Men mellow, Women become battleaxes

13th March, 1963: Mr. A. R. Taysom, an Australian bureaucrat, writes the following letter to his boss and Director of Trade Commissioner Services, K. L. Le Rossignol. The minute paper – basically a list of reasons as to why females shouldn’t be employed as trade commissioners – is a reminder of the blatantly sexist attitudes

Fire or Acid

American physicist Benjamin Thompson wrote the following letter in 1775 at the start of the American Revolutionary War, a war during which Thompson, a loyalist, acted as a spy for the British Army. The letter actually contains two different messages. The first, longer message spans three pages, was readable by all and is notable in

I refuse to allow Stanley to get away with his robbery

Whilst serving as a combat correspondent during the Vietnam War, U.S. Marine Gustav Hasford began to write a semi-autobiographical novel entitled The Short-Timers. Released in 1979 to critical acclaim and later picked up by Stanley Kubrick, the book was adapted to become Full Metal Jacket, but not without problems, as disputes arose between Hasford and

Lord Luv a Duck, Gov’nor

Prior to being called up as a B-17 pilot during World War II, David ‘Bud’ Swift worked as an animator’s assistant – and later animator – at Disney, initially under the watchful eye of Ward Kimball. His handiwork can be seen in films such as Pinocchio and Fantasia. The following amusing letter was sent to

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

If I cannot live with you I will live alone

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

My husband is planning “an accident”

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

I cannot swagger out in these shirts

Whilst working at the public relations department of Levi Strauss, a Mr. Art Roth received the following letter from Cary Grant in 1958. In it, Grant thanks Roth for the shirts delivered to his home and then politely makes it known that the designs are far too offbeat for his conservative tastes. A great letter,

Tobacco Placement, 1983

Here’s an interesting glimpse into the world of product placement. As you can see, in the early 80s, now defunct tobacco giant Brown & Williamson hired a company by the name of Associated Film Promotions (also now defunct) to secure screen time for their cigarettes in major motion pictures. This particular letter outlines their plan

I was ready to sink into the earth with shame

Getting hideously drunk at a dinner party and embarrassing yourself is certainly nothing new. As far back as the 9th Century, the beautifully named ‘Dunhuang Bureau of Etiquette’ insisted that local officials use the following letter template (dated 856) when sending apologies to offended dinner hosts. The guilty party would copy the template text, enter

The things I saw beggar description

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

I miss my brother

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

Stop making “bums” of the school boys

The following plea was sent to then Postmaster General James Farley in 1934, at the height of the Great Depression. At this time especially, many men – particularly those out of work – were of the opinion that all employed females should be stripped of their jobs and replaced by men.  Source Transcript Jackson, Miss.8/2/34

You are a decoration, you little witch!

Mark Twain wrote this truly lovely letter to 9-year-old Enid Jocelyn Agnew in 1907. Enid, also known as Joy, was the daughter of Punch Magazine‘s Managing Director, Philip Agnew. Philip had recently honoured Twain by throwing a bash at Punch’s offices, a gathering at which Joy had presented Twain with a drawing by Punch cartoonist

I would have gladly mingled with you

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

To one and all I wish a speedy victory

As World War II took hold, the re-routing of seaborne traffic resulted in an incredibly slow international postage system. As a result the General Post Office, after seeking a speedier method by which to send correspondence to troops stationed in the Middle East, introduced Airgraph. In short, postal workers photographed each message and then flew

Savin’ It!

