Dear Harvard

A Look Through Zany Correspondence

Dipping into the Harvard archives, FM discovered that the University has put the postal service to work throughout the years. It turns out that the recent letter by alumnus Thomas G. Stemberg’s ’71 is not the first correspondence to make Crimson news. Harvard’s history is fraught with piles of letters, many simply addressed to “Harvard University, Harvard, USA” with questions about math problems, requests for degrees, and even suggestions for world peace. Here are a few of the strangest discoveries:

• One man wrote to the University, requesting thatHarvard loan him one million dollars to collectbutterflies. His big sell fell short, reading, “You’rea big strong university, you can stand the strain oflowering one million dollars down here.”

• In 1916, another writer had a much simplerrequest. He wrote, “dEar sirs; I am a poor boiewhat wud lik to hav a education an it iz for thisreson that I am riting to you at this time… iwud like to no how i kin ern my way thru skul.” Unfortunately, Harvard did not admit the boy, andspell check was not invented for another 75 years.

• In response to a young boy’s written plea for Harvardsports memorabilia in 1949, the University vowedto send pennants to any child upon written request. The Crimson published an article about the deal,entitled, “University Mails Out Sticker PennantsGratis to Urchins.” The free pennants almost madeup for referring to the kids as urchins—almost.

• Harvard professors were unable to help a manfrom Cedar Rapids, who wrote to the Universityrequesting instructions for how to catch pigeons. Office workers believed an aspiring carrier pigeonentrepreneur wrote the letter—or at least they hoped.

• More recently, Grace Oberhofer attempted to get off ofthe waitlist by singing a letter to Harvard in a YouTube video. “Harvard, you mean the world to me, on JohnHarvard’s statue I’d never pee,” she crooned. Even though the video, “Dear Harvard,” has over 100,000 views, Harvard never accepted Oberhofer, who now attends Tufts, where she is free to urinate on any statue.

Harvard’s mailbox has always been full, whether its contents are condemning, off-key, or just about pigeons. So consider this a thank-you note, Harvard, for putting up with the bizarre—and, as a side note, FM would also like to formally request a pennant.

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