11 Incredibly Powerful Letters From History
Letters Of Note, Shaun Usher's compilation of fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos is brilliant. Here, he chooses his 11 favourite entries for BuzzFeed.
1. The Ren & Stimpy creator's advice to a budding young cartoonist.
In 1998, aged just 14, aspiring young cartoonist Amir Avni decided to send a letter to the creator of Ren & Stimpy, John Kricfalusi, along with a few cartoons he'd drawn.
He received this reply, along with a picture and a book by Preston Blair. Amir went on to become an illustrator for the Cartoon Network.
Thanks for your letter and all your cartoons to look at.
We're having trouble opening your flash files, though; when I click the player it opens a blank screen. I have somebody trying to figure it out. If it doesn't work, maybe you can post them on the web and give me the URL.
Your comics are pretty good, especially your staging and continuity. You might have the makings of a good storyboard artist. I'm sending you a very good how to draw animation book by Preston Blair. Preston was one of Tex Avery's animators. He animated 'Red Hot Riding Hood' and many other characters.
His book shows you very important fundamentals of good cartoon drawing.
Construction. Learn how to construct your drawings out of 3-dimensional objects. Learn how to draw hands so they look solid. I want you to copy the drawings in his book. Start on the first page, draw slow. Look very closely. Measure the proportions. Draw the drawings step-by-step, just the way Preston does.
After you finish each drawing check it carefully against the drawing in the book. (if you do your drawings on tracing paper, you can lay the paper on top of the book to see where you made mistakes. On your drawing write the mistakes. Then do the drawing again, this time correcting the mistakes.
Here's another important piece of information for you:
Good drawing is more important than anything else in animation. More than ideas, style, stories. Everything starts with good drawing. Learn to draw construction, perspective.
Ok, now it's up to you.
Oh, by the way - OLD cartoons (from the 1940'a especially are better than new cartoons. If you copy the drawings in new cartoons you won't learn anything - except how to get bad habits. Look at Tom and Jerry from 1947 - 1954 or Elmer Fudd + Porky Pig from the 40's + early 50's.)
I'm amazed at how much you know about us. How do you know about BIGLOAF? and MILDMAN!
You can see Jimmy + George Liquor on the internet. Oh, I guess you know that.
Allright Bastard, let's get to work. Draw! and slow now.
My email address is [redacted] if you have any questions - not too many I hope! I get a lot of email and it's hard to answer it all.
2. A 14-year-old Fidel Castro writes to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Fidel Castro sent this letter to the then-president of the United States of America, Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he was 14. He speaks of his approval of Roosevelt's presidency, asks the President for $10, and finishes the letter by offering to reveal the whereabouts of Cuba's largest iron mines.
Santiago de Cuba
Nov 6 1940
Mr Franklin Roosvelt, President of the United States.
My good friend Roosvelt I don't know very English, but I know as much as write to you. I like to hear the radio, and I am very happy, because I heard in it, that you will be President for a new (periodo). I am twelve years old. I am a boy but I think very much but I do not think that I am writing to the President of the United States. If you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them.
My address is:
Sr Fidel Castro
Colegio de Dolores
Santiago de Cuba
I don't know very English but I know very much Spanish and I suppose you don't know very Spanish but you know very English because you are American but I am not American.
(Thank you very much)
Good by. Your friend,
If you want iron to make your sheaps ships I will show to you the bigest (minas) of iron of the land. They are in Mayari Oriente Cuba.
3. Steve Martin's note to a teenage fan.
Back in the 1980s, fans who wrote to Steve Martin could expect to receive a reply very similar to the letter seen below — a form response, personalised for each recipient. This particular "personal letter from Steve Martin" was sent to a teenage boy named Jerry.
The Aspen Companies
Aspen Film Society
Aspen Recording Society
Aspen Artist Management
A PERSONAL LETTER FROM STEVE MARTIN
WHAT A PLEASURE IT WAS TO RECEIVE A LETTER FROM YOU. ALTHOUGH MY SCHEDULE IS VERY BUSY, I DECIDED TO TAKE TIME OUT TO WRITE YOU A PERSONAL REPLY.
TOO OFTEN PERFORMERS LOSE CONTACT WITH THEIR AUDIENCE AND BEGIN TO TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED, BUT I DON'T THINK THAT WILL EVER HAPPEN TO ME, WILL IT Jerry? I DON'T KNOW WHEN I'LL BE APPEARING CLOSE TO YOU, BUT KEEP THAT EXTRA BUNK MADE UP IN CASE I GET TO Flint.
(Signed, 'Steve Martin')
P.S. I'LL ALWAYS CHERISH THAT AFTERNOON WE SPENT TOGETHER IN RIO, WALKING ALONG THE BEACH, LOOKING AT rocks.