June 2003: Al Franken sends the following satirical letter to then Attorney General John Ashcroft and 27 other Republicans. In the letter, written on Harvard University letterhead, Franken requests abstinence-related stories for a (non-existent) book he’s writing entitled ‘Savin’ It!’ and claims to have already received responses from a selection of prominent figures. Just a

Describe The Sky

Over the course of four years in the 1970s, artist G. C. Haymes sent approximately 500 letters to a wide-ranging selection of high profile people as part of a project entitled Skymail. Enclosed alongside the letters were return postcards, upon which the recipients were asked to ‘describe the sky’. Below is the original letter and

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

The Masked Letter

Written by a frustrated Lt. General Sir Henry Clinton during the Revolutionary War in 1777, this beautifully crafted Masked Letter is a perfect example of early coded correspondence. The letter reads perfectly well on its own, however only when you place a mask over the paper does the true meaning appear. Incredibly clever, and surprisingly

Vote for me I will help you out

When 13 years of age and a pupil at Perkins School for the Blind, John Beaulieu wrote the following Braille letter to then President Dwight D. Eisenhower after winning a mock stump speech contest in school. With assistance from his teacher – she wrote out the words above the Braille – John’s letter even illicited

They are solid and good people

Grant Wood‘s iconic American Gothic (above) is one of the world’s most recognisable paintings, and as such its subject matter has been the cause of much debate since its unveiling in 1930. Most presume the painting to be satirical and the two characters to be husband and wife, whilst many Iowans were/are furious at being depicted as

It will be sunny one day

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

Spit shall rain on the ‘experts’

Previous to his television career, Bob Hope was already an extremely successful radio, movie and vaudeville star and as a result was regularly courted by the television networks. In 1949, NBC‘s Vice President, John Royal, sent the following amusingly complimentary letter to Hope with a view to luring the performer to the network. There was

Most of you steal your software

On February 3rd of 1976, almost 10 years before unveiling Windows 1.0, an irate young Bill Gates wrote the following open letter in response to piracy of Altair BASIC, a piece of software Gates had produced with Paul Allen and Monte Davidoff, and which was essentially the first such release from Microsoft (then named Micro-Soft). The letter was published

For the sake of my conscience

A guilty conscience caused the following anonymous letter to be sent to the Secretary of the Treasury in 1899, over thirty years after the Civil War in which this hungry Union soldier managed to secure an extra loaf of bread at mealtime. As you can see, the enclosed dollar – a healthy sum of money

The word God is the product of human weakness

In January of 1954, just a year before his death, Albert Einstein wrote the following letter to philosopher Erik Gutkind after reading his book, “Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt,” and made known his views on religion. Apparently Einstein had only read the book due to repeated recommendation by their mutual friend Luitzen Egbertus

A striptease with clothes on

The following letter, composed May 16, 1956, was written by the editor of the La Crosse Register – a newspaper published by the Catholic Diocese of La Crosse – in response to an Elvis gig which took place in the area’s Sawyer Auditorium just two nights previous. It was sent to then Director of the

YOURS IN MURDER

April 17th, 1977: Two youths are shot and killed in the Bronx. Whilst patrolling the area, a policeman finds the following letter in the road, addressed to NYPD Captain Joseph Borrelli. Four months later police would arrest serial killer David Berkowitz, a.k.a. Son of Sam, and charge him with a number of killings over the

I can pay you back with penny stamps

Ann Kemp sent the following ‘secret’ letter to her father in 1945 while he was at war. She was 12yrs old at the time and clearly had problems budgeting. Source Transcript 4-12-45Tuesday. Dear Daddy This is just a very secret letter between you and I. I really do not like asking you, but do you

I can’t spell. I’m very upset

April 1964: The U.S. Department of Labor introduces new rules relating to foreign musicians entering the country, in effect making it more difficult for them to do so unless they can demonstrate a unique talent. The very recent onset of Beatlemania in America, coupled with misleading reports by the American press regarding this issue, results

And don’t get me started on the Scoutmasters

To conclude today’s child-centric trio of letters, I present to you a beautifully observant, expertly written complaint from a schoolboy by the name of Richard Millington which verges on comedy gold. The letter was sent to President Kennedy in February of 1963, just a few years after the U.S. government introduced the President’s Council on

A Call For Equality

Back in 1974, a gang of third grade children from Deal School, New Jersey, huddled together and produced the following letter after discovering one of life’s many injustices. After being signed by all eighteen complainants, it was then sent to President Ford. Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the National Archives. Image: National Archives Transcript DEAL

Regarding that pardon

On September 8th, 1974, newly appointed President of the United States, Gerald Ford, issued Richard Nixon a full pardon, thereby precluding future prosecution for crimes he committed during the Watergate scandal. The move was an extremely controversial one. Just days later, schoolboy Anthony Ferreira sent the following letter to the White House. Source Transcript H.B.

