Daniel W. VanArsdale
This incorporates prior bibliographies on chain letters prepared by Alan Dundes, Alan E. Mays and Paul Smith.
Here are the directories (folders) and files in directory /chain-letter/.
evolution.htm A history and analysis of paper chain letters.Abbreviations and conventions.
/archive/!content.htm An annotated index file containing links to all chain letter text files in the Paper Chain Letter Archive.
bibliography.htm An annotated Bibliography - THIS FILE.
glossary.htm Definitions of terms used for paper chain letters and pyramid schemes.
/e-archive/!content-e An index file containing links to chain emails cited in Chain Letter Evolution.
/photo-archive/!content-ph An index file containing links to photographs cited in Chain Letter Evolution.
Example of specifications for a luck chain letter (Luck by Mail type).
q5n28d1w4 = copy quota 5, a list of 28 names, deadline of 1 day to comply, wait 4 days to receive good luck.
Example of specifications for money chain letter (Send-a-Dime).
sdq5n6d3 = send a dime (d) to top name, copy quota 5, list of 6 names, deadline 3 days
Reports on Chain Letters in 1935 are day-numbered from Friday, April 19 (Day 0) - the day of the first newspaper account of the Send-a-Dime money chain letter craze.
(Amarillo, Texas). 1930. "Letter Chain Starts Anew in England"
April 21, p. 14.
[London. Current chain letter attributed to an "alleged colonel who served in the American artillery in Flanders." Prosperity type letters from the US, which are first seen in 1932, claim an "American colonel" as originator.]
AMARILLO DAILY NEWS (Amarillo,
Texas), 1943. "Chain Letter." Dec. 24, p. 2.
["The Berne correspondent of the Stockholm newspaper Attontidningen reported that chain letters headed "A True See" had been circulated in Germany declaring that the air bombing was not the direct work of either the British or the Americans, but that the Anglo-Americans were only the Instruments by which "sinful Germany" is punished." ¶ According to the Attontidningen, numerous German provincial papers have urged their readers to surrender such chain letters to the authorities, threatening punishment for any person caught distributing them.]
AMARILLO GLOBE-TIMES. 1947.
Helen Thompson. "Chain Letter Superstition
Centuries Old, but Is Most Prevalent in Times
of Stress." April 24. p. 2.
[Full text of a Luck of London letter. Incorrectly claims it goes back to 1921. Mentions the "card chain" - no text. Mentions a chain letter spreading in the Japanese army and navy, and in: China, Russia, Germany, Sweden, England and Holland. "In 1926 E. V. Buckwell, a resident of Brighton, England, was found unconscious after a four-day absence from his home. He had wandered off in a frenzy of grief, he said, because he had 'broken' the letter chain." "In 1521 a letter with magical implications called the 'Epistola manu del scripts' was known in Poland. A similar letter is said to have been written in Abyssinia in AD 731. Rev. E. Cobham Brewer in 'Dictionary of Miracles' gives what seems to be the prototype of such letters. In II Chron. XXI 12 it is said that Elijah sent a letter to King Jehoram. It has been determined by scholars that Jehoram did not reign until 14 years after Elijan's death and the text has been interpreted to mean that the letter came from Heaven."]
V. 102, March 26: p. 751-752.
[Denunciation of LCL specs q5n28d1w4. Some text: "General Bratton received $8,000 but lost it after breaking the chain." Names are said to be "28 California schoolgirls." "They (LCLs) are usually initiated by malicious pranksters."]
AMERICAN CITY. 1935. "Anti 'Racket' Rulings."
V. 50, July: p
[City laws against MCLs. Some wording of Los Angeles ordinance. Undated reference to U.S. Municipal News.]
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN FOLK-LORE. 1895. "Notes
on the Folk-Lore
of Newfoundland." Vol. 8: p. 286.
[Brief mention of use of "the letter of Jesus Christ" for safe childbirth and protection from harm.]
AMERICAN STATISTICIAN. 1977. Joseph
"A Probability Model of a Pyramid Scheme."
V. 31, May: p. 79-82.
[Analyzes "quota-pyramid" scheme in which (1) entry fee is c dollars, (2) participants receive d dollars for each person recruited, and (3) no more than N participants will be registered. In "The Golden Book of Values" (Connecticut), c = $2500, d = $900, and N = 270. Lesser money can be made by selling advertising and coupons. Assumes that "the probability that any one of the k current members recruits the next one is 1/k." The number the kth participant will recruit is expressed as a sum of random variables Xi, from i = k to N-1, where Xi=1 with probability 1/i and Xi = 0 with probability 1-1/i. Deduces the proportion of participants who recruit at least r persons is 1/(2r ). Hence about half will recruit no one. Shows investors are defrauded as a class, depending on ratio d/c. (Says results hold for non-quota pyramid but does not justify. Certainly there will be some upper bound, N, of possible recruits for an endless scheme. However there is no way to determine N, and thus to know how "early" one is getting into the scheme. Class defraud still holds. - DWV).]
ANNALES CATHOLIQUES DU DIOCÈSE
DE BAYONNE. 1905.
"Dévotions et pratiques superstitieuses."
No. 26, October 29, p. 2.
[<French> Have English translation by Sarah Winter. Complains of a circulating manuscript with "two prayers" that is an early form of the Ancient Prayer luck chain letter. No quoted text. Descriptions: copy once a day for nine days; send to nine different people; a great joy ("grandes joies") at the end of nine days; terrible punishment for not complying; this predicted by a voice heard in Jerusalem during the holy Liturgy. <abate> "No prayer ought to be accepted unless it has been approved by the standard of the diocese." "Further, by attaching to the recitation and the propagation of certain prayers an efficacy that the Church does not recognize, one commits an act of true superstition." Source provided by Jean-Bruno Renard.]
ARNOLD, DAVID. 1976. Chain of Letters.
[Text and graphic arts embellishments of a DL type LCL. Includes 7 fictional win/lose testimonials in newspaper format. "C. Jason, . . . 4 days after receiving the letter, after winning $23,000 playing Keno ... was struck and killed at a Las Vegas Blvd. intersection by a multi-colored Las Vegas Regional Transit Bus." " Its simple. You will win & you will lose."]
THE ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION.
1985. Web Garrison,
"Dixie Scrapbook" - "Chain-letter
craze prompted many to mail away a fortune
in dimes." Sunday, Oct. 13, sec. H,
["Maybe you've recently received this letter or a variant of it." Only known record of "prayer exchange" LCL; complete (?) text (less name list). Brief history of Send-a-Dime. For a letter restricted to residents of a single Tennessee county, Dr. C. R.
Fountain calculated a $300 loss per person for postage.]
THE ATLANTA JOURNAL
1987a. Francis Cawthon,
" 'Love letter' tempting but not worth
it." July 5, sec. J, p. 3:1.
[Humor. Receives LCL in mail with Kiss title. Initial five sentences of text given, plus further descriptions (R.A.F. Officer, Joe Elliot, Dalea Fairchild). Says compliance would require typing and international postage to "make a tour of the world." <motive> Says that a factor to not comply was the lack of a Georgia lottery. Speculates it is a plot by Post Office to sell stamps.]
THE ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION. 1987b.
"Letter Seeks to Inspire Chain of Hopeful
Kissers." Dec. 29, sec. E, p. 2:1.
[LCL received anonymously in office mail slot. Kiss title, original in "England." Further description but no exact text. Had received XCL for "bottles of booze." Humorously speculates LCLs are a post office plot.]
BAKST, AARON. 1952. Mathematics: Its Magic
2nd. ed., New York: D. Van Nostrand Co.,
["The Silk-Stocking-Bargain Bubble." Description of a pyramid sales scheme (not Sheldon). Startup: ads in papers promise three pair of stockings for 50 cents. Sender gets four coupons to sell for 50 cents each, money and addresses of purchasers sent to company for stockings. Continuation: Coupon buyer gets five coupons from company to sell, sends $2.50 and addresses to company for stockings, etc. Tabulated calculations. <politics> Use of CLs in political campaigns.]
DAILY REPUBLICAN (Belvidere, Illinois). 1937.
"Chain Letters used to Build 'Club' Racket", May 5, p. 2.
["Within the past month, Solicitor Karl A. Crowly has issued six citations and two fraud orders against organizations and individuals who allegedly operated chain letter enterprises in violation of postal fraud and lottery laws. ¶ 'The present chain letter enterprise is different from that in 1935 because it is operates from a central headquarters where the money is received and distributed in premiums in each case,' a department spokesman said. ¶ The previous craze, which reached its peak in May 1935, was dependent more upon individual initiative, it was pointed out. ¶ Club Affair Now. A majority of the present chain letter enterprises are based upon a membership proposition. 'The membership idea is a device to hang the scheme on', a postoffice official said. 'Persons in Maine and New Mexico are not interested in some local park or club.' ¶ ... Under the membership enterprise, the postoffice department said, an applicant usually forwards 25 cents to the organization, which later sends him five application blanks for distribution to other prospective members. The applicant's name is inserted as the sixth to the sequence on the five blanks. May Pay $1,562 Total. In the event the scheme is completed a person may receive a total of $1,562. The amount which the organization retains can run as high as 15 or 16 per cent, it was said. The chain letter craze in 1935 accounted for a 9 1/2 per cent increase in the number of undelivered letters received at post offices during that fiscal year. An increase of $39,504 was noted in the amount of money found in letters."]
BERKELEY DAILY GAZETTE.
[Cited in Western Folklore 1950 for a luck chain letter started by a French officer (Chain of Good Luck?)]
BERKELEY DAILY GAZETTE.
[Cited in Western Folklore 1950 for a Mexican prisoner letter.]
BHATTACHARYA, P. K. & GASTWIRTH, J. L. 1983.
Markov Model of a Chain-Letter Scheme."
Recent Advances in Statistics: Papers
in Honor of Herman Chernoff. Rizvi, M.H.,
Rustagi, J. S. & Siegmund, D. ( eds.). New
York: Academic Press.
[Markov model of a s$500 q2x$500, n6, max $32,000 pyramid scheme.]
BITTNER, MAXIMILIAN. 1905.
Der vom Himmel
gefallene Brief Christi in seinen Morgenländischen
Versionen und Rezensionen. Denkschriften
der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften
in Wien, phil.-hist. Klasse, 51.1. Vienna:
[Traces Letters from Heaven back to Greek original, gives Greek texts. Ref. from W.F. Hansen.]
1985. Jan. 22. Ann Landers.
["Heartsick in Calgary" reports that her mother failed to send out a chain letter shortly before husband died and now feels responsible for his death. Unable to persuade her otherwise. Denounces "crazy nuts who start such letters." Ann Landers replies: "People who start those letters are creeps who have failed to achieve anything in life and use this means of exercising control over others." Suggests eventual counseling.]
1988. Hotline, p. A14. "This sounds
like recipe for trouble." **?**ber 17,
[C.D. of Bloomington reports recipe chain promising hundreds of thousand of dollars. Response: Indiana Attorney General's Office says state's statutes in effect only if $100 or more is asked for outright. Plan: send $2 to each of six people for their "recipes." Mail a minimum of 100 copies of the letter to friends, acquaintances, relatives or total strangers. Promises you will make $275,000.]
BLUEFIELD DAILY TELEGRAPH. 1931.
Screen Life In Hollywood by Hubbard Keavy. 3 Nov.
[Gossip column. "About once every three months Hollywood is deluged with chain letters." "Most of these chain circulars are of the you-write-to-nine-other-people variety." Maurice Chevalier was "more than amazed to learn that 400 such letters addressed to him had been received in a single day."]
BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL. 1995.
James Owen Drife,
"The Chain Letter." V.
310, March 25, p. 809.
[Receives Media LCL, specs. q4+1, w4 typed in capitals, crude English. Attached "wad" of "memos." Sample memos: "I can't believe I'm doing this," and "There is some evidence that these letters work." Names: Ministry of Defense, Metropolitan Police, NHS Management. Author's parody.]
THE BROOKLYN DAILY EAGLE. 1930. "Woman Is Driven To Suicide by A Chain Letter." June 8, p. 12
[London. "Ends life by inhaling gas - was warned not to break the chain." Widow found dead, husband died 2 years prior after 20 year illness. Business failed. Brother critically ill. Broke chain letter.]
BUDGE, E. A. WALLIS. 1904.
The Gods of the
Egyptians. Dover (1969), Vol. I &
[Various ancient Egyptian texts in English. Vol. I. Book of the Underworld, Second hour: "The text adds that those who draw pictures of these Souls of the Tuat and make offerings to them upon earth will gain benefit therefrom a million fold after death (p. 208). Fifth hour: "Whosoever maketh a picture of these things which are in Ament in the Tuat, to the south of the hidden house, and whosoever knoweth these things, his soul shall be at peace, and he shall be satisfied with the offerings of Seker. And Khemnit shall not hack his body in pieces, and he shall go to her in peace. (p. 221-2). Seventh hour: "The man who shall make a picture of these things which are to the north of the hidden house of the Tuat shall find it of great benefit to him both in heaven and on earth; and he who knows it shall be among the spirits near Ra, and he who recites the words of Isis and Ser shall repulse Apep in Amentet, and he shall have a place on the boat of Ra both in heaven and upon earth. The man who knows not this picture shall never be able to repulse the serpent Neha-hra." (p. 230-1). Similar, p. 242. "In the first place, he (Thoth) was held to be both the heart and the tongue of Ra, that is to say, he was the reason and the mental powers of the god, and also the means by which their will was translated into speech; from one aspect he was speech itself, and in later times he may well have represented, as Dr. Birch said, the logos of Plato." (p. 407). ]
Betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.
Toronto: MacMillan, p. 277-282.
[Receives "Good Luck" LCL, specs q9w9; some text. List of 99 names: officers, actors, lawyers, judges; gender all men. Calculations. <origin> Thinks started as a joke. Conclusion: "It is hard to write all the letters I ought to write. I will not undertake those I ought not to write." The circulation date of the chain letter is probably years earlier than 1928.]
THE BUSINESS WEEK.
'Endless' Chains." Feb. 1, p. 11.
[Pyramid sales. "Selling by endless chain . . . has increased enormously during the past 2 months." "Over 100 chain selling schemes are operating out of New York" (pens, hosiery, wallets, razor, blades, stationery, golf balls, kitchen utensils, clothing, bridge sets). Legal: U. S. Supreme Court ruled against Tribond Sales Corp. (stockings) in 1927. Current proponents claim legality because they are selling actual merchandise instead of a coupon (Tribond).]
THE BUSINESS WEEK. 1933b. "Endless
Chains End." June 7, p. 12.
[Pyramid sales. Post Office Department fraud order against Sheldon Hosiery Co. Pyramid sales schemes "about played out anyhow." Estimated 200 companies recruited 750,000 participants.]
BUSINESS WEEK. 1971. "Cracking down
on 'pyramid plans'
" Dec. 11, p. 104+
[Pyramid sales. "Like the familiar chain-letter scheme, an investor antes up a fee for a distributorship, and thereby becomes eligible to sell distributorships himself." Securities & Exchange Commission ruling: "Agreements between the companies and their distributors may involve an 'investment contract' or a 'participation in profit-sharing agreement.' These would constitute a security, within the meaning of the Securities Act of 1933, and therefore they must be registered with the SEC. Further, anyone selling such distributorships must register with the commission as a broker-dealer." Glenn Turner's Koscot charges $2,000 for the right to distribute "kosmetics." Holiday Magic (Bus. Wk. 2/10/75, p. 38) and Bestline Products experiences.]
BUSINESS WEEK. 1972. "The pyramid king
June 24, p. 30.
[Pyramid sales. State, FTC and SEC actions against Glenn W. Turner and "Koscot Interplanetary" (cosmetics) and "Dare to be Great" (sales training). These corporations "are based on a complex system of finders' fees, commissions, and overrides paid to participants for recruiting others into the program at anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 a shot." See also Bus. Wk. 3/27/78, p. 47.]
CHEERS OF THE CROWD.
Pictures Motion Picture directed by Vin
Moore, written by George Waggner, starring Russell
Hopton, Irene Ware and Harry Holman.
[The date on this movie may be given as 1935 or 1936; 1935 seems more likely. A printed label on the cassette states: "A series of murderous chain letters draws the attention of a publicity expert who tries to find out who is behind the letters." If this were the actual plot it would be the earliest example of the "evil chain letter" theme, which appears in recent young adult fiction such as Chain Letter by Christopher Pike (Avon Books, 1986). However this is not at all the plot. There is one brief mention of the "Send-a-Dime" letter when a "sandwich man" gives a chain letter to one of the characters on a busy sidewalk. It is called the "Spread Prosperity Letter" and asks that a dime be sent. The recipient is entreated to "Share your wealth." No other mention of a chain letter appears in the movie. Later the recipient throws a dime in a spittoon. IMDB lists the movie but does not give a plot summary.]
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE. 1994. "Enough
already." Metro Northwest, April 20, p. 1.
[Business card variant of Craig Shergold appeal. Requested these be sent to Atlanta headquarters of the Children's Make-A-Wish Foundation; 20 copies of appeal to other offices. "Mountains of cards arriving daily."]
THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY. 1935 (D26).
"Are Chain Letters a Hopeless Evil?" V. 52, May 15, p. 629.
[Complete text of a sdq5d1 anti-war CL asking also that 10 cents be sent to The Christian Century for an exposé of the munitions industry. Parodies Send-a-Dime. This letter may not have actually circulated.]
THE CHRISTIAN CENTURY. 1970. "To Break the
Chain." V. 87,
Sept. 2, p. 1051.
[<numbers> Editor assesses economic condition by "the number of fiscally promissory 'chain letters' that are being circulated - and the number is rising." Quotes John Boni, Saturday Review and gives fragments of same (?) LCL. Recalls handkerchief XCL among young girls. Quotes Biblical Recorder (a North Carolina Southern Baptist journal) on MCL among pastors. Text begins: "Do you need an immediate $8,000 for your Church Project or Personal Ministry?" Specs. s4x$1 q20 n4 d2, max $7,300+ (originally n3 ?). Gives 8 participant names.]
THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER. 1889. "A Multitude of Notes." May 12, p. 12.
[Interview with Mrs. Harrison (First Lady): "As for the people who send progressive hints and charity letters Mrs. Harrison never hesitates to break the chain. Great numbers of chain letters are received at the White House, but their progress stops there." This is the earliest use of "chain letter" that I have found. Also, note the "great numbers" of chain letters already in circulation.]
COHN, NORMAN. 1957.
of the Millennium. London
[Himmelsbrief. Mentions use of "heavenly letters" in late Middle Age millennial movements. Peter the Hermit kept a letter on his person (c. 1090) that was given to him by Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem (p. 62). Jacob, organizer of the Crusades of the Shepherds, claimed (c. 1251) the Virgin Mary appeared to him and gave him a letter which he always carried in his hand (p. 94). German flagellants (1261) possessed a Heavenly message: a shining marble tablet had recently descended upon the altar of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with an angel who read out the message which God himself had inscribed. The text has survived: God, angry at human sin, has brought recent afflictions and decided to destroy all life. But the Virgin intercedes and God grants humanity one last chance to mend its ways (p. 129). "And any priest who in his worldliness omitted to pass on the divine message to his congregation would be infallibly and eternally damned" (p. 130). <variation> After the Black Death (1348) the same letter, with a paragraph on the plague added, was used by a flagellant revival movement. At gatherings this "manifesto" was read publicly, the audience being "swept by sobbing and groaning." "Nobody questioned the authenticity of the Letter." (p. 134)]
COLLIER'S. 1944. "Chain-Letter
Nuisance." V. 113,
No. 22. May 27, p. 78.
[Editor complains of quota four+ luck chain letters as a waste of paper, especially during wartime. "One frequent specimen claims to have been started by a U. S. Army officer."]
COLOMBO, JOHN R. 1975. "Chain
Little Book of Canadian Proverbs
. . . Edmonton: Hurtig, p.128-129.
[Full text of earliest known LD type letter. Reference supplied by Paul Smith.]
COLUMBUS DISPATCH (Columbus, Ohio). 1991.
Jan Harold Brunvand,
United Feature Syndicate, Urban Legends:
"Good-luck chain reaches the affluent."
Sept. 9, p. 3D.
[Media LCL. "A chain letter that's been racing through the American business, legal, government and entertainment communities like an out-of-control virus is a faint echo of its former self." Complete text (standard, no golf item). Compliance motivated because secretary does "the dirty work," also the "Can't hurt, might help" attitude expressed in many of the forwarding notes. "A folk practice has gone uptown." Spy reference. Compares text unfavorably to prior versions that "typically began with a blessing, a prayer, a Bible verse or the statement 'Kiss someone you love when you get this letter, and make magic'. "]
CONTEMPORARY FOLKLORE AND
1986. Mihály Hoppál.
"Chain letters: Contemporary folklore
and the chain of tradition." Ed. Irma-Riitta
Järvinen. Finnish Literature Society Editions
431. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuunden
Seuran. p. 62-80.
[<hoppal> Author received 8 LCLs in Hungarian town in 1983. Three complete texts in both Hungarian and English [text]. Specs q20/10, d9, w9. Titled "The Chain/Flame of Luck." Analysis of text. Copying error "flame" from "chain" (láng from lánc). Testimonials paired by "opposites" - e.g. girl vs. boy, West Germany vs. East, loses vs. wins, unconscious offense vs. deliberate, small punishment vs. great. Quotes Dundes & Pagter 1975 extensively. Quotes International Herald Tribune, Dec. 7, 1982 on Circle of Gold in London. XCL for scholarly articles received by Hungarian professors in mid 1970's. Older generation in Hungary called LCLs "Saint Anthony's chain." Biographical data on Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), miracle-worker and master of alms. Latin and English translation of 13th century poem to Anthony; ends: "All peril shall disappear and so shall want; say this those, who feel it, and tell those living in Padua." Later Hungarian version, confusion with Anthony the Hermit (d. 365). Custom to pray to St. Anthony nine Tuesdays. Qualifying characteristics of contemporary folklore.]
Nelson, "The Greatest Hoax of the Century."
V. 31, March, p. 135-137.
[Send-a-dime. Text with 3 title variants incl. "Send a Dime and Redistribute Wealth." "Good Luck" LCL dates from World War I. Los Angeles stamp sales, deliveries to movie studios. Humorous variants. Springfield craze. U.S. daily mail volume of CLs ten million (estimated by Post Office statisticians - source?). Theft of dimes. Telegraph chain. German suppression. Since 1935 "Don't send money" appears on "good luck" letters.]
THE (LOUISVILLE KY.) COURIER-JOURNAL. 1978. Mervin Aubespin, "Bigger stakes all that's new in the latest chain letter." Nov. 29, p. 1, col. 6. [Circle of Gold MCL / Pyramid scheme. Specs q2x$50, n12, s$50. Present in Louisville and Bowling Green. Investigated in San Francisco since October. James W. Winegar, Cincinnati postal inspector: "Mostly, our biggest problems have been with the pyramid schemes which promise people that they can make large sums of money at home in their spare time doing almost nothing. These people send off money only to receive a pamphlet telling them they have to send more money and get others involved." Craze during 1960's: ". . . a young Marietta, Ga. man ... set out to make himself a millionaire by begging contributions through the mail." 1950's: "the Panty Club" flooded the mail. 1940's: "a postcard promising good luck if you copied it and sent it on and bad luck if you didn't."]
CRAZY HOUSE - PURVEYORS OF JUST FOR FUN ITEMS.
advertisement, date unknown. Crazy House,
2221 Robb St., Baltimore 18, Md.
[Pre-zip code address. Sells "Crazy Chain letters." Also Insulting greeting cards, Comedy patter books, Hilarious bull-thrower tags. Coupon for ordering catalog, 10 cents, plus get one gag free. Image]
THE CREDIT UNION
1958. "Chain Letter Rackets."
V. 23, n. 5, July, p. 21-23.
["March of Bonds" MCL, specs q2x$18.75, n11, s$18.75, max $38,400. Says started "three years ago." <origin> Unreferenced historical accounts: "... the 'endless chain' formula . . . was probably used by the ancients in much the same form . . ."; "in this country before the founding of the republic"; ". . . in the files of the Post Office Department as early as 1830." Some CLs end with "The curse of the ancient Aztecs will fall on you if you break this chain." <motive> Help friend whose name appears at bottom of list. Oscar Auton pyramid sales scheme. Details of "Tribond" hosiery chain. 1942 MCL used U.S. saving stamps (three examples have been collected [text] -DWV). Postcard XCL, specs s1q4n4 max64. Circulated by Boy Scouts; Cub Scouts advised they can earn "collecting" badge by joining. <target> Sometimes contains text: "If you are not planning to cooperate give this letter to someone else. Some of the people in this chain are polio victims and it would not be nice to disappoint them."]
THE DAILY NEWS-DEMOCRAT,
1902. "The Endless
Chain." Feb. 26, 1902, front page.
[Subtitles: "Scheme being used in an effort to find missing ones. From Evanston, Ill. Relatives of Miss Florence A. Ely and Frank Ely Rogers have started it." Gives full text of an "endless chain letter scheme" to find two missing persons. Supplied by Richard Stephens.]
DAILY SITKA SENTINEL (Sitka,
Alaska), 1983. Letter to Editor. Sept. 30, p.
[A reader receives a chain letter mentioning St. Jude and with a nickel taped on the bottom. Likely a translated Mexican letter. See 1983.]
DANIELS, C. L. & STEVANS, C. M.,
(Eds) 1971. Encyclopaedia of
Superstitions, Folklore, and the
Occult Sciences of the World. Detroit:
Gale Research Co., p. 1119.
[Text of Lady Cubass Letter by Jesus Christ. Once popular in Wales, "printed and sold by J. Salter, Newtown." Also contained 3 hymns and a description of "The Happy Man."]
BEED & SEAL, GRAHAM. 1993. "Chain letters."
The Oxford Companion
to Australian Folklore. Melbourne:
Oxford Univ. Press, p. 62.
["The most common traditional chain letter is one that begins 'This paper has been sent to you for good luck.' " MCL beginning with the text "To the women friends in my life who know how to dream and create their own reality" said to be "traditional," other MCLs not. XCL spouse exchange "relatively recent."]
DAILY SITKA SENTINEL. 1995. L. M. Boyd. Sitka, Alaska. Feb. 7, p. 7.
["Q. When did the chain letter gimmick get started? A. In April of 1935, according to one checker-upper. Members of Denver's Prosperity Club reportedly organized a mailing of 165,000 letters, and the notion took off nation-wide." DWV: There is no mention of a "Denver Prosperity Club" in newspaper archives, or in the Denver Post. Nor does postoffice inspector Roy Nelson mention this as a possible origin of the Send-a-Dime craze.]
DAWKINS, RICHARD. 1976.
The Selfish Gene.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[Introduces the term "meme" for a "unit of cultural transmission."]
DAWKINS, RICHARD. 1995. River
Out of Eden. BasicBooks.
[Chain letters discussed, pp. 146-150. Mechanics of chain letter evolution: "In the case of chain letters, being efficient may consist in accumulating a better collection of words on the paper." "The variants that are more successful will increase in frequency at the expense of less successful rivals. Success is simply synonymous with frequency in circulation." Full text of LCL as given in Nature, 1994. Suggests testimonials are "just invented." Chain letters vs. natural replicators: "Chain letters are originally launched by humans, and the changes in their wording arise in the heads of humans."]
DEAR MR. THOMS.
Letters." V. 14, p. 32, 33.
[Full text of luck chain letter (Kiss title, many modifications, trailing notes). Full text of luck chain letter (Kiss title).]
LYS, CLAUDIA. 1948.
A Treasury of American Superstitions.
New York: The Philosophical Library,
[<motive> "It is believed by millions that anyone who breaks the chain-of-luck by not sending out the prescribed number of letters, after having received one, will meet with disaster." And for compliance "unexpected good fortune." <origin> Good Luck type started in 1920 by American lieutenant in Flanders. Population: boom in World War II (?). "The Luck of London" LCL started during blitz, still circulating in Europe and America. "A Letter of Protection" (Holstein type Letter from Heaven) sold to thousands during WWI, large block of text. " Letter from Jesus" distr. by Howard and Evans, West Smithfield, London over 200 years ago; much text, "Lady Cubass" (Sabbath) type. Compares to magic word-charms.]
DENTON (MD) JOURNAL.
1892. "Easier Than
Working." June 18, p. 1: 4.
[Newspaper article describing charity CL started in 1889 to collect dimes for college student. Subtitle: "A clever scamp in college raises money in an ingenious way." Ten copy with selfterminating after 10 levels. Full text but missing level number. Editors had apparently not seen such a letter; no use of term "chain letter." Started with women in small western towns. "In some cases ministers read the letter in the pulpit and recommended the scheme to their congregation. The letters which he received were studies. Some contained stamps, some dimes wrapped in paper, some motherly old souls wrote long letters with volumes of good advice, and some more philanthropic people sent fifty cents, a dollar, and a few even five." -E. J. Barnes in New York Press. Reference provided by Neal Coulter of Chattanooga, Tennessee.]
1935 (Day 0).
"Send-a-dime Chain Letters Trick Thousands
in Denver." April 19, p. 1.
[First publication on Send-a-Dime: Friday, April 19 is "Day 0" for 1935 send-a-dime reports. Subtitle: "Postal Inspectors warn get-rich-quick scheme is fallacious and every participant is violating law; originators of racket are sought." <origin> "Its a modern variation of an old chain letter scheme" - Denver postmaster J.O. Stevic. Postal Inspector Roy E. Nelson claims illegal, seeks to arrest originators and charge them with federal crimes. Complete text of letter, no names.]
1935 (Day 1).
"Dime-a-day chain letters still flood
mails despite govt. warning." April 20,
[Other headlines: "Denver's post office staff takes question up with Washington," <number> "Nearly every home in Denver believed to have been solicited on scheme to make 10 cents grow to $1,562" (<origin> in the 3 to 4 weeks since the first letters were started). Stevic has way to find originator (presumed male!). Plan defended. Verified $400 winning. Charity use. Many dimes unwrapped. Four women's accounts of winning. <gender> "Most of the calls (received by the Post) came from women, . . ." Purchases by winners. Dimes pop out at canceling machine. Origin unknown but reported that it started in Denver. Other articles on legal issue and calculations. "Thousands of Denver persons, especially women, are participating in a gigantic send-a-dime chain letter program, ... Where the idea originated is not known."]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 1). "U. S. Cites Lottery Statute"." April 20. p. 1+
["Decision by Postal Inspector Roy E. Nelson that the present widespread chain letter circulation in Denver is illegal was based by Nelson on two sections of the postal law, one prohibiting lotteries and the other use of the mail for purposes of fraud. Nelson Saturday cited sections 336 and 338 of 18 United States criminal code. ... The second section provides that 'whoever having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud or for obtaining money by means of false or fraudulent premises, and then uses the mails for this purpose, is subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 and imprisonment for not more than five years.' In this connection Neslon said the section of the letter which holds out that if instructions are followed the sender 'will receive 15,625 letters with donations amounting to $1,562,50' is a false pretense, as there is no guarantee and virtually no likelihood that any such amount will be received."]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 2). "Send-a-dime
fad covers Colorado."
April 21, p. 1+.
[<number> Mail volume. Send-a-dollar: distributed by hand. Support of plan. Charity for families on relief. Posing as postal inspector.]
1935 (Day 4). "Chain letters
passed out on streetcars." April
23, p. 1.
[Subtitle: "Send-a-dime circulators canvass passengers on train." <target> They "asked people if they would circulate the chain letters," (if yes were handed copies). <recruit> House-to-house canvassing thru Edgewater for send-a-dollar. <law> Nelson said P.O. not interested if letter not mailed.]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 5). "Chain letters
calling for $10
appear in Denver." April 24,
[Nelson receives $10 version, otherwise worded like dime letter. Send-a-dollar in wide circulation. Mail still heavy.]
1935 (Day 7). "Stop chain
letters! Officials plead, with Denver mails facing
collapse." April 26, p. 1+.
[Subtitles: "67,000 extra pieces of matter in single day clog post office." <number> " 100 extra workers employed in desperate effort to keep up normal service; new notes solicit $1 to $10." <motive> Rumors of big winners spur fad. Letters spread to all parts of country. Copying methods: mimeographed, multigraphed and printed. Winnings: 503 dimes in 3 weeks, 60 dollars in five days. <charity> Participant claims man sent out letters for four families on relief; they received $38+ and withdrew names from the rolls.]
1935 (Day 8). "Government
Rules Chain Letters are Plain Violation of Postal
Laws." April 27, p. 1+.
[Karl Crowley, solicitor of Post Office Department, rules "cash chain letters are illegal and subject the participant to a $1,000 fine or five years imprisonment or both." Chains "clearly violate lottery laws because they contain an element of chance." However . . . "we will be guided by the legal principle of de minimis non curat lex, which means that the law does not take notice of trifles" (meaning they wont go after dime letters). Starter of $10 letter put members of family from around country on letter, they did not need to send any money themselves. The man was on relief, had crippled daughter, so was not charged. Mail volume. <variation> XCL: "Liquid Assets Club" worked through liquor dealers - no use of mails. <recruit> Crowds thronged about telephone directories in library.]
1935 (Day 9a).
"Postal force labors late into night sorting
165,000 Denver chain letters." April
28, p. 1+.
[Subtitle:" Stamp sales advance 50 per cent as fad makes fresh gains." <numbers> Of 260,00 letters sorted Saturday, only 95,000 are normal volume (165,000 CLs handled on one day). Long lines at four stamp windows. <recruit> "Hawkers sold cash chain letter blanks on street corners." First a penny apiece, then 5 for a penny. "Thru out Denver, the chain letter fad was the principal topic of conversation Saturday." <law> Many distributed filled in letters on the street to avoid mails. Omaha, 4/27: <variation> A $1 letter with ten names appeared here. Also a flood of send-a-dime letters. Topeka, 4/27: Santa Fe railroad forbade employees to place letters in railroad's outgoing mail or use company stationery and stamps.]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 9b). "Chain
Letters Put Voluntary
Tax on Participants, Says Dr. Kaplan."
Francis Wayne, April 28, p. 3.
[Sociological comments. Desire for quick riches spreading geographically and across social barriers. Dr. A. D. H. Kaplan (Denver University): "From the economic viewpoint, aside from the creation of a voluntary tax thru purchase of stamps, stationery and the like, people who get the largest return probably will make larger purchases. While the inflow lasts, the
shift will be from light to heavier buying.". He disputes economic utility. <recruit> Telephoning friends before others get to them.]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 9c). "Dime Letters
to Run into Millions
if Chain Lasts Few More Days."
April 28, p. 3.
[Washington, 4/27: "A Nationwide brother-can-you-spare-a-dime bubble was about to burst of its own geometric inflation Saturday . . ." <origin> "Post office inspectors said they would like to wring the neck of whoever started the chain-letter scheme of wealth for everybody. In hardly more than a week he has caused one of the most amazing mass demonstrations of the get-rich-quick philosophy in history." <variation> Hundreds of other chains have sprung up. XCL: "Send-pint-of-whiskey" closed with "how would you like to have 2,000 gallons of whiskey?" Kildroy P. Aldrich, chief postal inspector: "We'll simply have to wait until it collapses which shouldn't be long." Enforcement would require "they arrest most of the residents of Denver." Classified Ads (Personals): "Chain Letters 1 cents Each, Out-of-towners include postage. Mutual Multigraphing Co." Two other ads, one at 5 for 10 cents, 100 for $1.]
1935 (Day 10). "Chain Letters Triple Denver Mail."
April 29, p. 1+.
