an article which resulted in a record amount of feedback for its author. The subject at hand was children: For children, just like cigarettes or mobile phones, clearly impose a negative externality on people who are near them. Anybody who has suffered a 12-hour flight with a bawling baby

The price for ridding society of bad is always high

In June of 1945, a striking letter arrived at the home of 3-year-old Dennis Helms in Washington, written on a chilling sheet of Adolf Hitler’s letterhead and dated V-E day. It had in fact been penned by Dennis’ father, Lt. Richard Helms, an intelligence operative with the Office of Strategic Services who, following Germany’s surrender

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

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

Please ask Ike to bring Elvis back

The following pleading letter is just one of thousands sent by desperate fans of Elvis Presley to the White House in the late-1950s, in an effort to have the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll returned to the United States from Germany, where he was posted with the U.S. Army. This particular missive was sent by

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

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

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 have just written you a long letter

The late, great Lt. Col. Alfred D. Wintle was opinionated, brave, comical, intelligent, and, most importantly, hugely entertaining. A true “character.” He once attempted to escape a hospital dressed as a female nurse in order to rejoin the war effort, but his monocle gave him away; as a prisoner of war in France during World War

Immortal Beloved

After his death in 1827, the following love letter was found amongst the personal papers of Ludwig van Beethoven, penned by the composer over the course of two days in July of 1812 while staying in Teplice. The letter’s unnamed recipient — Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved” — remains a mystery, and continues to generate debate. Below are images of the

You are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”

On the evening of December 5th, 1950, a carefully selected 3500-strong audience filled Washington’s Constitution Hall to witness a singing performance by Margaret Truman, the only child of then-U.S. President Harry Truman (also in attendance), and, despite the generally held consensus that her singing talents were lacking, a wave of positive reaction greeted her after the

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 wasn’t a rip off; it was a love in

An inflammatory article in The New York Times provoked the following letter from John Lennon in 1971, defensively penned on a couple of sheets of in-flight stationery as the Beatle crossed the Atlantic. Journalist Craig McGregor’s piece, entitled ‘The Beatles Betrayal,’ was clear in its accusation: that a number of white bands — The Beatles in particular

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

I am volunteering for the “Man in Space” program

On May 5th of 1961, Alan Shepard became the second person — and first American — to enter space, just three weeks after Yuri Gagarin orbited Earth. The following amazing letter was written by Shepard to his parents two years before, and marks the very first announcement of his plans to volunteer for the “Man

What great births you have witnessed!

In May of 1889, author Mark Twain wrote the following beautiful letter of congratulations to Walt Whitman, the indisputably influential poet behind, most notably, Leaves of Grass. The cause for celebration was Whitman’s upcoming 70th birthday, the imminence of which saw Twain pen not just a birthday wish, but a stunning 4-page love letter to human endeavour, as seen

I think I no how to make people or animals alive

In June of 1973, spurred on by the recent discovery of a dying bird in his garden, 9-year-old Anthony Hollander wrote to the presenters of the BBC’s much-loved children’s television show, Blue Peter, and asked for assistance in his quest to “make people or animals alive.” Below is his letter, and the encouraging response written by the programme’s

Permission to land

Top-left: A Huey thrown overboard; Top-right: Buang-Ly lands safely; Bottom: A rapturous welcome On April 30th of 1975, with the Vietnam War coming to a close and the U.S. evacuating as many people as possible from South Vietnam in Operation Frequent Wind, crew aboard the USS Midway were surprised to see a small two-seat Cessna O-1 Bird

Seat 29E

Mid-flight on December 21st, 2004, a Continental Airlines passenger — “disgusted” with the location of his seat due to its proximity to the lavatory — humorously wrote the following letter of complaint to the airline’s headquarters. The now-famous letter, complete with illustrations and vivid descriptions of the passenger’s stench-filled discomfort, found its way onto the

The Court would like to balance the scales

In November of 2010, upon realising that the forthcoming birth of his grandchild would probably occur midway through the mortgage-fraud trial on which he was working, Manhattan defence attorney Bennett Epstein wrote the following letter to the judge presiding over the case, Kimba Wood. The reason? To apply for a recess mid-trial so that, should

You were of course the outstanding candidate

In May of 2006, armed only with a glittering virtual career on Football Manager 2005 and limited success in charge of a local under-11s team, then-25-year-old John Boileau made the leap and applied — with tongue firmly in cheek — to become the new manager of Middlesbrough Football Club. Below are his covering letter and

I had no idea that the City of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Bros.