Confide in me, Tom

In his later years, comedian Groucho Marx became the unlikely penpal of poet T. S. Eliot, and the following is just one of many witty letters sent back and forth between the pair. Some background: previous to this one, Marx had started a letter informally with “Dear Tom, If this isn’t your first name, I’m

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

Let the stillborn midget rest in peace

A fantastically informal letter from Richard Nixon to President Reagan in August of 1987, almost a year after the Iran-Contra scandal was uncovered. No stranger to scandal himself, Nixon commends Reagan’s most recent speech, offers some advice and proceeds to end the note with a creative reference to the Tower Commission. Source Transcript RICHARD NIXON

WE HAVE THIS ANTHRAX

In the month following the attacks of September 11th, seven letters, all of which contained anthrax spores, were sent to various high profile targets in America. As a result of these letters being sent, five people died and a further 17 subsequently contracted the disease. In July 2008, the FBI informed Dr. Bruce Ivins –

He put up a great fight against Fritz

Below is a letter sent by the Australian Red Cross to the wife of Leslie Clark – a soldier who perished whilst fighting in France during the First World War – 8 months after her husband’s death. The letter confirms his passing and then, using a quote from a fellow soldier, tells of a previous

I leave it in your capable hands

For their ninth studio album, Sticky Fingers, The Rolling Stones aimed for the top and asked Andy Warhol to design what would become one of the most popular album covers of all time: a sleeve featuring a shot of Joe Dallesandro‘s crotch, a workable zip, and for the first time the band’s tongue and lips logo as

Bravo on your diffcult troubling work

The following note was written by Quentin Tarantino in May of this year whilst at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. In it, Tarantino congratulates fellow nominee Brilliante Mendoza on his film Kinatay, a movie which triumphed at the festival and beat Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds to win the Prix de la mise en scène (Best Director).

I sure miss Mr Hardy

Until their final film in 1950, much-loved comedy act Laurel & Hardy appeared in over 100 movies together. Following a number of strokes Oliver Hardy passed away August 7th, 1957, and as a result Stan Laurel decided never to act again. From that point until his own death in 1965, Stan endeavoured to personally respond

My good friend Roosvelt

In November 1940, thirteen years before spearheading the revolution that would ultimately see him replace dictator Fulgencio Batista as leader of Cuba, a teenage Fidel Castro—aged fourteen, not twelve as he inaccurately claimed—wrote a somewhat cheeky letter to the then president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and asked him for some money: a

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 Wicca Ban

Julie Carpenter is a Wiccan; a Wiccan who at one time had a relationship with Jonathon Sharkey, a self-proclaimed Satanist and Vampire who at one time decided to run for Governor of Minnesota. As a result of the predictable media attention surrounding said campaign and subsequent unveiling of her own beliefs, Julie’s then employer – Peterson

Blade Runner will prove invincible

In 1968, author Philip K. Dick’s post-apocalyptic science fiction novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?—the story of a bounty hunter, Rick Deckard, whose job is to find and “retire” rogue androids—was published, almost immediately generating interest from film studios keen to adapt it for the big screen. Early talks and screenplay drafts failed to

Do Not Lose This Letter

At the height of the Cold War in 1957, the following, horrific letter was issued to key personnel working on the biological weapons program (BW) at Fort Detrick, this particular example having landed in the lap of someone within the Atmospheric Sciences division. In a nutshell, anyone who received a letter similar to this one