[Subtitle: "Carriers stagger under burden of 350,000 pieces." <numbers> Some afternoon deliveries canceled. Thieves broke into five mail boxes Sunday night. Mail volume. P. 3: "Chain Letters Make Farley's Aids Jittery." ". . . hope impending arrests will bring an end to the scheme." <origin> ". . . admitted the 'dime' plan is a little different from anything they have heretofore known." St. Louis, 4/29: "Denver Letters Appear in St. Louis." Pueblo, Colo. 4/29: "Chain Letters Take Big Jump in Pueblo."]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 11). "Chain
Letters make Denver Mail Nearly Half Million Pieces a Day." April
30, p. 1+.
[Denver mail volume and stamp sales. Greeley and Pueblo volumes. West Coast mostly dollar letters. Luncheon club speakers debate merits of CLs in Kansas City. p. 1: "Chain letter cash pays taxes." Classified Ads p. 28: Howell Printing offers 1,000 blanks for $3, including 10c, 25c, $1 and "univ. forms." "Guaranteed" letters offered on 14th St. Hit of the Month Music Co. offers "The Chain Letter Song" by "a well known music composer" for 10c.]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 12). "Chain
Letters in Denver Show Some Decline." May 1, p. 1+.
[Subtitle: "Fad is gaining headway elsewhere in State, Pueblo deluged." Collections and stamp sales slowing in Denver. Pueblo mail volume doubled. Grand County Commercial club officially favors cash chain letter enterprise. Their telegram to Farley concludes: "Everyone is smiling in Colorado. Hope, faith and charity bring prosperity." Jake Gerbes, a crippled boy from Iowa, sends Denver woman a dime, says: "I hope I am lucky."]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 13). "Farley
Winks at Chain Letters:
'Illegal' but they sell stamps." May
2, p. 1.
[Quotes Farley: "They help postal receipts." Classified Ads, p. 35: General Printing offers 1000 for $2.50. Howell Printing: "Chain fans starting today 'Cash on the Barrel' prosperity club forms.]
DENVER POST. 1935
(Day 14). "Chain Letter Fad Brings
Boom to Denver Business." May 3, p. 1+.
[More than 30 boys selling blanks on streets in city. Printers turned out about 275,000 blanks at average price of 1/2 cents. Estimated $50,000 received locally from chains. Benefits: stationers, typewriter rentals, delinquent bills paid. XCL: commodities exchanged "from cigarettes to liquor." Sale of 150 $1 blanks to single man taken as evidence of racketeering. Mail from outside city increased.]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 15). "Studios
Rush Films on Chain
Letters." May 4, p. 12.
[Hollywood, May 4, UP: Film "Chain Letter" with Fred MacMurray planned. Sol Lesser wedged in a CL sequence in movie starring George O'Brien.]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 16). Letters
May 5, p. 11.
["Bless the chain letters, the little white messengers of good will. It may not be good business . . . time will tell. It is good psychology, this gigantic interchange of thoughts of good will and it should thaw out even God's 'frozen people.'" -Lois Sorrell. Three other letters on CLs. Classified Ads: "CHAIN letter club nationwide, money back guarantee. Call 1405 Glenarm, room 207."]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 18). "Businessmen
Plead Not Guilty
to Chain Letter Fraud Charges." May
7, p. 4.
[Their defense: Postal authorities made conflicting statements about illegality. OK to put relatives names on letters (who else?). OK to send out more than five - boys selling wholesale quantities on streets - most people sent out more than five. Nelson said they rented an office for mimeographing, and mailed letters third class (illegally). Photo.]
1935 (Day 19). "New Types of Chain Letters . . ." May 8,
[Subtitle: Give-a-party plan spreads in amazing fashion in Denver." "The chain party scheme works as follows: A hostess receives a letter bearing five names. She invites four other friends to attend a chain party which she is giving. Each of her guests gives her a quarter, making a dollar, which she sends to the person who headed the list of names which she received." Hostess then updates list, gives copies to guests who must give a party within three days. Caterers business increased. Difficult to find guests - friends dated up for others weeks in advance. Mother's day chain: send 25c to mother heading list, drop, add your own or another's mother. <variation> Send-a-dime variant: dime to each on list of six. XCLs: gasoline, neckties, stockings, liquor, rare stamps (catalog value specified.). St. Louis, May 8. AP: "Chain Letters Clog St. Louis Mails." "Postoffice officials said the chain letter splurge had increased the normal daily mail average from 450,000 letters to an estimated 800,000."]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 20). "Today's
May 9, p. 1.
[Photo of crowded interior. "A Chain Letter 'Factory'" in Springfield, Mo. Notary attests that required amount is sent to head of list.]
1935 (Day 21a). "Denverites
Rushed for 'Certified' Letters."
May 10, p. 1.
[Striking photo of mostly men crowded at tables, lights wired haphazardly. Caption: Denverites Rushed for 'Certified' Letters Friday as the latest variation of the chain letter system gained favor. Fans overflowed the offices of a printing concern, which was forced to open another office to handle the rush. The concern charged 50 cents for blanks, envelopes, stenographic service, and a certification that the names of the letter were not juggled." P. 4: "Dime Letter Chain Locates Lost Kin." Classified Ads, p. 48: Howell Printing offers: "Standard chain blanks, 1c to $1; also Luncheon, Friendly Hosiery, Food,
Mother, Gas, etc. 100, 50c: . . . 1,000, $2.50. Assorted to your choice. . . Also samples of Barrel Head club, Universal Guaranteed (copyrighted) forms."]
1935 (Day 21b).
"Chain Letter Fad Adds $1,000 Daily to
Postal Workers' Pay." May 10, p. 1.
[Postal receipts increased $80,000 for last fifteen days. Collections in Denver have declined, but incoming letters (no accurate count) sharply increased. Work figures, mail volume. Box robbed for third time. "A thriving business was done by a printing concert that charged 50 cents for "certifying" $1 chain letters carrying three names" (error: had four names - DWV). Complete (?) text of certified letter. Some letters limited to persons of same last name (Greeley, Co.). Chain parties also popular in Greeley.]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 22). "Certified
Chain Letters Halted
by Government." May 11, p. 1.
[U.S. District Attorney Thomas J. Morrissey accuses operators of "conspiracy to violate the postal lottery and fraud laws." Says certification "did not guarantee returns to purchaser, but merely purported to certify that the names had not been juggled, and that the first purchaser had sent cash to the person whose name was at the head of the list when the letter was sold."]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 23). "More Chain
Closed by U.S. Officials in Denver."
May 12, p. 3.
[CL fad steadily declining in Denver, but heavy incoming volume of CLs from other cities. Many dead letters. Letter to Editor (p. 11): Helen J. Hopper says "many of the chain letter fans are using their car to deliver" CLs to avoid mails. "At last it's happened! Chain letter fan goes batty." Bellhop Arnold Arnberg, 23, became obsessed with calculations, called Univ. of Calif., others, with odd questions. Stopped cars, asked mathematical questions. "Saturday night they took Arnberg to the psychopathic ward of a local hospital." "Saturday Classified Ad: "Certified Chain Letters Delivered by Western Union messengers. Bring certified 4-name, 3-letter copies to 2335 Larimer St. Open Sunday."]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 25). "Fugitive
Trapped Thru Chain
Letter." May 14, p. 1.
[Jack Rodie from Denver mailed CL to brother in Texas. Texas authorities had felony warrant - telegraphed Denver police who arrested him at mother's address used on CL. Photo.]
1935 (Day 26).
"U.S. Jury Refuses to Indict Three
Chain Letter Mailers." May 15, p. 1.
[Federal grand jury refused to indict three on fraud charges for mailing cash ($1) CLs. They mailed 1,200 $1 MCLs. Fairfield, Ill. <mental> UP: "Chain Letter Craze Results in Suicide." ". . . Cecil Headlee, 39, father of five children, . . . shot and killed himself because he thought a mob was going to get him for breaking the chain.'"]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 27). "New Chain
Craze Probed by
Police." May 16, p. 1.
[DA's office swamped with complaints but none violations of state law. Eight men detailed to investigate chains. Looking for: racketeers, jumping of location, operating more than one chain, and failure to pay. Some store operators complain chains they had built up were "strangling them" - no way to quit. Small merchants approached to establish chains, split with three promoters. Reno, UP: Four arrested for $5 chain operation, 20% fee for handling the transaction.]
1935 (Day 28). "Chain Fad on
Wane, Says Post office." May 17,
[Washington, May 17, AP: "The send-a-dime letter fad is on the wane." Letters forwarded to Washington for investigation decrease from 200 to 100 a day.]
DENVER POST. 1935 (Day 32). "Mail Box
Chain Letter Remittances Stolen."
May 21, p. 1.
[Los Angeles, May 21, UP: Stolen from 8th & Grand, near several "dollar prosperity stores." Southern California dotted with crowded "dollar stores" - eleven arrests on fraud charges.]
1935 (Day 118).
"100,000 Chain Letters Go Unclaimed
at Post Office." Aug. 15, p. 1.
[Subtitle: "Faulty Addresses Leave Notes Containing $3,000 to $4,000 on Hands of Denver Mail System; Money Will Go to Government." Says craze died with "equal suddenness" as it began. "Stevic kept a scrapbook on stories printed about the chain letter craze. It contains clippings from all over America and fills scores of pages of a large book." LCL with same text circulating in New Zealand.]
THE SUNDAY DENVER POST. 1980. Jane
Cracraft, "Chain Letter Users Call 'Gift List' Legitimate." March 16, p.
[The Gift List MCL / Pyramid scheme. Specs: q2x$50, n12, s$50 (cf. Circle of Gold). Payments sent by check marked "a gift." ". . . it has touched thousands of lives in Colorado. It is passed from person to person by hand - often at a rally." Brenda Richardson, 32, bought into 13 lists: <origin> "My understanding is that this began in California with a church that needed to remodel and didn't have the money. One of the men went on a prayer weekend and came up with this idea and it worked, and then the chain was extended to other areas." Brenda mentions frustration with the recession: "We are helping the economy by getting money in circulation." "If someone below her has trouble selling the list within 24 hours she recruits a buyer or buys the list back." Businessman got $3,000 - goes to meetings with 200-300 people gathered to exchange lists and explain program to new people. His name, wife's and children's names appear on a dozen lists. Teacher: "Every fourth person on the list is a monitor and keeps it going." "Its a fun thing"- attends rallies where investors cheer each other on. "I've never met so many people." June 12, p. 2: "Two More Persons Arrested In Illicit Pyramid Scheme" by Howard Pankratz. Undercover investigator attended meeting at restaurant with body microphone and transmitter. Tipped by concerned citizen. Get $16,000 for $1,000 investment. Authorities warn promoters get in early along with their relatives. Investigator with DA: those involved are "solid, middle-class people." "They frequently have an expensive lifestyle and are having a hard time adjusting to a lack of income."]
DENVER POST. 1985. "Unchained letter"
- Woody Paige.
March 17, p. 2A: 1.
[Paige receives DL type LCL. Complete text (title omitted?). Humorous fiction about bad luck for non-compliance and good luck for late compliance. Humorous testimonials.]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN
1935 (Day 1). "Send-A-Dime Chain
Notes Worry Postal Authorities." April
20, p. 1. (This newspaper is titled ROCKY
MOUNTAIN NEWS except for 1935-1938.)
[Mostly women. Callers hail as boon to poverty stricken. All callers enthusiastic. "Re-distribution of wealth." Motivation: participants have "fun." Complete text of a letter, targeted recipients, no names. Nelson thinks started in Oklahoma. Defended as wealth re-distribution. One and ten dollar versions. Discussed at bridge parties and "wherever women gather." Most women call addressees to make sure chain won't be broken, and caution them to take like steps.]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. 1935 (Day 2).
is Put Up to Washington," April 21, p. 1+.
[Thousands call to support send-a-dime: hurts no one, keeps money in circulation, aids cause of silver, offers hope, increases postal receipts. Editorial (p. 10): compares to false hope in prior oil boom.]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN
NEWS. 1935 (Day 4).
Letters. April 23, p. 14.
[Lecie M. Violett (of the originator): "the only man in the world who ever figured out a way to distribute the wealth and keep it from getting into the hands of a few." "This fellow, wherever he is, is smart, and the postoffice here would do well to try to run him down so Colorado can boost him for president, not put him in jail." P.S. I had to sit up all night and put 15,625 marks on a paper before I could figure how it works." William Howard: dime CL a "harmless past time," helps substitute mail employees.]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN
1935 (Day 8). "Dime Letters Ruled
OK." April 27, p. 1+.
[Subtitle: "Postal Inspectors Prepare to Smash Ten-Dollar Chain." Claims an "exclusive" dispatch from Washington postal officials stated "there is nothing in the U.S. postal regulations to bar such letters from the mails" (dime letters). "Overworked carriers and clerks, while fatigued, viewed the situation with no great alarm." Hundreds getting overtime (time plus 10 %). One said: "Let the chain letters come." <gender> Carrier besieged by house wives demanding to see their mail. Postal receipts. A.A. McVittie, returning after a two day vacation, had 2,363 letters awaiting him. P. 4: humorous "The Dime that Broke the Postman's Back"]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. 1935 (Day 9).
of Hope." April 28, p. 10.
[Approves of send-a-dime. "Confidence in the other fellow's fundamental honesty is the basis of the entire fad." "Estimates of the value of silver now in the mails are as high as a million and a half." "Who originated the fad? Probably many will claim the credit..." "The fad . . . has given to thousands a new faith and a stronger hope."]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS.
1935 (Day 10). "Postal Clerks
Dig Thru Chain Letter Mountain." April 29,
[Mail volume in Denver & other Colorado towns. W. Osborn, president of the Postal Carriers Union: "You can notice a different atmosphere along the routes: people are happier." P. 6: "Chain Letters Hit Hollywood."]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. 1935 (Day 15).
"Chain Letters Bring
Denver 'New Money'. " May 4, p.
[Estimated (method given) $250,000 circulated in Denver by CLs - much from outside. Predicted $500,000 before fad dies. 25c, 50c, and $1 chains rapidly supplanting 10c chains. "Thousands of chains with Denver names in payoff positions have gone thru out the U.S." Huge demand for dime containers (50 per). Winnings used for home improvements, spring outfits. San Antonio AP: "Four more charged with Dime Chain Fraud" - two others previously makes total six. Classified Ads - Personals: "1000 for $2.50, printed - not multigraphed." "CHAIN letters, the guaranteed to go prosperity plan, is like a Townsend revolving plan, a wheel within a wheel. There is no refuge for chiselers here. Cut out little uncertainties, for a larger real amount. I will help you promote your list. No charge. Phone CHerry 0162."]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. 1935 (Day 22).
"Mobs Besiege Chain
'Mills'" May 11, p. 1.
[Thousands "laughing and shouting" gather seeking certified letters. Promises $81 for $1 invested (plus 50c for letter). Strangers approach each other to keep letters going. Several shops selling, hire attractive women barkers. Other women work crowd silently. Kansas City UP: Notarized letters started by two notaries in Springfield. "A chain letter player would bring a prospective player to the notary and before witnesses see that he mailed out his contribution before he was allowed to sign his name to the chain." "Within 24 hours exchanges were opened in a dozen Missouri and Kansas towns." "Townspeople were induced to send money to names supplied on waiting chain letters and to have their copies of the chain letter made by the waiting stenographers." Promoters move on to another town after about a day. Display ad p. 2: "Certified chain-letter station at Home Public Market with a genuine Notary Seal on each letter."]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. 1935 (Day 23).
Chain-letter Mills Closed." May 12,
[Three other printing shops voluntarily sell out letters. Last minute rush before crack down. "Now they have gone and spoiled our fun" - said by man who had been 'chaining' for three weeks (had pocket full of $1 bills). Automobile chain (no details). Chickasha, Okla, AP: Three chain letter emporiums closed down. Oklahoma City, Okla UP: Six sue 7 businessmen with failing to sell enough letters to put their names at top. Slump at a dozen local CL mills. Oakland, Calif. UP: "Figuring out Chain Letter Profits Puts Youth in Psychopathic Ward." Bell hop called UC, post office, etc. with questions about profits. Then asked people on streets.]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. 1935 (Day 24).
Letters Worry Co-Eds." May 13, p.
[Berkeley, AP: Send-a-Dame: list of five coeds at top, date top, update list adding a girl to bottom, copies to friends. Originated by Eldon Grimm, College of Commerce. Denver: Certified CL rush continues. Most establishments use messengers and pigeon-hole distribution cases to avoid mail. Special officers required to keep order and guard money.
One mill employed 10 stenographers, 10 clerks, and stayed open from 7:30 AM to 12:30 AM. Some mills handle "'old fashioned' revolving chains" but certifieds more popular.]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. 1935 (Day 28).
"City to Check Chain
Letter Promotions." May 17, p.
[Proposal to license and bond Denver CL establishments.]
DENVER ROCKY MOUNTAIN NEWS. 1935 (Day 29).
"Chain Letter Fraud
Scented." May 18, p. 12.
[Some operators getting 10-50% profit on funds placed. Proposed regulations similar to that for brokerage firms.]
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR. 1984.
Charles H. McCaghy
& Janet Nogier, "Envelope Stuffing
at Home: a Quasi Confidence Game."
V. 5, p. 105-119.
[Detailed description of envelope stuffing and follow up schemes. " ... those answering ads buy materials encouraging them to advertise in order to sell the same materials." Comparisons to traditional confidence games. Researchers answered 73 "Moneymaking Opportunities" ads in the National Inquirer.]
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR. 1988. Jacqueline
Boles & Lyn
Myers, "Chain Letters: Players and Their
Accounts." V. 9, p. 241-257.
