A well-known “letter” has been making its rounds for many decades which was supposedly written by a young female college student to her parents, updating them on the recent events that had befallen her. While the letter is fictitious, it certainly encourages us to keep perspective when hearing bad news concerning loved ones. A (modified) form of the letter is as follows:
Dear Mother and Dad:
It has been three months since I left for college. I have been remiss in writing and I am very sorry for my thoughtlessness in not having written before. I will bring you up to date now, but before you read on, please sit down. You are not to read any further unless you are sitting down, okay.
Well then, I am getting along pretty well now. The skull fracture and the concussion I got when I jumped out of the window of my dormitory when it caught fire shortly after my arrival are pretty well healed by now. I only spent two weeks in the hospital and now I can see almost normally and only get those headaches once a day.
Fortunately, the fire in the dormitory and my jump was witnessed by an attendant at the gas station near the dorm, and he was the one who called the Fire Dept. and the ambulance. He also visited me at the hospital and since I had nowhere to live because of the burnt out dormitory, he was kind enough to invite me to share his apartment with him. It’s really a basement room, but it’s kind of cute. He is a very fine boy and we have fallen deeply in love and are planning to get married. We haven’t set the exact date yet, but it will be before my pregnancy begins to show.
Yes, mother and dad, I am pregnant. I know how very much you are looking forward to being grandparents and I know you will welcome the baby and give it the same love and devotion and tender care you gave me when I was a child. The reason for the delay in our marriage is that my boyfriend has some minor infection which prevents us from passing our premarital blood tests and I carelessly caught it from him. This will soon clear up with the penicillin injections I am now taking daily.
I know you will welcome him into the family with open arms. He is kind and although not well educated, he is ambitious. Although he is of a different race and religion than ours, I know that your oft-expressed tolerance will not permit you to be bothered by the fact that his heritage and religion are different than ours. I am sure you will love him as I do. His family background is good too, for although I’ll need to learn my place when I visit, I am told his father is one of the most respected men in his village and is often called upon to help keep order when those from his community step out of line.
Now that I have brought you up to date, I want to tell you there was no dormitory fire; I did not have a concussion or a skull fracture; I was not in the hospital; I am not pregnant; I am not engaged. I do not have a communicable disease, and I am not dating someone from a culture which is oppressive to women. However, I am getting a D in sociology and an F in science; and I wanted you to see these marks in proper perspective.
Your loving daughter,
It is with the heart of this letter in mind I present a copy of a recent rather-lengthy text my wife and I sent to our young daughters:
As you know, the summer season is nearly upon us and your annual quest to find swimsuits your mama and I are willing (if even reluctantly) to allow you to wear in public is upon us. We know this is about as challenging and frustrating as finding a “mama acceptable” evergreen tree at the start of each Christmas season. Need I say more? However, this year, as your loving parents, we’ve decided to alleviate your stress by purchasing matching suits for all of you. While they have yet to arrive, we were able to download a picture of the ad for the style we selected from the online catalog at AuntieAmysAuspiciousApparel.com:
Okay, we didn’t purchase swimsuits for each of you, but we’re considering doing so next year. Please keep the above in mind as you begin your quest. I’m sure we’ll be pleased with your choices.
Mom and Dad
PS A special thank-you goes out to the Public Ledger, Philadelphia, June 15, 1893, for this most wonderful advertisement. It’s a bit unsettling to note the ad appears in an issue containing an article on Lizzie Borden.
Full Disclosure: My wife and I are blessed to have 5 daughters with whom we never need to fight this battle. Thank you!
Is the United States perfect? Certainly not. Our forefathers did not sacrifice time, security, and in many cases, life or limb for the sake of a perfect system of government. Their hope was to establish a government for the people – which would provide the opportunity for all to pursue happiness in an environment free of governmental oppression and steeped with a host of inalienable rights. For some, “all” meant everyone. To others, “all” was defined quite narrowly. Still, even those who had a broader view understood the benefit of compromise – for the purpose of establishing a system which would have enough flexibility to adjust to their broader view of “all” over time. We know now the great advancement in this regards only came through a Civil War; however, it came. A perfect system? No. The best system ever constructed by man? Absolutely.