When the legal department of Warner Bros. were notified of a forthcoming feature-length Casablanca spoof in 1945 – A Night in Casablanca, featuring a lead character named ‘Humphrey Bogus’ – they were naturally curious as to the specifics, and so innocently requested more information from the movie’s creators, the Marx Brothers. Very quickly Groucho, sensing the opportunity

Regarding your stupid complaint

In November of 1974, an attorney named Dale Cox wrote to his favourite American football club, the Cleveland Browns, and informed them that a number of the team’s fans were regularly throwing paper aeroplanes in the stadium — a potentially “dangerous” activity that could, he warned, cause “serious eye injury” to innocent fans such as himself. His stern letter

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

You can beat it just like I did

On September 5th of 1994, eager to pose a question, 8th-grade student Branden Brooks found himself raising his hand during the Q&A session of a presentation by then-Senator Joe Biden. After the event, having noticed the young man’s stutter as he spoke, Biden pulled him to one side: “Sen. Biden told me that he used to stutter

A Plea for a raise, By Jack Kennedy

Late-1927, having just become a Boy Scout and acutely aware that his weekly allowance wouldn’t cover the costs of such a lifestyle, 10-year-old John F. Kennedy approached his father and asked for a raise of 30¢. Keen to teach the future President a quick business lesson, Kennedy Sr. immediately told him that, unless his plea

Have you heard about the Toad?

Whilst holidaying with his wife in May of 1907, Kenneth Grahame wrote the first of fifteen letters to his son and ended it with mention of Toad, a fantastical character recently introduced to seven-year-old Alistair‘s bedtime stories, in part to better teach him right from wrong. His son was delighted and, over the coming weeks, his

The first mail to be carried over the Atlantic

Alcock & Brown shortly after takeoff | Image: Wikimedia On June 14th of 1919 at St. John’s, Newfoundland, Captain John Alcock and his navigator Lt. Arthur Brown made history as they began what would become the world’s first non-stop transatlantic flight. For their troubles they were awarded £10,000 by the Daily Mail, a newspaper then-renowned

I greet you at the beginning of a great career

Now widely considered one of the greatest books of poetry ever written, Leaves of Grass was first published in 1855 and financed entirely by its author, Walt Whitman. Whitman – then an aspiring, unknown poet – immediately sent one of the 795 copies to Ralph Waldo Emerson, a highly respected man who, a decade previous, had

All the ladies like whiskers

In 1860, having recently seen a picture of him without facial hair, an 11-year-old girl named Grace Bedell decided to write to Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln with a suggestion: to grow a beard. Her letter, and Lincoln’s reply, can be seen below. She met Lincoln a few months later, as the President-elect travelled victoriously to Washington,

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

The War is officially ended

On August 15th of 1945 – following six years of conflict, two atomic bombs, and the deaths of over 50 million people – Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan to the Japanese population, effectively bringing World War II to an end, and as word soon spread through various channels a sigh of relief slowly swept across the globe. Below is

Ghosts in the White House

On June 12th, 1945, then-U. S. President Harry Truman wrote the following letter to his wife, Bess. She had recently taken their daughter to visit relatives over the summer, and Truman’s subsequent attempts to work had been somewhat hampered by the endless noises and draughts emitted by the White House; a building which at the time was desperately in

Its true beauty, however, was that it worked

As he exited the Apollo Lunar Module on July 20th of 1969, ready to set foot on the Moon, Neil Armstrong‘s immediate safety was in the hands of an incredible feat of engineering that is often overlooked: his A7L Spacesuit and backpack. Built at Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center by ILC Dover and Hamilton Standard, respectively,

I am the servant of the king, my lord, the dirt at his feet

The following remarkable letter was written on clay tablet between the years of 1350 and 1335, BC, by Ayyab – king of the city of Aštartu in the Canaan region – and sent to Amenhotep IV, then-Pharaoh of the Eighteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt. It was discovered in the 1880s in Amarna, and is just one of 382 such Cuneiform

I would like to retain ‘fart in your general direction’

In August of 1974, eight months prior to its cinema release, a preview screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail—a painfully funny parody of the legend of King Arthur and the Python team’s second feature film—was attended by a member of the British Board of Film Classification, Tony Kerpel, who was there to offer

Your products are stronger than the atomic bomb

On August 6th of 1945, at 08:15hrs, the Enola Gay B-29 bomber dropped an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. 43 seconds later, it detonated. Tragically, very little survived the explosion, including many thousands of the city’s inhabitants and countless buildings, but the letter seen below–sent five years later by the manager of

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

Dear 8 year-old Teresa

In 1988, aged just 8 but already a fan of the teen actor due to Stand By Me, Star Trek: The Next Generation and his “awesome smile,” an excited Teresa Jusino saved up the $12.00 membership fee and applied to join “WilPower,” then-15-year-old Wil Wheaton‘s official fan club. She then waited. And waited some more. And then gave up

I hear you like Tomato Soup

As product marketing manager for Campbell’s, William MacFarland must have been overjoyed with the incredible public reaction to Andy Warhol‘s first exhibition as a fine artist in 1962, as present at the gallery was his now world-famous Campbell’s Soup Cans piece: 32 silkscreened portraits, each representing a different variety of the company’s soup product, all

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]

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

You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade

On the evening of June 5th, 1944, just hours prior to the D-day landings in Normandy, copies of the letter seen below – Eisenhower‘s Order of the Day – were distributed to members of the allied forces. The meticulously crafted, highly encouraging call-to-arms was drafted by Eisenhower himself over a period of four months, and

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

A Personal Letter From Steve Martin

Celebrities are faced with a dilemma as their star ascends: the fan mail that used to trickle to the front door now needs its own home, and replying to those messages of support is suddenly a full-time job of its own. A small few battle on valiantly, determined to respond personally to each and every