["This paper analyzes the content and structure of the chain letter and also describes the accounts which chain letter players (N=129) provide for their participation. <gender> Differences between male and female accounts and participation strategies are provided." Authors' husbands advertise mail order business, 534 unsolicited MCLs were sent to the address in these ads. Five essential parts of MCL: salutation, legitimization, psychological motivation, scheme description, moral and ethical exhortation. Certain names appear in different schemes: Steve Bessemer, Bill Needham, Nelson Robbards; "used like talismans." "About 85% of letters close with an exhortation to participate ... like "It works!", "This gives big results," and "Hurry up!" "The typical chain letter player . . . was a middle-aged, lower-middle class man living in a small town." For men MCLs are a way to beat the system, and illegality is acknowledged. Women are more likely to accept the letter's legitimization, see more value in the "product" delivered, and use the scheme to make friends. Quotes from Butterfield on Amway.]
DEWAN, BRIAN. 1993. Song lyrics: "The Letter."
CD: Tells a
Story, Bar/None Records.
[ Cautionary tale in seven four line verses. The sixth: "A butcher got the letter and read it top to bottom / But he did not consider himself a superstitious man / The minute that he threw it out his blind and deaf assistant / Cut him into pieces and sold him by the pound." E-mail from John Burkhardt.]
DICKSON, PAUL. 1980. The Official Explanations.
New York: Delacorte
Press, p. 236.
[Author's parody of Death20 type text with book pyramid: "...and the estate of Harriet P. of Toledo has 1,406 copies (accumulated before she broke the chain and died)."]
"L'idée de chance: attitudes et
superstitions." No. 140, Oct.-Dec., pp. 106-130.
Gallimard, Paris. English edition: Diogenes,
140, 1987, pp. 111-140.
[Definitions of superstition. The idea of good and bad luck. Freud on undone or symptomatic acts. Upsurge of superstition during historical crises. Mother of Algerian War soldier sends out chain letter. Professions prone to superstition (hunters, miners, farmers, deep-sea fishermen, athletes, performers). Most women (ca. 80%) think it preferable to be lucky rather than beautiful. Women more superstitious than men (esp. women at home). The old and young more superstitious. Practices associated with difficult moments whose outcome is uncertain (sickness, decisions, examinations). Good luck held responsible for escaping injury, recovering from sickness, success in an examination. Bad luck held responsible for disease, failure, accidents. Belief in signs of good luck stronger than in signs of bad luck.]
DOL, MATT. 1978. Chain Letters -Road to Riches?
Lanham (MD): Dol's House Press,
[Mail order publication - part of "Between the Lines in the Mail Order Game." Says promoters sometime place an alias in second or third place (of 4 to 6 total on list). MCL texts: "Does $125,000 get you excited! (1974); "$10,000 in your mailbox IN ONE WEEK." (1974); "Do you need $125,000 Business Capital?" (1976). Legal discussion with codes. Text of letters sent by Postal Inspectors to participants in MCLs. Text of letter sent in response to complaints about LCLs: "This concerns your recent complaint regarding mailings known as the "prayer" or "good luck" type of chain letter. These mailings, which contain a threat of bad luck to those breaking the chain, do not request money or other items of value. They are not in violation of the postal lottery and fraud laws, Title 18, Sections 1302 and 1341, U.S. Code. When sent by way of postal card, however, they become unmailable under Title 18, Section 1718, U. S. Code, which prohibits threatening matter on the outside of mail. (But declared unconstitutional in 1973 -DWV). "It is unfortunate the mails have ben used in such a way as to cause complaint." Statistical data on mail fraud investigations, FY1975 - FY1978 . One billion dollars public loss to mail fraud in FY 77. Comments of readers.]
DUNCAN, ROBERT J. 1976.
A Twentieth Century Folk Practice." What's
Going On? (In Modern Texas Folklore).
Ed. Frances E. Abernathy. Austin:
Incino Press. p. 47-58.
[Mostly based on newspaper and magazine reports referenced here. Text of LCL from Goodman Ace, text of MCL from Olson, text of wife exchange from Sat. Eve. Post, 1959, and text of charity CL from the Independent. Motives: "play it safe," "gamble on it," and not to disappoint a friend who passed it to them. XCL items: S&H green stamps, pieces of string, pieces of cloth for world friendship quilts, children's books, aprons, others. Send-a-dime and Springfield history. Five-dollar notarized letters sold for 50 cents in Springfield (?). Familiar spin-off incidents. Hearsay influential. Immunization effect ("duplication"). <numbers> "They seem to be enjoying a current revival".]
DUNDES, ALAN & PAGTER,
CARL. 1975. Urban
Folklore from the Paperwork
Empire. Austin: University of Texas Press for the American Folklore Society.
[Traditional letters. Com. Mapak variations (5). Complete text of Death20 type LCL. Complete text of fertilizer club and dated wife exchange. Husband exchange letter from 1968 (little text). Medgar Evers, other, as in Northwest Folklore, 1966.]
EAU CLAIRE LEADER. 1908. "Written by Christ" Aug. 7.
[Subtitle: "Veteran at Marion Soldiers' Home Sends This Paper Interesting Letter." Gives a legendary lineage for the Jesus' Sabbath letter starting with the convert; then his son; then to US; then to Mrs. Townson; then published in the Rome, Ga Tribune in 1891; then Mrs. Wortman; then published in Indiana; then published here (?). Text not copied. Found using newspapers.com searching "fast five fridays"]
THE ECONOMIST. 1991. "Rimbaud-hoopla
A season in hell." Nov. 2, p. 85-86.
[The French Ministry of Culture sponsored a "Rimbaud chain letter" as part of a celebration of the centenary of the poet's death.]
ELGART, J. M. 1955. Furthermore Over Sexteen.
New York: Grayson
Publ Corp., p. 89.
[Wife XCL parody complete text, possibly edited.]
ELLIS, BILL. 2004. Lucifer Ascending. The Occult in Folklore and
The University Press of Kentucky.
[Chapter 3: Black Books and Chain Letters. Translates a St. Germaine Himmelsbrief (Fogel, p. 290) that demands: "Write this letter out, one person to another, or get it printed, ..." Following Fogel, relates an Ancient Prayer LCL  to the Himmelsbrief tradition. On a recent LCL: "The contemporary version derived from this tradition maintains the essential elements of the Himmelsbrief: an unexceptional religious sentiment followed by directions to copy and distribute it in the form of written, typed or printed copies." Gives text of 1952 (Halpert) LCL. Argues that a "1960's chain letter" (Death20 type, Dundes, 1973u) put greater emphasis on misfortune for breaking the chain; and that in the 1980's and 90's this "section" was "gradually lengthened ... so that it now makes up most of the letter." Claims Chain Letter Evolution states that "chain letters exist in an 'information environment' in which the 'fittest' versions continue to circulate ...", and that it describes chain letters as an entity "largely independent of the persons who circulate it" (compare to motives). Summarizes: "the chain letter is essentially a contagious curse, contained in an amulet-like piece of writing, which can only be removed by passing it on to other people."]
ELLISON, E. JEROME & BROCK, FRANK W. 1935.
The Run for Your
Money. New York: Dodge Publishing
Co. p. 221-225.
[Commercial CLs (pyramid sales). Oscar Auton, Gagetown Mich. buggy dealer, said to have originated scheme in 1890's: (1) pay $3.75 for coupon (from Auton or a friend), (2) send Auton the coupon plus $15, (3) receive book of four coupons, (4) sell four coupons for $3.75 each ($15 total), (5) when Auton receives the four coupons you sold, each with $15, you are entitled to receive $60 worth of merchandise (for cost of $3.75). In 1932 "nearly every person in the United States capable of opening his mail was 'chained' to one or another of the myriad progressions . . ." ". . . millions of the general public were made willing, hard-working salesmen for fountain pens, automatic pencils, flashlights, playing cards, key rings, stationery, bath salts, kitchenware, lingerie, hosiery, billfolds and golf balls." 1932 pioneers: Amoeba Stationery Co. of Princeton, Pierce & Co. in New York (pocketbooks) and Prosperity Sales Plan Corporation in New York (pens). Amoeba scheme: (1) buy box of stationery for $2.50, (2) included were ten slips each entitling you to sell 10 boxes yourself, (3) no commission on first 3 (per ten) sold, $1 commission on remaining 7, (4) $1 commission on first three (per ten) sales of second level agents. Prosperity Sales Plan similar but did not limit number of sales. Brief description of Sheldon scheme. Schemes collapsed just prior to send-a-dime craze.]
"The Great Chain Robbery." V. 88, Aug., p.
[Receives Death20 type CL - much text. Received MCL, specs s$1, q20, n4, w90. Miscalculates return. Checked with no. 2 slot - no return. Send-a-dime. Springfield notarized letter. Ponzis: Harold Goldstein, Stanley Goldblum (Equity Funding
Corp.), Glen W. Turner (Koscot Interplanetary, Dare To Be Great). Approves Medgar Evers chain, coffee boycott. Text of "Go play golf" office humor item - no luck CL.]
ESQUIRE. 1979. William Flanagan, "The
Circle of Gold,
Mr. Ponzi, and the Tooth Fairy."
V. 91, Jan. 2, p. 101.
[Workings of Circle of Gold MCL: specs s$50, q2x$50, n12 . Some text. Debunks. Methods of cheating.]
"I'm on the 'A'
List, Pass it on." Dec., p. 49.
[Brief comment on Media CL. Three named transmittals incl. Pierre Salinger to Art Buchwald. "The real reason behind the letter's success, of course, is not fear, but the thrill of having written certification that, yes, indeed, you do belong to the inner circle."]
ETC: REVIEW OF GENERAL SEMANTICS. 1995.
"The Power of Powers: Schemes, Scams, and
Panties." V. 54, n. 4, Winter 1995-6,
[Basic operation of five different MCLs received from 1993-94: (1) Recipes (s5x$2, n5), (2) Reports (s4x$5, n4), (3) "Please add my name to your mailing list" (s5x$1,n5), (4) Wealth documents for $50 (Wealth Masters International, n4), (5) Holiday gifts for $85 (first phase $10 to KNM Ventures to join Holiday Unity Foundation and s5x$10 for secret techniques to use in filling your ten-new-member quota q10x$10; second phase s5x$5 on Dec. 1 as holiday gift). Exponential growth calculations. Foundation for New Era Philanthropy (New Era) ponzi: promised to match deposits of non-profit institutions with matching funds from charitable donors within 6 months. Two local religious leaders got 10% of $20 million in donations they arranged. New Era references (11) from Philadelphia Inquirer.]
ETHNOLOGIE DES FAITS RELIGIEUX EN EUROPE, Actes
du Colloque de Strasbourg.
1993. Albert, Jean-Pierre. "La 'chaîne
de saint Antoline" : religion ou superstition?"
Éditions du C.T.H.S., 1993.
[No English translation. At least one French text.]
EVENING NEWS (Harrisburg, Pa.) 1987. George
Weigel, " 'Airplane
Club' Illegal pyramid scheme may be flying
our way." May 15, p. C1.
[Airplane club pyramid scheme. Specs s$2,200 (amounts vary), q2, n4, max $17,600. Roles: pilot (1), co-pilots (2), crew members (4), passengers (8). State investigator obtained promotional packet at meeting, some text: "Of what concern is it to anyone if we wish to give a friend, or a friend of a friend, $2,200?" "In the spirit of sharing and fellowship, in the spirit of Christian charity, and trust in your fellow man - this is the spirit of Airplane." State Attorney General filed three lawsuits. At outset of meeting promoters ask if any police, FBI, IRS or reporters present. Club literature advises: avoid using last names on airplane charts, be discreet about talking about the club, deposit and withdraw small amounts from bank, avoid using cordless phones when talking about the club. Rampant in New York state a few months ago; more than 20 arrests there.]
EVENING NEWS (Harrisburg, Pa.) 1987a. " 'Airplane
charged in pyramid caper." May 22,
[UPI. State Attorney General filed suit against 12 founders of the Airplane Club MCL. Said members recruited at parties featuring alcohol, food and music. Names of defendants. Suit seeks to bar continuing club, restitution and $1,000 for each violation.]
EVENING NEWS (Harrisburg, Pa.) 1988. George
gangs: Despite some new wrinkles in old
pyramid scheme, using the mails is still illegal,
postal inspector warns." May 13, p. C1.
[Describes Dave Rhodes MCL. Specs s5x$1, q100+, n5, max 60x$50,000. Some text. Postal inspector: "Chain letters seem to run in cycles, and we've been in an up cycle for about the last four months." Rhodes scheme advised buying mailing list for $13 from S.E. Ring Mailing Lists, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A spokesman there said he did not know how his company's name got on the Rhodes letter, and that the firm did not sell lists if the names were to be used to promote chain letters. Amounts lost by four participants. Postal Inspectors have tried to track down Dave Rhodes, Edward L. Green, Harry R. Rhodes with no success. They use a computer to log names on chain letters. Remainder of article missing.]
EVENING NEWS (Harrisburg, Pa.) 1991.
"Chain letters disguised." Jan. 18,
[Subtitle: "Promoters use different approaches to hook consumers." Describes "Friendship Club" MCL. Specs q=20/year, s5x$5, n5, max $555,550. Includes letter from alleged founder Betsy A. Jordan "who claims to be a 53-year-old widow with terminal lung cancer who got the idea after getting a $5 birthday gift in the mail one day from her mother." Jordan claims received $1.8 million in three years. "I have absolutely no reason to story you: I'm too close to meeting my maker." Letter claims attorney checked out for legality; receipt of up to $10,000 a year tax exempt because they are gifts. CPA: "When you have to do something to generate money, you can't call it a gift," hence taxable. State Attorney general recently closed the "Executive Income Program" MCL. One woman has received 60 pyramid and MCL pitches. Accompanying article gives claims of winnings & losses.]
Sherman. "The Chain Letter: Don't You Believe
It!" August 1975, 28.8, pp. 82-86.
[Psychic Harold Sherman estimates that in his lifetime he has received "at least 100 chain letters, all of them promising great good luck, usually within four days, if I will continue the chain by making 20 copies of the letter and mailing them on to a list of friends." If you receive one he advises you throw it away, and gives a meditation to accompany this. A "condensed" text of a DL letter (names were present but are not given) is given [le1975]. The text appears very nearly complete. Sherman notes some inconsistencies, including that late compliance nevertheless produced good luck. He does not note the compound nature (contradictory origins) of the DL letter.]
THE FLORIDA TIMES-UNION. 1978. Karen
Brune & R Huard,
" 'Circle of Gold' chain letter surfaces
in Jacksonville." Sunday, Dec. 10, Sec.
B, p. 1+.
[$100 per person Circle of Gold MCL in South Georgia and Jacksonville. The Times-Union purchased a letter for $100: it claims to have received "approval of legal counsel," has two pages of instructions and two (?) lists of 12 names. Top name an Indiana man who says he has collected $1000, says letter came from California. Participant: "You have to call people and push it. I called one woman who said she sold the one but couldn't sell the other. I just picked up the phone and sold it." Savannah saturated. <law> State Attorney's Office can file injunction in circuit courts forcing participants to return items of value received and get back items they have sent.]
FLS NEWS (THE NEWSLETTER OF THE FOLKLORE SOCIETY -LONDON).
Simpson, "Chain Letter (2)." n. 21,
June, p. 11.
[Summarizes and contrasts two DL type LCLs received in 1993 (FLS, Dec. 1993) and 1995 (The Independent, Jan. 16, 1995). Few direct quotes. Name and amount variations. The 1993 is signed by "Samuel & Gordon." The 1995 uses pounds and reads: "The chain comes from Venezuela and was written by Gordon Lane de Sampa . . ."]
NEWS (THE NEWSLETTER
OF THE FOLKLORE SOCIETY). 2000. Jacqueline
Simpson, "Chain Letters." n. 32, November,
[Gives partial text of 1916 postcard chain letter, likely one collected by Paul Smith. Cites Phyllis Nye ( The Independent, 6 May 2000, Review section, p. 2) that her parents thought of chain letters as "pernicious" (even a postcard exchange) because "during the First World War they and many people they knew had received letters threatening death or horrors to their loved ones in the trenches of France if the chain was broken." Comments on the Letters from Heaven.]
FLS NEWS (THE NEWSLETTER OF THE FOLKLORE SOCIETY).
2001. T. R. Edwards,
"Chain Letters." n. 33, February, p. 8.
[Translates the "Letter of St. Nektarios" (from I. M. Hafzifatis, Orthodoxia ke Laikes Doxastes, Ellinika Grammata, Athens, 1996, p. 81). Full English text. "Write this letter 13 times and send it to 13 people and in 13 months you will be fee from various problems."]
S. Udal, "Obeah in the West Indies." V. 26,
[Text of "Letter from Jesus" sold in the Caribbean to protect homes from fire.]
FOLKLORE. 1917. "Letters from Heaven."
V. 28, p. 318-320.
[Responses to FOLKLORE 1915 concerning Letter from Heaven. Presence in south England (to protect against witchcraft and assure safety in childbirth) and America ("written . . . in letters of gold, or with His blood"). References. Father Delahaye traces back to end of sixth century.]
FOLKLORE. 2005. Stephen G. Olbrys,
"Money talks: folklore
in the public square." V. 116,
No. 3, December, p. 292-310.
[Thorough discussion of "currency chains": messages and petitions written on paper money.]
FOLK-LORE RECORD. 1878. "West Sussex
V. 1, p. 23.
[An old woman keeps a copy of the Letter from Jesus (to Abgarus), purchased from a peddler, to ward off witchcraft and the evil eye.]
FORBES. 1994. Fleming Meeks, "Chain
June 20, p. 251-52.
[Investment in Alpacas merely because the price is going up (the "greater fool theory").]
GALESBURG REGISTER-MAIL (Galesburg, Illinois). 1977. Comment by Jack Anderson. May 12. p. 4.
["Assistant Agriculture Secretary J. Paul Bolduc, imbued with the new White House morality, is incensed over a chain letter circulating in his department. It is a humorous letter, started as a joke, calling the recipients to send their wives to the top name on the letter (wifex). But Bolduc took the letter seriously and fired off a a scathing memo to all the department's 11,500 employees. He warned the chain-letter recipients to forward the evidence to the Agriculture Department's records division.]
THE GENTLEMAN'S MAGAZINE. 1867.