As we contemplate the great sacrifice paid by many to create and preserve this “best system” under God, the New York Tribune dated July 7, 1854 help us to capture the tension and need for growth that was evident to many in the 1850’s. Allow a negro to become a member of Congress? Could this be possible? Those who knew Frederick Douglass certainly thought so. Please enjoy:
Memorial Day – a day/weekend set aside in the United States to remember and give thanks for those who gave life and limb so we might have the freedom to enjoy what our Founding Fathers called “self evident inalienable rights” which had been bestowed on us by The Creator. In times of peace and abundance it is easy to forget the great cost that was paid by so many – that others might be free. It is with thin in mind I was struck by a March 20, 1861 issue of the Western Christian Advocate from Cincinnati, Ohio which provided details of General George Washington’s famous “Prayer at Valley Forge” (see below). The link above provides access to the full text of the article. Please enjoy (and appreciate) a blessed Memorial Day Weekend.
I recently came across a large advertisement for a newly built home in a Helena, Montana newspaper from 1892 (see below). After viewing the sketch of the home and reading the details of the listing, I immediately wondered what it might cost in today’s dollars. Thanks to the internet I found an easy-to-use inflation calendar, entered the needed data, and voila! I couldn’t have been more wrong. Just for fun, respond to this post with your guess, and then give it a try. I hope you have a better sense of the impact of inflation on the value of the almighty dollar-over-time than I.
How ironic… In what was to become known as the worst financial year in U.S. history, it is interesting to read The New York Time, January 3, 1929 front page article headed: “Stock Market Opens 1929 With Buying Rush; 5,413,610-Share Day Stirs Hope of Big Year”. Could they have been more wrong? It sure is good this NY Times writer was not graded as a Hebrew prophet – or he/she would likely have joined the throngs who brought about their own demise in late October of the same year during The Great Stock Market Crash of 1929.
The February 3, 1787 issue of The Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser contains an 18th century translation of a letter self-described as being from Plubius Lutulus’ [Publius Lentulus’] to Caesar Tiberius (reg. 14-37 AD) which supposedly provides a contemporaneous description of Jesus Christ. Historians have spent countless hours trying to discover whether or not the letter is authentic. After more than a century of research, since there does not appear to be record of a Lentulus serving as Governor of Judea (which this letter suggests), most have come down on the side of it not being legitimate. Sadly, a 15 minute dig into the Bible could have saved them a considerable amount of energy.
The letter (see below) indicates the appearance of Jesus, with his long flowing hair, was quite a sight to behold. However, 1 Corinthians 11:14 makes it clear his hair could not have been long, and Isaiah 53:2 states: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” End of discussion. Case closed.
Thankfully, whether or not Jesus is God’s Son… the Messiah… the deliverer of all who might believe, according to the Bible, is not dependent on such works of man. He either is who He says HE IS, or he is not who he said he was – and the proof will be in the pudding. Still, the letter does make for interesting reading. Happy Easter.
Television, radio, the internet, texting, Facebook, e-mail… The tools we currently have available for communication are almost endless. However, there was a time not too long ago when newspapers were the primary means for disseminating information. Whereas it would be difficult for us to imagine a world without phones or the internet, the Hartford Courant explores this same concept for those living in the 1870’s through an article in their November 18, 1871 issue: “The World Without Newspapers”. The link above will take you to the entire text of the article.
Eastland, Texas surged into the national spotlight in early 1928 when a time capsule, which had been entombed in the cornerstone of the old courthouse, was opened during the courthouse’s demolition. To everyone’s surprise out came a horned-toad lizard – still alive after 31 years! Hoax or not, a tour of the now legendary reptile included a visit to Washington, D.C. to meet President Calvin Coolidge. More can be read about Ol’ Rip via Wikipedia. The image shows the report of his “unearthing” which appeared in the New York Times dated February 20, 1928. Sadly, he would not survive another 12 months as he died of pneumonia on January 19, 1929 as reported in the New York Times of the following day.
While pairing the concept of superior athleticism with cigarette smoking as an advertising ploy would come across ridiculous in today’s “enlightened” culture, there was a time when this was not the case. In fact, professional athletes promoting cigarettes (see the ad from a NYT, October 1, 1941 shown below) was as common in early-to-mid 1900’s as the same promoting energy and “health” drinks is today. I wonder if our children’s children will look back on today wondering how we could have been (dare I say) duped by such connections. Are health drinks really healthy? Time will likely tell.
We recently came across a Niles’ Register for December 4, 1824 which contains back-to-back articles which clearly convey the complexity of the relationship between the “new” Americans (settlers) and the American Indians. Honor, respect, fear, dignity, sadness, affection, death – emotional and physical tension abound within a few short paragraphs. While we often look back from a distance and try to paint the past with monochrome strokes, the snapshot below confirms the truth that history is never more fascinating (and colorful) than when it’s read from the day it was first reported. Please enjoy.