Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


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Dead letter office

The Internet gave rise to lots of new kinds of services, including lots that I just don’t understand. Here’s one of them.

For about $17 a month, this service called Letterjoy will send you a weekly reproduction of a historically notable letter, mailed directly to your house, and using, as their website notes, a real stamp.

Are people this desperate for mail that now they would look forward to one-way communications with people who are long dead? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love the mail — but that’s because for almost my entire life, right up to now, people have been mailing me checks or comic books through it. And, yes, sometimes letters. And, in an earlier age, acceptance (or rejection) letters. But this was correspondence from living people, people I could correspond with should I choose.

The other mystifying thing about this is… aren’t these letters available somewhere on the Internet? These aren’t the real letters, or even copies of them — instead, as the site notes, “Many letters from within the last 150 years are typed on our Smith-Corona typewriter. Others are hand-written by our designers, then enhanced with advanced graphic software.” So if, say, George Patton hand-scrawled his letters on the insides of cereal boxes, you’d never know it, and instead you’d get something typed on a Smith-Corona and then, I suppose, Xeroxed. If Letterjoy can find Patton’s letters and use them, you probably can too, somewhere on the Internet.

Here’s Martin Luther King, Jr.’s letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Here’s Bill Gates’ open letter to hobbyists.

Here’s a 14-year-old Fidel Castro’s letter to Frank Roosevelt.

Here’s Adolf Hitler’s first letter about Jewry (and wouldn’t you like to receive this in the mail next month?).

This is only after a 30-second cursory search of the great World Wide Web.

So, if you can find letters you’re looking for, and if we now have a thing where you can get instantaneous communication, and if this service doesn’t even send you reproductions of the actual letters in question… I really don’t understand.

Is it just for the elderly and extremely, chronically, lonely?

Otherwise, this idea should be Returned To Sender.

One Response to “Dead letter office”

  1. Dan Says:

    I wonder if there’s a market out there for historical letters that, like the market for old comic books and movie posters, extends to facsimiles? One of those collector-mania things we normal people who collect Barbie Doll Accessories can never understand?

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