"A Curious Charm."
J. T. Fowler. Dec., p. 786
[Jesus' Sabbath Letter. A copy of "one in the possession of an honest farmer's wife at Saltfleetby St. Clement's, who was very loth to part with it, even for an hour." Complete text. "This curious document has doubtless been copied many times and treasured up, as it is even now at Saltfleetby."]
GEORGE WASHINGTON LAW REVIEW. 1936.
Andrew G. Haley,
"The Broadcast and Postal Lottery Statutes."
V. 4, p. 475-496.
[Essential elements of a lottery: consideration, chance and prize. Detailed definitions of these. Lottery statutes construed to prevent evasion "for the mind of man, inspired by cupidity and the desire for unjust enrichment over his fellow man, has invented innumerable subterfuges." " 'Chain letter' enterprises have as their inducement the awarding of prizes on the basis of one's position or relative standing in line." "After the first few 'pay offs,' many contingencies governing one's standing are so remote as to be unascertainable. Even where the schemes are so planned that eventually all participating will receive a prize, but at different times, it is apparent that an inequality of chance prevails." Legal references.]
GERMAN AMERICAN ANNALS.
M. Fogel, "The Himmelsbrief." V.
10, p. 286-311.
[Traditional letters (Himmelsbrief) among Pennsylvania Germans. " . . . we have in the Himmelsbrief the old heathenism under the garb of Christianity." Six categories: St. Germain, Holstein, Mechelburg, Himmelsriegel, Count Philip of Flanders, and Magdeburg. All in German except one Holstein, the Count Philip letter, and the "Endless Chain of Prayer" (an early form of the "Ancient Prayer" LCL). Two versions exist, a long and short. Complete text given of the short version, later referred to as the "Endless Chain Letter." Bishop Lawrence mentioned in the text was an Episcopalian (not a Methodist) - see Lawrence 1926. Reference supplied by Alan Mays.]
THE GETTYSBURG TIMES (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania), 1924. "Chain Letter Start of Shooting" April 8, p. 6.
[Woman attempts to kill herself and her invalid sister after breaking a chain letter. "The prayers were not written and the aged woman steeped in melancholy sought happiness through ridding the world of the burden of existences of herself and her sister."]
GODDARD, DWIGHT (Ed.).
1938. A Buddhist
Bible. Boston: Beacon Press
[The Diamond Sutra promises great merit to those who "zealously and faithfully observe and study this Scripture, explain it to others and circulate it widely..." (p. 96). The Surangama Sutra: "Ananda, should any sentient beings in any of the kingdoms of existence, copy down this Dharani on birch-bark or palm-leaves or paper made of papyrus or of white felt, and keep it safely in some scented wrapping, this man no matter how faint-hearted or unable to remember the words for reciting it, but who copies it in his room and keeps it by him, this man in all his life will remain unharmed by any poison of the Maras." (p. 275)]
GOOD HOUSEKEEPING. 1969. "Why most
chain letters are illegal." V. 169, July, p. 141.
[Basic legal facts. Miscalculated return from a MCL with specs s$1n6q6. "Ninety-nine percent of the people who participate in circulating chain letters do not realize they are breaking the law" - H. J. Wallenstein, Asst. Attorney General of N.Y.]
GOOD OLD DAYS.
1977. "Chain Letter
Madness." Esther Norman. Vol. 13, No.
9, March, p. 4-48.
[Rare nostalgia magazine. Esther Norman comments on the 1935 Send-a-Dime craze. "The best kind, the experts decided, were the ones that would 'scare' the ones who received the letters into complying with keeping the chain unbroken." Gives complete text (no addresses) of Send-a-Dime type with general bad luck threats, me1936uup_sd_badluck_q5. Also gives text of a Send-a-Dime letter with non-traditional explanations, me1935u_sd_norman. Says she and her friends were "afraid" to break chains. Says handkerchief and tea-towel exchange letters followed. Quit responding after receiving quarter money chain. Only source for a money chain letter with bad luck threats.]
GOOD PROFITS IN CHAIN LETTERS? YOU BE THE JUDGE.
Publications, Huntington Beach, CA.
[Mail order publication, 16 pages stapled. MCL appeal: (1) promise of big, quick profits. (2) small start-up costs, (3) easy work, (4) all cash business. Sent out 86 questionnaires with SASE to participants in five chain schemes. Received 54 responses (25 positive, 19 negative, 10 uncertain). Promoters strategies: use of aliases, group efforts, selling addresses and printing services. Woman in top slot (of four, selling reports) knew nothing of chain, returned dollars. Legal: text of codes. MCL texts include "Millionaire's Newsletter" testimonial accompanying "The Letter." Sample of "report": "How to Raise $10,000 Overnight."]
GOODSPEED, EDGAR J. 1931.
Gospels. Univ. of Chicago Press.
[Christian apocrypha - much was expanded upon in Goodspeed 1956. "The most ambitious and yet the most commonplace of modern apocrypha is probably the "Letter of Jesus Christ," said to have been found under a stone near Iconium, where it was deposited by the angel Gabriel. It is sometimes sent through the mail with a request that the recipient send copies of it to three others, as some great misfortune is likely to befall him if he does not. 'Do not break the chain.' It was published almost in full some years ago in the Chicago Evening Post, and is sometimes found framed on the walls of people of more piety than intelligence." (p. 100)]
GOODSPEED, EDGAR J.
Apocrypha. Boston: Beacon Press.
[History of the "The Letter from Heaven" (concerning Sunday, Lady Cubass). Complete text. Origin (R. Priebsch): Ebusa Island (Latin) sixth century. Bishop of Carthagena denounced it in a letter of 584 AD. Reappeared through the centuries. English form much simplified, from 1700, may have added the Abgar and Lentulus letters. Mentions "A Letter of our Lord Jesus Christ, Found on the Grave of the Mother of God," revealed when the patriarch of Jerusalem smote a stone that had fallen from heaven.]
GREGG, JOHN ROBERT. 1941.
Practice, Second ed.
New York: The Gregg Publ. Co.
[Up to 4 carbons OK with standard weight first sheet (20#) and light copy sheets (13#). Up to 10 copies OK with light first sheet (p. 12). Now obsolete duplicating methods: mimeograph, gelatin duplication, liquid duplicators, multigraph, multilith, Vari-Typer, Hooven typewriter, Postal-card duplicators and multifax (Ch. VI). Multigraph (p. 142) produces letters that look typewritten. Type is set on a cylindrical drum and covered with an inked fabric ribbon. Paper fed between type drum and a rubber platen roller.]
THE (MANCHESTER) GUARDIAN. 1990. "Diary"
- Judy Rumbold.
Nov. 7, p. 21: 2.
[Brief mention of husband exchange parody CL "currently circulating in New York." Some text; receive 16,748 men. One woman broke the chain and "got her own son-of-a-bitch back."]
GUIGNÉ, ANNA. 1993. The
Wish' Complex: A Case Study of the Relationship
Between Reality and Tradition. (M.A.
Thesis), Memorial University of Newfoundland.
[<guigne> Thorough analysis of the Craig Shergold appeal. Examples of similar appeals, many full texts. References.]
HAND, WAYLAND. 1959.
"A North Carolina
Himmelsbrief." In Middle-Ages-Reformation.
of North Carolina Studies in Germanic Languages
and Literatures, No. 26. Chapel Hill, p. 201-207.
[Complete text of "Our Saviour's Letter" (Cubas) from No. Carolina, with differences present in an earlier English broadside (Herefordshire). Legend of how the "Ancient Letter" reached America, with bad luck for failing to publish it. Newspaper references. Early Christian belief in letters from heaven. Some believe magic & holy writings lose efficacy when copied off (note 13). "...a practice whose origins are to be found more in journalism and in the printing trade, perhaps, than in religious history or folklore."]
HAND, WAYLAND (Ed.) 1961. The Frank
C. Brown Collection
of North Carolina Folklore, V. 6.
Durham: Duke University Press, p. 11-12.
[ "A charm known as 'The Letter of Jesus Christ' will insure the safe delivery of a child, if possessed by the mother." References to published texts of Himmelsbrief, including Jewish, foreign, Islamic.]
HAND, WAYLAND; CASETTA, K. & THIEDERMAN, S
Popular Beliefs and Superstitions:
A Compendium of American Folklore From the Ohio
Collection of Newbell Niles Puckett,
V. 2. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co.
[P. 845 & 907: Six accounts of belief in good / bad luck, e.g. ". . . if you break a 'chain-of-luck letter,' disaster is sure to follow" (F, age 66). Complete text of LCL with specs q4+1, d1, w4. Name list of 15 at bottom omitted.]
HAND, WAYLAND & TULLY, FRANCIS. 1996?.
"Chain Letter. "Encyclopedia
of American Popular Beliefs and
Superstitions. New York: Oxford
[Quotes Duncan, Dundes and de Lys. African missionary letter - ref. Hyatt. Send-a-dime basics. Classification of CLs: (1) financial, (2) religious/lucky, (3) humorous/satiric, (4) leisure/interest. For MCL calls copy quota its "width," number of names on list its "length." Motivations.]
HARRISBURG TELEGRAPH. (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania). 1929. "Worry over chain letter breaking excites victim." Sept. 3, p. 6
[Brighten, England. "Found in Field without Food for Four Days After Incident." Found semi-conscious on the downs. Had scribbled: "I have broken a Flanders Field chain of luck and this is my punishment." He and wife had put the letter in the fire.]
HOBBIES, THE MAGAZINE FOR COLLECTORS. 1935.
V. 40, No. 8, October.
[(1) Autographs - A Chain Letter. "A chain letter that was started in 1894 by seventeen members of the Eureka College, Eureka, Ill., graduating class, has been going the rounds for these forty-one years. When a member receives it he chronicles his activities and thoughts and sends it on. So far it has traveled to China and the remote corners of the world several times. Fourteen members of the class are still alive and contribute to the letter about twice a year." (2) Market Notes and News. "The custom of inscribing the initials S.A.G. on the backs of letters, dates back to 1729, and supposedly insures the letter against any mishaps along the route to its destination. The letters abbreviate Saint Anthony Guide, and the custom is mainly Roman Catholic." (3) Market Notes and News. "The chain-letter racket, which is practically non-existent now, has been the cause of some interesting oddities in the news. When the idea first started, about five months ago, many collectors started a "philatelic chain" and sent to many (if not all) of their friends. A number of these letters were sent abroad, especially in Europe. And therein lies the story. It seems that our foreign neighbors have more faith in this American idea, then our own brethren, for they (in most cases) promptly continued the chain and the recipients promptly forwarded additional letters. Now reports come from all over the United States that the original instigators are receiving stamps for their trouble - and in most cases very good stamps. One South American collector boosted the value up to about $5, and then forwarded that amount in mint airs to an Eastern collector."]
HYATT, HARRY MIDDLETON. 1935.
Adams County Illinois. New York: Memoirs
of the Alma Egan Hyatt Foundation, p. 420-421.
[Population: "During the latter part of 1933 a 'chain letter' fad appeared." Complete text of LCL, q5n6d1w9. Hyatt deleted two names and two towns. Chicago (Cook County) appears twice in senders list.]
1916. "Chain Charity."
V. 86, May 8, p. 199
[Complete text of charity chain letter (for Billy).]
THE INDEX-JOURNAL (Greenwood,
South Carolina), 1940. "Nazi 'Victory' Handbills
Put in N. Y. Subways." May 28, p. 1
[New York. May 25 (AP) - "German 'victory' handbills were scattered mysteriously in several subway trains yesterday, reading: On to Paris! On to London! Sieg Heil! (hail victory) Heil Hitler! The Daily News says hundreds of German-Americans have received, from the 'league for the cultivation of personal friendship with foreigners' in Berlin, first letters for a pro-German chain letter campaign."]
THE INDIANAPOLIS NEWS.
1930. "Chain Letters." January
31. P. 6
["going the rounds at the present times. Full text, title uncertain, list mentioned. Statements about authors - no reference: "The few known instigators of a chain letter have been lonely persons more or less isolated from life. They incline toward mysticism and believe that the letters stir some beneficial current of thought. Thousands of people thinking about happiness are bound to produce it, they feel. The bait about the happy event on the eighth day is held out to make the readers concentrate their attention on the thought."]
INDIA OBSERVER. 1872. "Some strange papers
. . . " Feb. 17,
p. 101, col. 2
[Cited in JOURNAL OF SOCIAL HISTORY. 1987. "Some strange papers have been going around the north of Tirhoot." ". . . the cows have complained to Jagannath that all the wastelands are being cultivated, and that Jagannath has promised to curse any one who cultivates waste lands . . . " and "cause the house of anyone who fails to pass on these papers to be burnt." Reporter suggests local police detectives track down the origin, possibly across the border in Nepal.]
INTELLIGENCER JOURNAL (Lancaster, Pa.). 1988.
David Sturm, "Illegal
Chain Letter Surfaces Here." Jan.
20, pp. 1,2.
[Dave Rhodes MCL. Norfolk, Va. had one Dave Rhodes but number was unlisted. Postal Inspector speculates that Dave Rhodes is a fictional person, and that the letter was a way for a mailing list company to drum up business (S. E. Ring Mailing Lists Co. of Fort Lauderdale). Says "chain letters have crossed his desk every day for the 23 years he has been a postal inspector."]
JAMES, MONTAGUE R. 1953. The Apocryphal
London: Oxford Univ. Press. Correction
of the 1924 edition.
[Mentions "the Letter of Christ concerning Sunday, extant in almost every European language and in many Oriental versions. It was fabled to have fallen on the altar at Jerusalem, Rome, Constantinople..." English text of the letter from Abgarus (of Edessa) to Jesus and his reply. "Later texts add a promise that where this letter is, no enemy shall prevail; and so we find the letter copied and used as an amulet." English text of the "Letter of Lentulus," a description of Christ's physical appearance from about the 13th century. The oldest text does not present the document as a letter, but begins: "It is read in the annual-books of the Romans that our Lord Jesus Christ, who was called by the Gentiles the prophet of truth, was of stature..."]
JOURNAL NEWS (Hamilton, Ohio). 1931. "That Chain Letter Again!" Sept. 25, p. 9.
[Complains of receiving LCL. Starts: "Good luck and good health." Started by a general in the American Artillery. "Pola Negri owes her fortune to having carried out these instructions." Advises one turn over chain letters to the postmaster. This is the "Fortune Chain" - full text of another is in the archive.]
JOURNAL OF AMERICAN FOLK-LORE. 1895.
"Notes on the Folk-Lore
of Newfoundland." V. 8, p. 286.
[Brief mention of "the letter of Jesus Christ" which promises safe delivery in child-bed and freedom from bodily hurt.]
JOURNAL OF MODERN HISTORY. 1990.
"The Peasant Nightmare: Visions of
Apocalypse in the Soviet Countryside." V.
62, p. 747-770.
[Peasant rumors and apocalyptic prophecy in protest of Soviet collectivization in the 1920's. Rumors of miracles: renewed icons, appearance of crosses, secret flames, holy springs. Rumor that disbelief was punished: "a peasant who laughed at the story fell off his horse and became ill." Three apocalyptic themes: "the reign of Antichrist, impending war and invasion, and the destruction of traditional ways of peasant life." ". . . leaflets or proclamations were distributed or appeared mysteriously. Elsewhere, heavenly letters written by the hand of God, the Virgin Mary, or Christ appeared." In one God wrote: "If this non-belief continues, then in two years the world will come to an end. I can no longer be patient." Heavenly letters played a similar role during the late Middle Ages (Cohn 1957). Footnote 59: "In addition to leaflets, rumors were circulated in chain letters, promising great joy or sorrow depending on whether the letter was delivered or not." ]
THE JOURNAL OF POPULAR CULTURE. 1976.
"The hoax as popular culture." V.
9, n. 4, p. 767-774.
[Brief mention of depression era MCLs as a "popular money hoax."]
JOURNAL OF SOCIAL HISTORY. 1987.
Ananda A. Yang,
"A Conversation of Rumors: The Language
of Popular Mentalitès in Late Nineteenth-Century
V. 20, p. 485-505.
[Rumors of peasants in the Bihar region of northeast India in the late nineteenth century. Illiteracy widespread, regular channels of communication closed to them. Census rumors: prelude to: household and other taxes, inscription, forced emigration, forced conversion. "Religious rumors were generally encoded with the sanction of a sacred authority, either a place or person, and with a message promising dire consequences if they were not disseminated further - often in chain-letter fashion - by their recipients." Some text of three CLs. Tree daubing: splash of mud with black hairs imbedded - replicated - spread described - rumors followed. Rumors often invoked Hindu gods to attain authority - "fittest" survived.]
JOURNAL OF SOCIAL HISTORY. 1991.
Robert Orsi. "The
Center Out There, In Here, and Everywhere
Else: The Nature of Pilgrimage to the Shrine
of Saint Jude, 1929-1965." V5, Winter, N2: pp.
[National shrine of Saint Jude Thaddeus founded by Spanish Claretian Fathers in Chicago in 1929. Jude's devout told "they need never come to Chicago to participate fully in the cult." Jude called "the Patron Saint of 'Anglos'" by Mexican American women (1958). Jude's early titles included "the Forgotten Saint," the "Obscure and Unknown Saint." Social history of Catholic ethnic communities in 20th century contribute to decentralization of Jude devotion. Note 44: "This desire and commitment to making Jude known around the country is also the motive for the ubiquitous notices thanking the saint that appear in the classified sections of newspapers." "Synchronicity, the unexpected coincidence of events, was thought to disclose Jude's actions or intentions, and so the devout carefully marked the moment when they first encountered the saint and noted the timing of his response" (p. 221). "They also referred self-consciously to the timing of their own expressions of gratitude: what was important to them was not that they went someplace in return for the saint's intervention but that they did something within a certain amount of time." "Jude's was a postal devotion and writing replaced going as the primary devotional act."]