Misbehaver in the caferteria is unexcecpable

Michael Levy, a dean at I.S. 051 Edwin Markham in New York, sent the following letter to pupils’ homes back in 2007 following a food fight in the school cafeteria. Bearing in mind the yellow highlighting in the picture isn’t comprehensive with regards to errors, see how many mistakes you can spot. Although such errors

It was hard to give five sons to the Navy

November, 1942: Five brothers, all serving on the same vessel during World War II, are killed in action as a result of said warship sinking at the Battle of the Solomons. Two months later, after hearing no word from the Navy regarding her sons’ well-being, Alleta Sullivan writes the following, deeply moving letter to the

All of this is nonsense

Leave It To Beaver was an American sitcom which ran from 1957 through to 1963. During a particular episode of the show’s second season, Theodore Cleaver brought a letter home from school, written by his principal. For a fleeting moment as Theodore’s father reads the letter, the text is visible on screen. Thankfully (courtesy of

I ♥ U

Experts believe the following love letter to be approximately 100 years old. If you have some time to kill, I’d suggest attempting to solve the code yourself before looking at the transcript. The idea’s simple: each image represents a piece of text, e.g. ☼day would translate as Sunday. Good luck. Slightly larger photo here. More info

And a bomb was dropped

Written in April 1966 and now declassified, the following letter from then Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, W. J. Howard, to Chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, Chet Holifield, lists four separate incidents which resulted in nuclear weapons being lost and never recovered. According to Howard, the first two incidents listed in

TO A TOP SCIENTIST

In 1957, following the announcement that the Soviets had trumped the U.S. with the successful launch of Sputnik 1, Australian schoolboy Denis Cox urgently sent the above letter to the Royal Australian Air Force’s Rocket Range at Woomera, in an attempt to enter Australia into the Space Race. Much to Denis’ dismay, his letter, addressed

From your Daddy and pal always

On September 27th of 1945, whilst on a ship headed for Sydney, Australian soldier Charles Castle wrote the following emotional letter to his young son after being released from Changi‘s Prisoner of War Camp — a camp at which he had been held captive for 3 years — and announced his imminent return. Charles eventually arrived

All you need is love

Stuart Sutcliffe joined The Beatles as bassist in May, 1960 (they were then known as The Silver Beatles). 15 months later, he left the band and enrolled in the Hamburg College of Art. However just months before he parted ways with the band, on the 31st April, 1961 – a date which doesn’t actually exist

Your girl, Frida

A parting note written by Frida Kahlo on the back of a depository envelope – used by Kahlo to hold jewellery during a stay at hospital – prior to a trip to New York. Her husband (for the second time), Diego Rivera, was painting a mural in San Francisco which now resides at City College.

Boom, boom, boom!

On January 30th, 1996, Evelyn Amato, a Manhattan-based thirtysomething, attended a performance of Cats on Broadway with fiance and family. As a result of an alleged incident involving Rum Tum Tugger during said performance, the following letter was sent by Miss Amato to producer Cameron Mackintosh in March of that year. Further to the letter

17 million Negroes cannot wait for the hearts of men to change

Jackie Robinson was an exceptionally talented baseball player. In fact, such was his talent that on April 15th, 1947 he obliterated an unwritten policy within baseball that had, until that point, prevented players of African descent from joining teams in either the minor or major leagues. After his baseball career ended, Robsinson took an active

Everything you hear is true

A heartbreaking letter, and farewell, from a brother to his sister. At the time of writing, Herbert Langer was based in Terezín, a Czech town which was used as a Nazi German concentration camp by the Gestapo during World War II. Herbert’s sister Elly – the intended recipient of the letter – was living in

How can we stamp out this menace?