4. A precocious schoolboy writes to a rocket scientist.
Schoolboy Denis Cox sent the following urgent letter to Woomera's Rocket Range in 1957, the intention being that one of the facility's top scientists would see the plans within, build the rocket ship according to the blueprint and enter Australia into the Space Race. Just weeks previous to the letter being written, the world had emitted a collective gasp following the announcement that the Soviets had trumped the U.S. with the successful launch of Sputnik 1. Clearly, no-one had anticipated young Denis throwing his hat into the ring on Australia's behalf.
(Update: This post has just been pointed out by nimble-fingered reader Kim. Sadly, it seems Denis never received a reply. Maybe the scientists are still mulling over the 'other details' before responding).
(Update #2: Simon has pointed out this article. The 'scientists' have agreed to reply to Denis. I'd call that a result).
TO A TOP SCIENTIST AT
MY ROCKET SHIP
- Pilot Navigator etc.
- Radar ANTENNA
- Radio ARIEL
- AIR TORPEADOS (GUIDED MISSILES)
- 4 Rolls Royce JeT ENGINES
- Jet can be fired individully
YOU PUT IN OTHER DETAILS
PLEASE WRITE ME A LETTER BACK
HERE IS A ROCKET SHIP DESIGNED BY
26 CHUTE ST.
5. An anonymous letter - actually sent by the FBI - encouraging Martin Luther King to kill himself.
In November 1964, fearful of his connection to the Communist Party through Stanley Levison, the FBI anonymously sent Martin Luther King this letter, along with a cassette that contained allegedly incriminating audio recordings of King with women in various hotel rooms — the result of a 9 month surveillance project.
King saw the letter as an invitation for him to take his own life, as did an official investigation in 1976.
In view of your low grade... I will not dignify your name with either a Mr. or a Reverend or a Dr. And, your last name calls to mind only the type of King such as King Henry the VIII...
King, look into your heart. You know you are a complete fraud and a great liability to all of us Negroes. White people in this country have enough frauds of their own but I am sure they don't have one at this time anywhere near your equal. You are no clergyman and you know it. I repeat you are a colossal fraud and an evil, vicious one at that. You could not believe in God... Clearly you don't believe in any personal moral principles.
King, like all frauds your end is approaching. You could have been our greatest leader. You, even at an early age have turned out to be not a leader but a dissolute, abnormal moral imbecile. We will now have to depend on our older leaders like Wilkins, a man of character and thank God we have others like him. But you are done. Your "honorary" degrees, your Nobel Prize (what a grim farce) and other awards will not save you. King, I repeat you are done.
No person can overcome facts, not even a fraud like yourself... I repeat — no person can argue successfully against facts... Satan could not do more. What incredible evilness... King you are done.
The American public, the church organizations that have been helping — Protestant, Catholic and Jews will know you for what you are — an evil, abnormal beast. So will others who have backed you. You are done.
King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do it (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.
6. The Queen shares a recipe with President Eisenhower.
In 1957, five years into her reign, Queen Elizabeth II made her first state visit to the United States as a guest of then US president Dwight D. Eisenhower. Two years later the Queen entertained him and his wife, Marnie, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. What was discussed behind those closed doors is unknown: but we can be sure President Eisenhower fell in love with the Queen's drop scones. Five months after serving them, she belatedly sent her personal recipe and an accompanying letter.
7. Elvis Presley offers to assist the US government in the war on drugs.
On December 21st, 1970, Elvis Presley personally handed over a letter to a guard written on the plane to Washington DC — in which his services were offered in the war on drugs. Hours later, as a result of his request, Elvis had an impromptu meeting with President Nixon.
He was denied the official title he craved.
Dear Mr. President:
First, I would like to introduce myself. I am Elvis Presley and admire you and have great respect for your office. I talked to Vice President Agnew in Palm Springs three weeks ago and expressed my concerns for our country. The drug culture, the hippie elements, the SDS, Black Panthers, etc. do not consider me as their enemy or as they call it, the establishment. I call it America and I love it. Sir, I can and will be of any service that I can to help the country out. I have no concerns or motives other than helping the country out. So, I wish not to be given a title or an appointed position. I can and will do more good if I were made a Federal Agent at Large and I will help out by doing it my way through communications with people of all ages. First and foremost, I am an entertainer, but all I need is the Federal credentials. I am on the plane with Senator George Murphy and we have been discussing the problems that our country is faced with.
Sir, I am staying at the Washington Hotel, Room 505-506-507. I have two men who work with me by the name of Jerry Schilling and Sonny West. I am registered under the name of Jon Burrows. I will be here for as long as it takes to get the credentials of a Federal Agent. I have done an in-depth study of drug abuse and Communist brainwashing techniques and I am right in the middle of the whole thing I can and will do the most good.
I am glad to help just so long as it is kept very private. You can have your staff or whomever call me anytime today, tonight or tomorrow. I was nominated this coming year one of America's Ten Most Outstanding Young Man. That will be in January 18 in my home town of Memphis, Tennessee. I am sending you a short autobiography about myself so you can better understand this approach. I would love to meet you just to say hello if you're not too busy.