JOURNALISM MONOGRAPHS. 1994. Nathaniel
Hong, "Down with
the Murderer Hitler!" No. 146,
[Dissident expression in Denmark, 1940-42, incl. leaflets, chain letters, stickers, posters, graffiti, songs, symbols, flags and theater demonstrations. Based on police reports. Leaflets encouraged hand copying; two early forms became combined (p. 6). Police tracing and other investigative methods. Lord's Prayer political parody: "Our Führer / Who is in Germany / . . ." (p. 9). "This is about Denmark's Freedom" had heading "KÆDEBREV" (CHAIN LETTER), explicitly asked copies be made and admonished "Don't break the chain" (p. 12). Government posters "improved" with anti-German messages (p. 15). BBC Danish-language broadcast initiated use of "V" graffiti (p. 15). Methods of distribution (p. 21-2).]
THE KANSAS CITY STAR (Kansas
City, Missouri), 1911. "The Chain Letter", Sept. 18,
[Interviews Dr. Edwin M. Fogel (Univ. of Pennsylvania), who "has made a study of folklore and strange superstitions. "I have made a collection of 2,500 superstitions, and at lest 90% of them are of Germanic origin." ... "Every now and then there crops up in the newspapers a story about an 'endless chain of prayer,' a letter which is sent to three persons, each of whom must copy it and send it to three others on penalty of a curse. It is a Germanic superstition of the same kind as the belief in the 'Magdeburg' letter of Christ." Note: I have yet to find such a quota three letter, or a story about one. - DWV]
THE KANSAS CITY STAR (Kansas City, Missouri), 1935. "Kidders' Busy On Chain" May 1, p. 2 (continued from p. 1).
["The Kansas City, Kansas, police department must dream its dreams of sudden wealth off duty in the future. Chief W. H. Stone today prohibited the further use of the mimeograph machine for the printing of form letters for the dime chain. The daily bulletin of yesterday was late because of the use of the machine."]
KEYSTONE FOLKLORE QUARTERLY. 1972.
Mac E. Barrick,
"The Typescript Broadside." V.
17:1, Spring, p. 27-38.
[Several examples of erotic print folklore. Circulated since the 1920's. Once typed with reversed carbon so only read with mirror. Complete text of "Fertilizer Club" parody & variant from 1971. Printed material has advantage over oral in the workplace since it can be read surreptitiously.]
KINGSPORT (TENNESSEE) TIMES. 1935. "'Prosperity Club' Letter Forms Will Be Given at Shows" May 6, p. 3.
["'Prosperity Club' chain letter forms will be given away free after 12 o'clock tomorrow at the three theatres here. The announcement was made late today by the management of the theatres. The blanks are artistically designed with all reading material available and with ample space for the desired addresses." "The 'Prosperity Club' letter forms will be available at all three theatres after tomorrow at noon. The management extends a cordial invitation for the public to visit the theatres and take advantage of the extra service."]
KIPLINGER'S PERSONAL FINANCE MAGAZINE. 1993.
Ronaleen R. Roha,
"Inside the Head of a Mail-Order Crook."
Jan., p. 73-75.
[Strategies of mail-order cons including stuff envelopes.]
I. J. & FOREY,
P. L & HUMPHRIES, C. J. &
WILLIAMS, D. M. Cladistics - The theory
and practice of parsimony analysis. Second
edition. Oxford University Press. 1998.
[From the back cover: "The book begins with an explanation of the fundamental concepts in cladistics, such as the meaning of relationships, systematic groups, and their recognition through processes of homology. The types of characters that can be used in cladistic analysis are examined, followed by the methods used for coding these observations for computer analysis. The construction of cladograms and consensus trees is explained, and the contentious area of three-item statements, a different method of representing relationships among taxa, is explored."]
LAMAR TRI-STATE DAILY NEWS. 1979. Michael
"Colorado Lore and Language . . . What
Evil Will Plague You If Chain Letter Is Broken?"
July 30, p?
[Receives DL type LCL; partial text (have original letter -DWV). Female recipient of LCL worried about bad luck for three days, then sent 20 copies. General Walsh name and amount variants. Partial text of recipe XCL.]
LA PORTE HERALD-ARGUS.
1976. (Laporte County,
Indiana). D. Reed Eckhardt. "Chain letters
blooming." April 10, 1976.
[Debunks pyramid schemes. Bicentennial Savings Bond scheme (send $2 - $1 for each hundred years). Exchange of recipes and post cards are not illegal "because they are not considered a 'thing of value'." Claims post cards with threat of bad luck are prohibited "because it is against the law to place threatening matter on the outside of mail." (Ruled unconstitutional in 1973 - DWV)]
LARDNER, RING. 1946.
"On Chain Letters."
The Portable Ring Lardner, New York:
Viking, p. 567-570. Originally from "Ring
Lardner's Weekly Letter," distributed by
Bell Syndicate, August 6, 1922.
[Complete text (no names) of Good Luck LCL. Name list: fifty. <numbers> Received twelve of these "endless chain" letters since the summer. Original source supplied by Scott Topping.]
LAWRENCE, WILLIAM. 1926.
a Happy Life. Boston and New York:
Houghton Mifflin Co., p. 282-283.
["For two or three years, beginning in 1906, I was harassed by an outcropping of superstition in the form of a prayer chain, the source of which I have never discovered. Complete text, includes "This prayer was sent out by Bishop Lawrence . . ." Lawrence continues: "Letters of inquiry, protest, and condemnation came to me from over the country, Europe, and beyond. The Associated Press and leading newspapers cooperated in an effort to stop the nuisance."]
LEBANON DAILY NEWS (LEBANON, PA). 1930. "Mason Chain Letter Pest Annoys Lebanon. Feb. 25, p. 4
["Members of the Masonic fraternity in and about Lebanon are being pestered by chain letter writers." Full text. "Each copy is supposed to carry the list of surnames of those who hve complied with the magical request. The names on some of the Lebanon letters look like a list of prominent families here."]
LETTERS TO AMBROSE MERTON.
Renard. "Chain Letter from France."
Spring, 2001, p. 24-25.
[Original French text and English translation of 1999 luck chain letter, plus image of envelope. Copy quota nine (including received copy). Miracle working sick child attributed as author. ". . . see what will happen to you within 4 days." Write "RF" on envelope instead of stamp. Renard suspects circulation among children. French post office response to chain letters, envelope stamped "Chaine Inadmis".]
1935 (Day 92).
Donald Furthman Wickets, "Chain
Letter Madness." V. 12, n. 29, July
20, p. 30-33.
[Questionable text of send-a-dime with fictitious names. Only source for LCL protesting Sabbath violations (c. 1902); specs q7d7w7, titled "The Prayer Chain." Near complete text. Text of harsh threat says was added, then "tens of thousands of prayer letters flooded the mails." Circulation in China, Africa and South America (source?). <immunization> "Folks who sent out some of the early letters began to receive their echoes." Plausible origin story of send-a-dime: "A Denver attorney . . . told the writer a tale that seems likely. One day early in April a woman client came to his office. She was deeply distressed over the plight of several families she had known for years. These people had been forced to go on relief through no fault of their own and at a considerable cost of pride. She had worried and pondered. The result was a plan to help these families and possibly many more in similar circumstances. She proposed sending out dime chain letters to her friends, listing the families' names. Did the lawyer consider the plan illegal? He told her he could see no harm in thus soliciting charity donations - and so perhaps the snowball was started." Methods of cheating. "Cheater-proof" notarized letter. The "guaranteed" letter in which two copies are "sold," letters pass hand-to-hand. Stories of winnings. "Donald Furthman Wickets" was a pen name for George Sylvester Viereck. Note that both names have 6-7-7 letters.]
THE LIMA NEWS (LIMA, OHIO). 1889. "A Very Costly Building" Feb. 28, p. 2
[Estimates cost of a charity chain letter to build a town hall building in Canton, Maine. Cited here because it uses the term "progressive chain letter scheme."]
LITERATURA LUDOWA. 1988. Bednarek
sw. Antoniego." no. 1, pp. 23-30.
[<Polish> My copy is missing text. Contains text of nine luck chain letters. Have English translation by Yana Tishchenko of four dated ones (1, 2, 4, 5).]
LITERARY DIGEST. 1933. "Chain Selling Competes
June 24, V. 115, p. 31.
[Brief account of chain selling scheme from the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press: "You buy two packs of cards for a dollar. Their worth is questionable. You then become a registered salesman with the playing-card sales promoter. You then sell three people the same article and start them selling . . .You get a commission on the first three sales they make. You get a commission on all that you sell after the first three."]
LITERARY DIGEST. 1935 (Day 29). "Chain-Letter
V. 119, May 18, p. 38.
[Send-a-dime. <variations> XCLs: liquor, hay, kiss, find lost husband. Benefits business: stationers, type-writer agencies, stenographers. Recruitment: hiring boys to drop CLs on porches. Calculations. Postal receipts.]
1937. "Quick Riches."
V.123, April 24, p. 5-6.
[Questionable Prosperity type LCL text fragment. Prior letters typed on tissue paper (Good Luck) - "this letter was started in the fields of Flanders for the good of humanity." Celebrity testimonials. Send-a-dime. Subsequent get-rich-quick schemes: radio club (Toledo), recreational-park membership (Dayton), vacation-fund (Atlantic City), Ruby Hospital building fund (Ponca City Florida, 1935).]
LOS ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER. 1980a.
'chains' multiplying too fast to stop."
May 21, p. A3.
[California pyramid schemes. Participants a "cross-section". Los Angeles: hundreds of calls a day asking about legality; at least 100 clubs (c. 30 persons each). Parties busted. Herschel Elkins, Asst. State Attorney General: pyramid clubs were known in Los Angeles in the 1940's. 4 or 5 weeks to clean out an area before plan collapses. Alameda County High school pyramid: ounce of marijuana to buy in, pay-off a pound.]
HERALD EXAMINER. 1980b. News Focus: "Pyramids: 'Brother
can you spare a dime,' 1980-style." May 22, p. A1+.
[<recruit, methods> Local pyramid schemes. Harold Gerard, UCLA social psychologist, blames economy. About 40,000 attend "pyramid parties" in Los Angeles last night (est. 150 to 400 parties). Accounts of arrests. Most common ante $1000, win $16,000. Studio employee: "Studio people are talking about nothing else." "... experts said the concept has been around for a long time, as far back as ancient Greece or Egypt." Dr. Richard P. Barthol, UCLA Psychologist: "This (buying into a pyramid) seems like a way to get ahead of inflation, at least for a while." Dr. Jerald Jellison, USC Psychologist: "... if you can get people to think bad times are coming, you can lessen rational thinking on the advisability of the investment." Cash withdrawals from banks. Robberies of winners. Some brought to meetings blindfolded. "I never saw anything like it in all my experience as a bunco detective, completely beyond the scope of my imagination." P. A15: "A pyramid winner tells how she won her money." Elizabeth Kyger, free-lance writer, 24, tells of splitting $16,000. "I've made great business contacts because of this." Says Ventura freeway westbound jammed in evenings because of pyramid parties.]
LOS ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER. 1980c.
"Mood of pyramid
participants turning ugly." May
24, p. A5.
[Two accounts of anger at Burbank pyramid party site. Out-of-towners now predominate. State Attorney General's office investigating possible links to organized crime. P. A1+ "Ante goes up to $5,000" Celebrity attendants to day-time pyramid party attempt to deceive or intimidate reporter upon leaving. Photo (p. 1): Policeman holds up "Pyramid Power" T-shirt confiscated in a raid. Letter "A" of "PYRAMID" forms pyramid.]
LOS ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER. 1980d.
"A Parable of Pyramids
and Pipe Dreams." -Marvin Chester, Ph.
D. May 28, p. A11.
[Analysis of s$500, q2x$500, n5 pyramid scheme. Hypothetical recruiting calls. <origin> "Pyramid money schemes are quite ancient." (?) Mentions tripling pyramid scheme in Grenoble, France in 1971, 21 francs to get on a list of 10 persons.]
LOS ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER. 1980e.
"500 rally at Girth
Park to promote money scheme."
May 27, p. 1+.
[Sign at rally: "Business Concept Power Happening." Attendants defend scheme, claim winnings, exchange pyramid gossip (meeting with 237 buys, a $100,000 ante game). <law> Ventura county brings felony conspiracy charges. Lawyers address crowd - urge no guilty pleas. Petition circulated to DA. Citizen's Individual Rights and Collective Legal Expression (CIRCLE) distributes fliers criticizing police and media. Photo: Bearded man in pyramid power T-shirt, $ sign between the two words.]
LOS ANGELES HERALD EXAMINER. 1980f.
"I really feel like
a sucker." June 1, p. 1.
[Young printer's account of collapse of pyramid. Printed 300 pyramid charts. Went in with 3 others at $250 each. Meeting at 8 PM sharp, door locked, a letter was read asking law enforcement and tax collection personnel to admit role. Another person explains pyramid and asks for buy-ins. Last meeting: only people who had lost were present, talk of violence.]
LOS ANGELES TIMES. 1935 (Day 2). "
'Send-a-dime' Letters Cause Postal Puzzle." April 21, p. 2:6.
[Housewives called newspapers wanting to know why the postal officials did not mind their own business. "President Roosevelt wants to redistribute the wealth, doesn't he." <origin> Nelson suggested person who started may have placed fictitious names on list.]
LOS ANGELES TIMES. 1935 (Day 8).
"Senders of Send-a-dime
Letters to Face Charges." April 27,
["Asst. U. S. Attorney Palmer said the senders will be arrested and charged with using the mails to defraud if any complaints are brought to his attention." "Postmaster Briggs said . . . the mailing was a violation of Sec. 215 of the Postal laws which govern endless chain enterprises." No local mail increase noted.]
LOS ANGELES TIMES. 1971. "Pyramid Distributor
Plans Put Under
SEC." Dec. 1, Part III, p. 9: 2.
[<law> Means (1) companies must register multi-level distributorships as securities, (2) disclose information about itself and plan to sell products, (3) puts them under anti fraud provisions of Securities Act. Exemptions include selling in just one state.]
LOS ANGELES TIMES. 1975. "Suit to Halt
Plot Filed." Feb. 12, Part I, p. 3:1.
[Three law enforcement agencies file suit to block massive 'endless chain' schemes in So. California involving savings bonds. Names of 26 persons indicted (misdemeanors). "An 'endless chain' is a scheme in which operators make money from the sale of memberships rather than from commissions on sales or legal investments." Scheme: recruit pays $37.50 to sponsor, receives list of 10 names and $25 savings bond (cost $18.75) which goes to top name. Recruit makes two lists with his name at bottom, sends two bonds to his top name. Then recruits two, regaining $75. $3 dues and cost of materials also asked. Specs: s$37.50, q2x$37.50, n10. Pyramid company names: the Six Pack (6 names); the Century Club ($100 bonds); the Exclusive One Million, Inc. (closes at one million membership); Uncle Sam Investment, Inc.; Your March of Bonds; the Inflation Defense Foundation. Fraudulent claims: system legal, infinite membership not required because of recycling, approval of state authorities.]
LOS ANGELES TIMES. 1980a. "Pyramid
Scheme Sweeping California," May 21, p. 1: 4.
[The "Business List Concept" MCL, specs. s$500, q2x$500, n5, max $16,000. Complaints to police. Legal: Section 327 of state Penal code reads "Every person who contrives, prepares, sets up, proposes or operates any endless chain is guilty of a
misdemeanor." Parties of 123 (Burbank) and 235 (Costa Mesa) raided, charts and names taken. Shortage of $100 bills, rush of withdrawals, run on safe deposit boxes (to hold hoped for unreported winnings). <methods> Participants locked in meeting room for up to five hours while "cells" are sold. <origin> Investigator says pyramid schemes are as old as this century (?). May 21, p. 24: "Visit to a Pyramid Party" by Nancy Graham. "Players Buoyed by Faith - and Greed." "It is a revival meeting, complete with exhortation and testimony and a final coming-forward of converts." Meeting arranged at a beauty parlor - venue shifted for security. Prior investors divided from others; they call out names of guests they invited, who cross the room to them. Speaker declares legal because of an expiration date. Demand for any law enforcement officers to depart. Claim untaxable (false). Testimonies: "This is friends - helping friends.!" ]
LOS ANGELES TIMES. 1980b. J. Michael
Schemes are a Sure Thing - at Least for
the Losers" May 22, p. 3.
[Participants often professionals. All money exchanged at meetings, held by invitation only. Position indicated by a chart. To "buy a cell" (one of 32) new investor pays $500 to top name and $500 to person recruiting them (at bottom of list). When all 32 cells sold pyramid splits in two, new meetings arranged. "The rule of thumb is that for every dollar someone makes, some one else will lose a dollar." Police usually stop pyramids by busting one and publicizing illegality - didn't work this time. Economic inflation may be a factor. Meeting described: 30 people, chart, door locked, fear of robbery. Male participant was on two other $1000 lists that "will probably die" because he had seen people buy in who were not willing to recruit. Kennedy says good luck letters started in WWI. Business List may be biggest MCL since depression fad. Origin unknown, describes spread. State: more than 200 arrests for Business List under Section 327. Complaints of supervisors pressuring employees to invest. Over 3000 protest crackdown at State Capitol: spokesman Tony Stathor, lawyer. Speculation that con artists start lists without paying.]
LOS ANGELES TIMES. 1980c. "Unable to
Stop Pyramid Games,
Police Officials Say." May 23, p. 3: 5.
[Growing number of complaints from people who lost money and offered to take undercover officers to the meetings. Location of raids. Shills now active in the pyramids, manipulation of the pyramid lists detected.]
LOS ANGELES TIMES. 1980d. "Pyramid
Party, Raiding Party Go to Queen Mary." May 29, Part II, p.
[Long Beach undercover police raid party of 100 people participating in a "Paradigm Foundation Seminar." Seize $15,000 and arrest five people. Group used circle divided into four quadrants, with seven positions in each quadrant. Entrance fee was $2,000, jackpot was $28,000. Half the funds go to "the foundation." The foundation "welcomes losers of pyramid parties ... for a "charismatic energy exchange" where participants "give, take and share while being together and having fun." Five pyramid parties raided in a Hollywood recording studio, 8 of 200 participants cited.]