A flurry of letters similar to the one below – this particular example written by an irate parent to then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1964 – resulted in a 31 month investigation by the FBI into the recording of the song Louie Louie by The Kingsmen. The initial uproar was a result of claims

I can and will do more good as a Federal Agent at Large

Elvis Presley was an avid collector of police badges and the owner of dozens from departments and agencies the length and breadth of the United States. But, there was one badge in particular that he was desperate to get his hands on—one which had, for a long time, proven elusive: a badge from the Bureau

The Father-in-Law of the Telephone

A few years after the telephone was introduced to the masses, Mark Twain made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of the invention via an article he wrote for New York World. In response, Alexander Graham Bell‘s father-in-law – Gardiner Greene Hubbard – wrote a light-hearted letter to Twain. Soon after, the reply shown

It would be best for the country to keep baseball going

On December 7th of 1941, the Japanese Navy carried out a devastating attack on the U.S.’s naval base at Pearl Harbor, and ultimately sealed the Americans’ participation in World War II.  Just a month later, Kenesaw Landis — then-Commissioner of Baseball in the U.S. — asked President Roosevelt whether the upcoming baseball season should be called off in

How noble a woman’s heart can be

On July 17th of 1915, Winston Churchill wrote the following letter, sealed it in an envelope marked, “To be sent to Mrs Churchill in the event of my death,” and then rejoined the army. Luckily, his wife, Clementine, never had reason to open it. Churchill became Prime Minister 25 years later. Transcript follows. (Source: University of

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

It is like confessing a murder

In November of 1859, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published. A truly groundbreaking book that would forever change our perception of the world, it instantly generated widespread debate and surprise. Darwin’s central theory of evolution was that a species, rather than being unchanging, will gradually transform over time according to its environment, with the

From Hell

On October 15th of 1888, Mr George Lusk, Chairman of the Whitechapel Vigilance Committee—a group of concerned citizens who actively searched for the person responsible for a spate of killings known as the “Whitechapel murders”—received this chilling letter from someone claiming to be infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper. It was sent along with a

A killer logo

10 years ago Bill Geerhart decided to pose as a child and write advice-seeking letters to murderers and celebrities. Whilst all the responses are fascinating for varying reasons, I’ve chosen to post the reply given by Richard ‘NightStalker’ Ramirez – a Texas born, Satan-worshipping serial-killer convicted of 13 murders – purely as a result of

I will not sign this letter

In 1961, New York Post columnist Leonard Lyons contacted John F. Kennedy after seeing Presidential autographs for sale in a store and informed him of the prices. At the time, George Washington’s was priced at $175, Ulysses S. Grant’s at $55, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s at $75, Teddy Roosevelt’s at $67.50, and JFK’s at $75. Below

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

God is great….God is great

On December 26th of 2003, less than a fortnight after his capture, Saddam Hussein gave the following letter to his jailers. In it, he complained of beatings, sleep deprivation due to the sounds associated with others being tortured, and generally poor conditions.  He was executed 3 years later. Translation follows. (Source: Daily News; Image: Saddam Hussein at trial in

Servant until death

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

DON’T BEND OVER FOR THE WIVES OF BIG BROTHER

The PMRC, formed in 1984, are the committee responsible for the introduction of Parental Advisory stickers on CD covers. The committee was formed by the ‘Washington Wives’; four women who are also married to members of government, most notably Al Gore’s wife, Tipper Gore. Musician Frank Zappa strongly opposed this form of censorship and sent

This is the Zodiac speaking

Below is just one of many letters sent to the San Fransisco Police Department by the self-titled Zodiac Killer, a person whose identity is still unknown. This particular taunt was received June 26, 1970. 5 deaths have been officially attributed to the Zodiac Killer whilst the killer claimed to have actually murdered 37 people. The

I wrote a book called THE GODFATHER

In 1970, before Coppola had taken the helm, author Mario Puzo scribbled and sent the following letter to Marlon Brando in an effort to cast him in the movie adaptation of his novel, The Godfather. However, the studio, well aware of Brando’s recent bad form and notoriously overbearing demands, were less enthusiastic and refused to cast

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,