P.S. I believe that you, Sir, were one of the Top Ten Outstanding Men of America Also.
I have a personal gift for you which I would like to present to you and you can accept it or I will keep it for you until you can take it.
8. The speech President Nixon would have read out, had the Apollo 11 mission ended in disaster.
On July 18 of 1969, as the world waited for Apollo 11 to land safely on the surface of the Moon, speechwriter William Safire imagined the worst case scenario as he wrote this memo to President Nixon's Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman.
IN EVENT OF MOON DISASTER:
Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.
These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice.
These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding.
They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by the nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown.
In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.
In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood.
Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man's search will not be denied. But these men were the first, and they will remain the foremost in our hearts.
For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.
PRIOR TO THE PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT:
The President should telephone each of the widows-to-be.
AFTER THE PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT, AT THE POINT WHEN NASA ENDS COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE MEN:
A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, commending their souls to "the deepest of the deep," concluding with the Lord's Prayer.
9. Iggy Pop's words of encouragement to a fan.
Nine months after Iggy Pop received then-21-year-old Laurence's fan letter, he replied. The timing was perfect - on the morning his note arrived, Laurence's family were being evicted by bailiffs.
By the time I finished I was in tears. Not only had Iggy Pop received the letter I had sent him nine months before, and I could have missed his if he'd sent it a day later, but he had read the whole 'fucking' 20 pages, including the bit about my Adidas dress (a semi-innocent allusion on my part), and all the rest, my description of being the child of an acrimonious divorce with the string of social workers, lawyers, greedy estate agents and bailiffs at the door, the fear, the anger, the frustration, the love.
thankyou for your gorgeous and charming letter, you brighten up my dim life. i read the whole fucking thing, dear. of course, i'd love to see you in your black dress and your white socks too. but most of all i want to see you take a deep breath and do whatever you must to survive and find something to be that you can love. you're obviously a bright fucking chick, w/ a big heart too and i want to wish you a (belated) HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY 21st b'day and happy spirit. i was very miserable and fighting hard on my 21st b'day, too. people booed me on the stage, and i was staying in someone else's house and i was scared. it's been a long road since then, but pressure never ends in this life. 'perforation problems' by the way means to me also the holes that will always exist in any story we try to make of our lives. so hang on, my love, and grow big and strong and take your hits and keep going.
all my love to a really beautiful girl. that's you laurence.
10. A 16th Century love letter from a pregnant wife, which her husband took to his grave.
In April of 1998, shortly after excavating an ancient tomb in Andong City, South Korea, archaeologists found 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 this letter, written by his pregnant widow and addressed to the father of their unborn child.
To Won's Father
June 1, 1586
You always said, "Dear, let's live together until our hair turns gray and die on the same day." How could you pass away without me? Who should I and our little boy listen to and how should we live? How could you go ahead of me?
How did you bring your heart to me and how did I bring my heart to you? Whenever we lay down together you always told me, "Dear, do other people cherish and love each other like we do? Are they really like us?" How could you leave all that behind and go ahead of me?
I just cannot live without you. I just want to go to you. Please take me to where you are. My feelings toward you I cannot forget in this world and my sorrow knows no limit. Where would I put my heart in now and how can I live with the child missing you?
Please look at this letter and tell me in detail in my dreams. Because I want to listen to your saying in detail in my dreams I write this letter and put it in. Look closely and talk to me.
When I give birth to the child in me, who should it call father? Can anyone fathom how I feel? There is no tragedy like this under the sky.
You are just in another place, and not in such a deep grief as I am. There is no limit and end to my sorrows that I write roughly. Please look closely at this letter and come to me in my dreams and show yourself in detail and tell me. I believe I can see you in my dreams. Come to me secretly and show yourself. There is no limit to what I want to say and I stop here.
11. A Vietnamese fighter pilot's "Permission To Land" request, written by hand and dropped from a plane.
Shaun writes on his site:
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 Dog approach the vessel and then circle above. Flying that plane, having just escaped from Con Son Island with his wife and five children — also aboard — was South Vietnamese Air Force Major Buang-Ly. With no other communication method to hand and fuel running low, Buang-Ly soon began unsuccessfully dropping notes from the plane. Before long one hit the deck, attached to a heavy pistol; on it, a handwritten request to land on the carrier.
Noticing a severe lack of vacant runway on deck, Captain Larry Chambers made a quick decision: he immediately ordered all available crew to push as many of the dozens of UH-1 Huey helicopters into the ocean as necessary, thus giving Buang room to touch down. He soon landed the Cessna perfectly, without tailhook, to much applause.
Can you move the Helicopter to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly 1 hour more, we have enough time to mouve. Please rescue me.
Major Bung, wife and 5 child