LOS ANGELES TIMES. 1987. "Despite Claims
Ignore Letter of Law" S. J. Diamond.
Oct. 2, Part IV, p. 1: 1.
[Describes MCL received in Los Angeles, originated by "Edward L. Green" - untraceable and probably fictional. Sells token "reports." Specs: q200+, s4x$5, n5, max $55,550+. Phony affidavits. Quotes Don Davis, manager of U.S. Postal Inspection Services fraud branch on illegality and prosecutors strategies. Return: $40 one month after mailing 400 copies (Alton Fulton, Ky.).]
LOS ANGELES TIMES. 1990a. "Direct Sales:
A Party Line to
Profit" - Susan J. Diamond.
June 7, p. 1+.
[Direct sales. About 150,000 Tupperware parties in U S. on any night. Other products sold at parties: Sarah Coventry costume jewelry, Stanley Home Products, Princess House crystal stemware, Deco Plants, Miracle Maid "Water Seal" cookware, oil paintings, wine. "Direct selling" includes parties and door-to-door sales, representing about 1% of retail sales. Amway: 60% growth last year to $800 million. Stanley Home Products (est. 1931) credited with origin of home party sales - salesmen began doing demonstrations at club meetings. More the 80% of peddlers are women - DSA ( Direct Selling Association). About 33% sales done in offices. "The goods themselves are a necessary but minor part of the whole phenomenon of direct selling" - Harry Davis, Univ. of Chicago Prof. of Marketing. "Friends, neighbors and relatives are the best prospects for any new recruit" - Amway training literature. Home parties: hostess gathers friends and neighbors for the
salesperson. Includes group games, entertainment. Reciprocal obligations promote sales. Amway has 4600 employees and 500,000 independent distributors. Companies charge distributor for catalogues, order blanks, samples, hostess gifts and shipping. "You can do it" pep rallies. Praise and flashy gifts for sales achievements. Motivations of participants: (1) getting out, (2) meeting people, (3) belonging to an organization, (4) money. "Truly God has a plan, a purpose for our Company and He is working it out through ... our President." - Home Interiors and Gifts. "...it is sponsorship that moves people to higher
levels of command and income, usually depending on the total volume of their recruits' sales and the sales of their recruits' recruits." "They have . . . been judged false and deceptive only when recruiting itself brings reward, untied to product sales, or when new members have to buy their way into the organization." In 1975 the FTC found Amway to be misrepresenting distributor earnings and fixing prices.]
LOS ANGELES TIMES.
Smith, "The Chain Stops Here - Then
Again, Maybe Not." July 31, View section,
[Receives q5 LCL, the "Media" chain, from friend Jonathan Kirsch, "the distinguished attorney and literary person." Complete text (same as others). ". . . 28 previous letters enclosed, each signed by one person and addressed to five other persons." Most names are "well-known persons in the media, publishing and related fields. Also, there is a charming self-conscious flippancy in their notes of transmittal." First: "I can't believe I'm sending this." Second: "Sorry about this. . .but the game must go on." Others include: "What the hell. . .better safe than sorry!"; "A man will do anything out of fear."; "It's a comfort to know that not all strange behavior commences in California"; "Oh vey - this is the third one of these I've received - I should be really lucky by now. At least we're in tremendous company!"]
LUBBOCK EVENING JOURNAL. 1939. p. 4.
["That original chain letter [letter from heaven - DWV] had its inception years and years ago in Georgia, if we correctly remember, and it had an angle different from that of its later counterpart. It used to be sent to newspaper editors, demanding that the passage be published in the paper and setting out all sorts of dire consequences if the editors failed to acquiesce. Some of them even included descriptions of the horrors encountered by editors who received the letter and didn't publish it. The whole business was quite worrisome, we suppose to superstitious editors who didn't want to publish the matter, yet were afraid of the "swift, sure punishment" which would be theirs if they did not."]
LUCAS, E. V. 1923. "The
Snowball." Luck of the Year, Methuen, p. 34-35.
[A friend receives Good Luck LCL. Full text. Long list of names not given: "...joined by the word 'to'. The last two names were written by hand, the last of all being his own." Hence a "sent-to" list. Motivations to comply.]
LUKACH, HARRY C. 1913.
The Fringe of
the East. London: Macmillan
& Co. p. 243-245.
[About Turkey. Abgar was a dynasty name in a Frankish state in the Edessa area - first home of Christianity east of the Euphrates. Legend: Abgar V., suffering from an incurable disease, wrote Jesus asking him to come to Edessa to live and to heal him. Jesus replied: "Blessed art thou who hast believed in me without having seen me." Says will send a disciple. Complete text.]
LURE, V. F. 1993. "Holy Chain Letters as a
Phenomenon of Traditional
Folklore." Russkaia Literatura,
N1, p. 144-149.
[Have copy (Russian), no translation - DWV]
LYND, ROBERT. 1923.
Solomon in All
His Glory. Putnam, p.
[Same as THE NEW STATESMAN. 1922.]
MAD MAGAZINE. 1988. "A Mad Good Luck
V. 280, July, p. 48.
[Non-circulating parody of LCL with list of 10 prior recipients - all celebrities who had bad luck in 1987.]
THE MAIL EXCHANGE. 1996. "Chain Letter Collector."
Sept. / Oct., p.
2. (Collectibles newsletter distr. by Dianne
Olsen, P. O. Box 1277, Lompoc, CA 93438).
[Based on an E-mail interview with Daniel VanArsdale. VanArsdale comments on the ethics and illegality of chain letters, also early examples. "They (chain letters) represent an evolution independent of human needs and beyond our present understanding . . ."]
MAKE A MILLION. 1936. Monogram
Advertisement in The Bradford Evening Star and The Bradford Daily Record (Bradford, Pennsylvania), Feb. 18, 1936. p. 5.
[Ad reads: "A Laughing Expose of the Chain Letter Racket". This film is available as a DVD from Netflix. There is no mention of a chain letter, at least not in the version rented by Netflix in 2014.]
MARION (OHIO) STAR. 1934. "Writers of Chain Letters are Fined" Nov. 10, p. 4.
["Berlin - Sending, spreading and distributing chain letters now is punished with a fine up to 150 marks or six week's detention by German courts. Authorities are seeking to wipe out the chain letter plague and in recent weeks a number of sentences were passed in various cities of the reich. ... All activity in connection with chain letters is branded and prosecuted as 'gross misdemeanor'."]
THE MARION STAR 1940.
"Columbus Chain Letter Drive Opposes War. June
1, p. 1.
[Columbus, June 1 - "The 'chain letter' system is being used here to oppose war. ¶ The Council of Women Opposed to Participation in Foreign Wars asked its members to write a card opposing war to President Roosevelt and mail four other cards to friends requesting them to write the President and four friends.]
MIZUNO, KOGEN. 1982.
Origin, Development, Transmission.
Tokyo: Kosei Publishing Co.
[ p. 172: "The world's oldest extant examples of printing are dharani, or magical incantations, printed in Japan between 764 and 770, during the reign of Empress Shotoku. A total of over one million copies of four different dharani from the Great Dharani Sutra of the Spotless and Pure Light . . . were printed to be placed in the Hyakuman-to (One Million Pagodas) built at the command of Shotoku. In this sutra it is stated that if a person were to build several million small pagodas and place copies of dharani in them, that person's life would be lengthened, evil karma would be expunged, and rebels and enemies would be vanquished." A million 23 centimeter high wooden "pagodas" were constructed, a printed dharani was placed in each, and they were distributed to major temples.]
MOBERLY MONITOR-INDEX. 1935.
Chain Letter Fans Stump
Officials. April 20, p. 1.
[Subtitle: Denver Officials Deluged by 'Send-a-Dime', 'Redistribute Wealth' followers. Stevic: "It's against the law. It's illegal to solicit money through the mails. But what can I do about it?" "Nelson said actual fraud in the scheme is not readily apparent but it is possible that whoever started the chain may have placed a number of fictitious names in the list, so one person could receive the major portion of the first money brought in by the letters."]
THE MODESTO BEE AND NEWS-HERALD
1935. "Riot is Laid to Chain Letter Idea." May
23, p. 6.
[Los Angeles, May 22. "Approximately sixty men and women, led by a gray-haired woman who screamed that she had "lost $5," yesterday burst into a Hollywood "dollar chain" establishment, overturned furniture and ransacked files, and caused a riot call for the police. ¶ The three proprietors of the office escaped through a back door, leaving behind Miss Gloria Hughes, a stenographer. ¶ The angry crowd, apparently made up of disappointed investors in the "super-development" of the dime chain letter idea, ransacked the mail but found only $4.35 in stamp money kept in a cigar box. This was scattered about by one of the leaders and led to a wild scramble on hands and knees for the small change."]
MUNRO, ALICE. 1971. Lives
of Girls and Women.
[Fiction]. New American Library.
New York. pp. 137-138.
NASH, JAY ROBERT. 1976. Hustlers and Con
New York: M. Evans & Co., Inc. p. 26-32.
[Detailed operation of the "Spanish prisoner game" (con) - said to date from 1588 (ransom for Spanish Armada sailors imprisoned in England). By 1900 scheme involved wealthy prisoner in Mexico with beautiful young daughter. Very little text of traditional letter.]
THE NATION. 1935 (Day 54). Jay
du Von, "Chain-Letter
Madness." V. 140, n. 3649, June
12, p. 682-683.
[First "widely spread chain letter in the years since the war was the 'Good Luck' letter, based on the 'magic seven,' which was supposedly started by an army officer in Flanders." (Quota was nine for the US Good Luck letter -DWV). Send-a-dime. Chisel-proof variants: specs s$1,q2x$1,n10, max $1024 and q3x$1, n3, max $27 (?). Springfield Mo. phenomenon: salesmen hired to sell letters, "chain-letter factories" sell your letters, lines for blocks, 12 factories in Springfield (pop. 100,000). Letters mailed wholesale using city directories (Texas, Iowa). Relates to "Redistribute the wealth."]
NATIONAL LAMPOON. 1979. "Milo Kush." "Unchained
[Humorous fiction. "I was opening my mail one morning and got one of those chain letters. You know the kind -- very long, single-spaced, with a lot of instructions on how to keep the chain going. Something about continuing the Great Circle of Zoki." Cartoon. Describes various misfortunes until finally Milo Kush escapes from a government institution and tells his story.]
NATURE. 1994a. Oliver
& Richard Dawkins, Letter:
"The 'St Jude' mind virus". V. 371,
Sept. 1, p. 23-24.
[Receipt of DL type LCL. Full text. Authors' name for letter: "St Jude 1." Paul M. Griffo, national spokesman for the US Postal Inspection Service: ". . . it goes back farther than the institutional memory of the US Postal Service, and has periodic outbreaks." Newspaper references to other receipts. Analogies to a virus. Anxiety from receipt. Immunization effect. XCLs: underwear, postcards of naked Asian girls. CL protest of a disappearance. Craig Shergold appeal. Culture systems as "more complicated mental parasites and symbionts."]
NATURE. 1994b. Ian Dunn, Letter:
"The 'St. Jude'
gambit" V. 372, Nov. 3, p. 49.
[Response to above. Booster effect: anxiety from not complying discloses "a prior infection, a 'meme', that was successfully implanted in them. It required a challenge from the St. Jude virus to uncover the meme."]
THE NEW MEXICAN (Santa Fe, New Mexico). 1988. "Chain letter about film is a hoax" - Ann Landers. Jan. 20, p. D-7.
[Illinois Attorney General Neil F. Hartigan writes Ann Landers for help notifying people that a chain letter "that is distressing hundreds and thousands of Christians" is not true. There is no film being planned "in which Jesus Christ would be depicted as a swinging homosexual." "We have concluded that the 'Jesus movie' rumor originated in 1977 when a suburban Chicago publication, Modern People News, reported that certain interests in Europe were planning such a film and requested that their readers express their opinion of the purported project."]
THE NEW REPUBLIC. 1989. Joe Queenan,
"Chain of Fools."
V. 201, July 17&24, p. 8.
[Author's parody of DL type letter]
THE NEW REPUBLIC. 1990. Joseph
Diarist - Chain Gang." V. 203, Nov.
12, p. 46.
[Nocera: "Got the media chain letter in the mail the other day." Circulated among Washington media personnel last summer, New York earlier. Celebrity names and their comments. John Sterling: "I'm counting on you to break this ridiculous chain." ]
NEW SCIENTIST. 1992. Robin Dunbar,
"So what's in a
probability?" V. 134,
n. 1820, May 9, p. 49-50.
[Dunbar receives a "Media" CL in a large brown envelope "some weeks ago." Usual q5 with "accumulated correspondence that had passed successively down the line from at least one starting point in the US." All statements were from "professional scientists," says all "ended with a plea for understanding" for why they yielded to the threat of bad luck (e.g. "grant application pending," "a job interview next week"). Dunbar doesn't comply, has bad luck (family gets flu, more). However, "the chances of something going wrong on any given day are actually quite high, though we tend not to notice most of them unless something draws them more forcibly to our attention."]
THE NEW STATESMAN.
Lynd (Y. Y.), "Good Luck."
V. 19, April 15, p. 37-38.
[Prior postcard prayer chain: nine copies, to go around the world, magic of repetition. Full text of current secular Good Luck postcard chain: anonymous, disguised handwriting, received by half the population (England). Recipients annoyed. Agonizing over who to send it to. Same as Lynd 1923.]
NEWSWEEK. 1935 (Day 8). "Chain Letters:
Cast a Dime on
the Waters and Get Rich." V.5, April
27, p. 8-9.
[Basic facts of send-a-dime: a combination of "CL luck scheme" and "share-the-wealth plan." Sheldon Hosiery "chain selling-plan" of 1933.]
NEWSWEEK. 1935 (Day 29). "Chain: Al Smith
Gets Thousand Share-Wealth Letters, One Dime." V. 5, May 18, p. 9-10.
[Send-a-dime spreads. Cheating. Springfield: guaranteed letter, "Pot of Gold," "Chance of a Lifetime," "Cream of the Crop." Photos. Humorous variations. Celebrity receipts.]
1979. "Fool's Gold."
V. 93, Jan. 1, p. 56-57.
[Pyramid Schemes. Circle of Gold. Selling parties: pitches, Est and New Age overtones. Circle of Platinum ($1000). LA Actor Paul Kent charged with misdemeanor. Charges brought after organizers placed newspaper ad in Tulare County. Drying up in California.]
NEWSWEEK. 1995. Periscope: "Femail."
Vol. 126, n. 7,
Aug. 14, p. 6:1.
[Brief mention of the "Pretty Panty Exchange" XCL. ". . . mailboxes are flooded." "The girls-only nature of the letter is a big draw."]
1978. Marlene Adler Marks,
"Chain of Fools." Nov. 20, p. 15-18.
[Circle of Gold MCL: specs s$50, q2x$50, n12. Letter claims legality. Some text. Circle of Abundance MCL cost $1,000. Many comments of participants: "High energy," "It's the community," "Life is the number ones helping the number twelves." Recruitment parties: Vern Black (700 in SF); Beverly Hills (25); Est-like; pyramid power tie-in. "Gabriel" came from "the unknown Marin county headquarters of the Circle of Gold to address the faithful." <gender> Women participate five to one according to one authority. Origin: No. California, Marin County since July, "no one seems to be able to pinpoint the letter's original source." Woman in no. 1 position attends party, announces she has entered Circle of Abundance.]
THE NEW YORKER. 1995. The Talk of the
Town: "Trust Funding."
V. 71, n. 20, July 17, p. 23.
[Describes charity CL sponsored by the Orphanage Trust, legitimate British charity. Generated $200,000 in last 2 years for support of Romanian families willing to offer homes to Romanian orphans. Some text: "Please retype this letter on your letterhead and send it to ten individuals." Asks for three dollars - "no more." Media chain letter (or Brill?): "As with the self-conscious chain letter that seeped out of Hollywood several years ago promising good luck to those who passed it on and bad luck to those who didn't, photocopied lists of recipients are enclosed in each new appeal." Gives celebrity participants and in the case of Demi Moore the ten people she sent it to. Lists are scrutinized. "The lists are prime examples of the nineties phenomenon of celebrity friendship - the ethos of 'I'm not a celebrity myself, but some of my best friends are . . ."]
THE NEW YORKER. 1995. Jay McInerney,
V. 71, n. 42, Dec. 25 - Jan. 1, p. 76.
[Short story. A writer is losing his girlfriend. He discovers a LCL that he had received and speculates that breaking the chain is responsible for his difficulties. Actual text of DL type LCL but not complete. Parody of the "office employee" lose-win testimonial: "Collin McNab left the letter sitting on his desk. A week after he received it his girlfriend packed up her diaphragm and disappeared. Two weeks later Collin discovered the letter. He sent out 20 copies and his girlfriend returned and said she loved him . . ."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1906.
Fund." Sept. 27, p. 7: 2.
[Statement that McKinley National Memorial Association is not involved with an effort by Masons to collect money for a McKinley memorial. They received "a number of endless-chain letters" soliciting money for a monument at late president's cemetery lot in Canton, Ohio. Two such letters have been collected [1901, 1905].]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1914. "The 'Chain Prayer'
- Maud Nathan, April 28, p. 12: 5.
[Complains of receiving a "chain prayer," LCL (q9) with an "imputed curse". No text.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1915. "A 'Prayer' for the
Sick." Letter -
M. R. C., April 4, Sect. III, p. 2: 7.
[Hospitalized person complains of receiving an "Ancient Prayer" chain postcard with specs q9d9w10. Much indirect text .]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1916.
Prayer." Jan. 9, p. 6: 4.
[<abate, law> Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cincinnati denounces a "chain prayer letter." Ancient prayer type, specs q9d9w10, complete text . "Any one who recites the prayer and believes in the promise, sins against the First Commandment of the Decalogue." Estimated thousands circulating in NY City. "No legal way yet devised to punish its senders" - U.S. District Attorney.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1917a.
"Endless Chain Binds
Her." Feb. 9, p. 20: 4.
[Subtitle: "Nurse again urges that no more quarters be sent to her." Charity CL started more than a year ago by Miss Elizabeth Whitman, Superintendent of Nurses at the NY Eye and Ear Infirmary. Solicits quarter to buy anaesthesia for Allied hospitals. Collected more than $16,000.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1917b. "The British Red Cross."
April 1, part II,
p. 3: 3.
[American Committee of the British Red Cross has taken over the "Miss Whitman Chain Letter."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1917c.
"War Endless Chain
Overwhelms Nurse." June 3, p. 12: 1.
[Miss Whitman charity CL. Started more than 2 years ago. Transfer to American Committee of the British Red Cross - agreement for disbursement. "She proposed to stop the chain when it reached 100 letters, through the medium of numbering each letter sent out, but the chain went on beyond 100, and is now on its way to the 500 mark." Brought in $28,000+. Complete text (no generation number). Committee answers inquiries.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1917d.
"Germans Here Plot
to Clog U.S. Mails." Nov. 5, p. 22: 1.
[Subtitle: "Many endless chain letters started with view to overloading postal facilities." "The scheme, which calls for flooding the mails with millions of letters, each letter a link in one of a dozen or more chains, is said to have originated in Boston." Some propaganda, "others for peace or the protection of American soldiers and sailors in Europe." Copy quotas: 1,6,7,9. Letter targets: Masons, other fraternal organizations, Catholics (this nation-wide). Believed a plot because "most of them are worded alike." Partial text (Masonic - several lodges instructed members to ignore it): "Masons of old are said to have used this prayer." "Those that say or write it to another person will be blessed with good fortune." There follows a supplication for peace. Complete text of alleged German propaganda letter from Boston. Concludes: "Endless chain. Please write at least one copy and send this and that to friends of immediate peace."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1917e.
"Denounces 'Peace Prayer'." Nov. 10, p. 13: 4.
[Baltimore, Nov. 9. "The 'peace prayer' chain which has been sent to many persons of this city in the last few weeks was denounced by priests of the city as insincere and an insidious attempt to further the enemy cause." Ref. The Baltimore Catholic Review. Cardinal Gibbons urges destruction of the letter.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1917f. Editorial - "A Familiar
Form of Stupidity." Nov. 10, p. 12: 5.
[ "Great numbers of people in this vicinity as well as in other parts of the country are receiving just now, among the many other appeals that come to them, anonymous communications asking them to copy and mail to nine other persons a brief prayer for the success of the Allies." CLs often used to raise money. Disputes possibility of clogging the mail, but gives credence to plot. For compliance: a "great joy" otherwise "misfortune." Federal receipts for stamps slightly increased.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1917g. "No Red Cross 'Chains.'"
Nov. 21, p. 8:
[Red Cross announces "it does not approve the chain letter system of raising money, and that it has never authorized any chain letter promoter to use the name of the Red Cross." They receive such letters. See New York Times. 1917h]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1917h.
"A Foolish Chain Letter." Letter - Mrs. Joseph Benhall, Nov. 26, p. 12:
[Receipt of LCL (Ancient Prayer type) titled "Red Cross Chain." Complete text. Cites as waste of money for stamps, better to donate.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1923. "Criticize Charity
Plan." Aug. 6, p. 19: 1.
[The Merchants Association Bulletin criticizes as naive a current charity appeal that requests an envelope be passed for ten steps, each recipient adding a dollar, the last recipient sending it to the original solicitor.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1927.
"Reed Chain Letter
Boom." April 19, p. 12: 6.
[ "Chain letter system" started urging support for U.S. Senator James A. Reed (Missouri) for the Democratic nomination for President. Similar prior effort for Champ Clark in 1912.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1927. "1,200 'Chain Letters'
23, p. 24: 1.
[ Chain petitions to draft Calvin Coolidge for President mailed out from Boston. Complete text. Coolidge had announced he would not run on Aug. 2. The petition plan was dropped after Hoover disapproved. See New York Times Nov. 23 (p. 1: 2), (p. 6: 4,5) (p. 24: 1) and Nov. 24 (p. 9: 1).]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1931.
"Appeals to Boy
Scouts." Dec. 28, p. 11: 1.
[London, Dec. 27. "Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts, appealed today to Scouts throughout the world to destroy any "chain letter" that comes into their hands instead of passing it on." Says he has received and destroyed "scores" in his life with no ill consequences. (Baden-Powell: 1857-1941)]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1933. "Seized for Fraud in Endless
Chain." May 19,
p. 11: 1.
[<pyramid sales> Sheldon chain hosiery sales scheme. Method: "Sheldon and his aides . . . had mailed 12,500 sales letters promising to deliver six pairs of stockings to every woman who sent in $1. Persons who parted with their dollars were informed that they would receive the stockings upon inducing three friends to send in dollars." April 7, 1934, p. 5:3: " . . . the plan involved selling a coupon for $1 and giving the buyer three other coupons for distribution. When all three were returned with a dollar each, the original buyer was to receive hosiery worth $10." About half received nothing for their $1. About 10,000 complaints. Bringing in $2,000 a day through mails, "$100,000 in recent weeks." Apparent method: (1) initial issue of coupons for $1 each; coupons have slots for two addresses, (2) X sends in a coupon and $1 to company, receives 3 blank coupons, (3) X puts her address in slot #1 of the three and sells them to friends who agree to send it in with $1 to company, their address going in slot #2, (4) the company agreed to send stockings upon receipt of the three coupons and remittance with address of X in first slot. Note this is $10 merchandise for $4 received. But any who failed to sell all three coupons would lose the dollar they paid for them. For other articles on case see New York Times Index, "chain sales," 1933-1935.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 2). "Dimes Flood
Mail in Chain Letters."
April 21, p. 22: 3.
[Send-a-dime basic facts. Letter headed: "Prosperity Club - In God We Trust." <origin> Letters said to have started in New York, among relief workers, but unconfirmed. Stories of winnings (one woman got $400 - Post Office). ". . . in the last five days almost every family in the city has received one or more."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 9a). " 'Send-a-Dime'
Plan Is Ruled Illegal
As Officials Doubt It Can Be Halted."
April 28, p. 31: 2.
[<law> Solicitor Crowley rules "scheme is in conflict both with postal lottery and fraud statutes." Ruling also sent to Des Moines and Mason City, Iowa (where scheme is also in operation). Decision based on ruling on a chain sales scheme.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 9b). "Denver Warns
April 28, p. 31: 2.
[<number> Denver, April 27, AP: Stevic: "This fad is spreading like hysteria to all parts of the country and to foreign countries." A. A. Mc Vittie, Denver restaurant owner: "I have received 2,300 of these send-a-dime and send-ten-bucks letters" - places ad asking people not to send them to him. Mail volume doubles over year prior (4/26: 168,695 to 325,000). Also part IV p. 11: 7. "Chain-Letter Fad a Postoffice Pest." ". . . this perpetual-motion plan was devised it seems, only to gain quick unearned wealth for its participants . . ." <motive> CLs generally designed to: sell goods (fountain pens, hose), arouse interest in a movement or issue, or stir up religious or patriotic feeling. "Prosperity Club" method and calculations. <law> Legal weapon against commercial CLs is postal regulation: "Endless chain enterprises designed for the sale or disposition of merchandise or other things of value through the circulation or distribution of 'coupons,' 'tickets,' 'certificates,' 'introductions' and the like are held to embrace the elements of a lottery and also to be fraudulent. Matter of every kind relating to such enterprises should be withdrawn from the mails."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 13). "Send-a-Dime Letters
Received in New
York." May 2, p. 23: 8.
[Five letters turned over to postal inspectors, one a $1 ante.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 16). "Chain Letter Urges
'Send Pint of Whisky';
Four More Seized in 'Send-a-Dime'
Case." May 5, p. 39: 4.
["Sweet Adeline Club" whisky XCL in Lincoln, Neb. High volume MCLs in Los Angeles, Spokane. Kiss XCL in Muskogee, give a kiss to person whose name was at top, "surely he may find a true love among the 15,000-odd trading kisses."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 19). "Dime Chain
Letters are Ruled
Illegal." May 8, p. 4: 4.
[Subtitle: "Postal Solicitor Declares Scheme Is a Lottery and Violates Fraud Laws." St. Louis, May 7: 330,000 CLs swamp mail facilities.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935
(Day 20). "Chain Fad Ties Up Business of a City." May 9, p. 23:
[<pyramid scheme> Springfield, May 8, AP: Subtitle: "Crowds jam Springfield, Mo. streets in mad rush for $2, $3 and $5 Letters. "Society women, waitresses, college students, taxi drivers and hundreds of others jammed downtown streets. Women shoved each other roughly. . ." "It started last night as a joke." Experienced salesmen "pushed" the letters. "Persons unable to sell letters to friends turned the copies over to the salesmen, who disposed of them on a 50% commission." <method for May 8 - "Springfield" type lottery> Seller accompanies buyer to notary where he encloses payment p dollars. Letter sealed by notary for 25c , mailed in presence of seller. Buyer then escalates names on list and becomes a seller himself, offering two copies with revised list at p dollars each. Specs ($2): s$2, q2x$2, n10, max $2024. Claimed to be "cheater-proof." "Factories" sprung up in drug stores, corridors, any available space. Washington, May 8, AP: White House gets 200 send-a-dimes, turned over to Farley. Legal aspects, could ban delivery. Govt. workers participate.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935
(Day 21). "Market Crashes on Chain Letters." May 10, p. 23: 4.
[Springfield, Mo., May 9, AP: "Sad-faced men and women walked around in a daze tonight, seeking vainly for some one to buy chain letters." "Ten chain letter 'factories' yesterday were swamped with customers. Today there were less than five and they waited on stragglers." Springfield variation: authenticate the list before notary public and work from person-to-person instead of through mails. "The Pot of Gold club" ($5), "The Cream of the Crop" ($3). Scores of notaries involved. Grocery store manager got $400, spent almost four days & nights working chain. <method> "When you get into a chain you have to keep track of the letters your name is on. When some one gets one with your name on it and can't pass it, you have to get out and help them sell it." Washington: "Government Seeks Evidence." Winnings. Legal aspects. Rush in Denver, Los Angeles, Pueblo, Kansas City Mo., Kansas City Kan., Tulsa, Joplin, Sioux City. Chicago, May 9. (p. 23: 4): "Telegraph Variation Started." $5 chain telegram started to avoid mails or to cash in quickly. <numbers> Alfred E. Smith has received about 1,000 send-a-dimes, coming in at 50/day.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 22). "Gambler's
Fleece Chain Letter
'Fans'." May 11, p. 6:5.
[After Springfield, fad swept over St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Fayetteville. $1 chain started in Pittsburgh, Kan. netted $1,500 overnight. Hundreds of complaints. "Promoters had left with batches of letters after promising contributors to deliver them elsewhere in Missouri to save postage and avoid prosecution." Burglars rob post office at Springfield. ]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935
(Day 23). "Sue 7 for $35,840 over Letter Chain." May 12,
p. 26: 1.
[<law> Oklahoma City: Suit charges breach of contract - the seven sold letters at $5 each, promised to sell other letters until the names of plaintiffs reached top of the list. Promised profit of $5,121. Defendants failed to sell sufficient letters. Names of plaintiffs and defendants. Church leaders demand closure of CL establishments. Three closed at Chickasha, Okla - three fined $13 each. Denver: "Guaranteed" chain letter sales. Says list of three names (error). <number> One factory sold 10,000 letters in two days. Pittsburgh: Mayor gets $5 chain telegram which asks him to answer the sender collect if the chain were broken. St. Louis: Chain letter requesting $1 to mayor of Concordia, Mo. (pop. 1,140) to fight against utility monopolies. Callandar, Ontario: Dionne quintuplets get CLs from U.S. and Canada. Pt IV, p. 9:2 Letter by W. Fowler, "Voluntary Foolishness." "At least a voluntary choice of participation is offered in a foolish craze while the political shell game is forced upon us by judicial decree."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 25). Letter by
R. J. Warshaw: "Postoffice to the Rescue." May 14, p. 20: 7.
[Satirical letter stating the benefits from the postage on ten quadrillion MCLs.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 27). "Indictment
is Refused in Chain
Letter Test; Denver Jury Blocks Attempt
to Halt Scheme." May 16, p. 17: 3.
[Three men had mailed 1000 "send-a-buck" letters with their names and relatives. Post office inspector closed Denver CL "factories." Since then most use messenger, express or telegraph service. <variation> "Gold Seal Club" (N. C. Mueller in Wichita) forced to halt, certified letter appeared like bond or stock.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 30). "Chain Letter
May 19, p. 29: 4.
[Arkansas woman spots name on CL of brother-in-law in Bakersfield after 15 years no contact.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 36). Editorial:
"Dimes and Morals."
May 25, p. 14: 4.
[Disputes send-a-dime claims with calculations. "As to the ethics . . . they rest on the same sure foundation as the '520 per cent Miller' enterprises which every body recalls."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 37). "Chain Note
May 26, p. 7: 2.
[St Paul: High School teacher indicted - sent out 100 mimeographed dime letters with his own name leading and closing the list.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935
(Day 39). "Chain-Letter Fad Reported on Wane." May 28, p. 22:
[Subtitle: "Postoffice officials deny it is 'cluttering up' mails - carrier held as thief." A survey in NYC: "few of those questioned were receiving letters by mail. <numbers> But almost every one had been approached by sponsors of a wide range of 'hand-to-hand' chains."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 42). Letter by
C.E.B: "Chain Letters for Relief." May 31, p. 14: 6.
[Satirical letter on the bonanza of helping people on relief participate in send-a-dime.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 44). "Odd Chain Letters
Now Clutter Mail."
June 2, IV, p. 10:5.
[Subtitle: "Passing of the craze marked by fantastic requests and humorous appeals." XCLs: whiskey, hay, postage stamps, dates with college girls, elephants. Origin of send-a-dime unknown. Activities by telephone and telegraph. Telegraph chains $5, $10, and $100.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 59). "Chain Letters
Boomed Mail Pay
at Denver; 1,400 Extra Hours Daily Gave
Men $20,000." June 17, p. 19:4.
["The chain letter has gone the way of miniature golf, but it left a deep imprint behind it." Denver mail volume, overtime hours and pay. Mail box robberies.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935
(Day 62). "Chain Telegrams in $3,600,000 suit." June 20, p. 15: 2.
[Trenton, NJ: William F. Zwirner of Merchantville NJ in role of "common informer" names Western Union. Acted under Gambling Laws of 1877. Charges company had violated gambling laws by accepting and transmitting chain telegrams. "Half of penalty fixed by court goes to the 'common informer' and half to county where violation occurs." Says Western Union accepted 1,800 chain telegrams between June 7 and 15 in Camden. Text of form. Company claimed chain telegrams not a violation of laws.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 63). "Suit Asks
Chain Telegrams." June 21, p. 15:
[Andrew W. Mulligan of Camden sues as "common informer." Seeks $2,000 for each chain telegram. NJ counties listed with number of telegrams in each.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 70). "Chain Letters
in Britain." June
28, page 3: 2.
[London: MCLs now widespread throughout Great Britain. Sir John Simon, Home Secretary: " . . . certain types of snowball schemes, to which chain letters bear some resemblance, have been held by courts to be illegal lotteries." Discourages participation.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 86) "Women Protest
July 14, P. 13: 3.
[<politics> Boston: "Chain letters are sent by 60,000 in Bay State to Roosevelt." Opposed "share-the-wealth- wealth" taxation. Goal 100,000 letters. Organized by Republican women. Some text.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935 (Day 89). "Chain Letter
Aids Flood Fund."
July 17, p. 14: 7.
[Rochester, NY: Someone sends Red Cross a dime to aid flood victims with a chain letter he composed. Text includes: "You have no chance for any personal gain." Writer says mailed 200 copies.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1935
"Chain Letters Ask for Quilt Pieces."
Sept. 24, p. 7: 6.
[Concord, NH: Local letter requests six-inch square of new print cloth, suitable for quilt patches, be sent to top name as in send-a-dime. To be made into "world friendship" quilts.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1936a. "Groups will Push
Buy-At-Home Drive." April 5, p. 9: 6.
[Industry organized "Made in America Club, Inc.": pledge cards "used to gather member ship are based on a 'chain' system with each member endeavoring to obtain five other signers to similar pledges."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1936b. "Chain Phone in Relief
5, III, p. 6: 1.
[N.C. welfare officer starts a "chain-letter revival" to collect $1 donations: a q5 telephone chain.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1936c. "Chain letter for Harvey."
Sept. 8, p. 5: 2.
[<politics> "The chain letter is being revived, this time for political purposes." Supports George U. Harvey in primaries. Text: "If in favor of the sentiments expressed below, please copy the letter and sign your name. Then send a copy to not less than ten Republicans you know in the greater city."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1948. "Disclaims Chain Letters."
July 14, p. 46:
[Subtitle: "TWA says it has no connection with 'Luck' messages." A "luck" chain-letter is making rounds under facsimiles of the company's letterheads. Several thousand received at airline's Washington office. Letters are anonymous.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1949. "Chain Letters Ask
Elections." April 28, p. 10: 6.
[<politics> CL circulating in Czechoslovakia asking protest of Communist dictatorship be sent to U.S. embassy in Prague. Communist leaders ordered a counter-campaign but no examples of this known. Complete text.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1951. "Asks U. S. Tax Boycott."
March 24, p. 26:
[Cincinnati businessman starts chain letter to five friends which said "I solemnly swear that I shall refuse to pay a single cent towards income tax on March, 1952, unless the Government has taken action on the house-cleaning." More text. March 27, p. 31: 5: "Regrets Tax Strike Idea." Says should have taken complaint to congressman.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1955a. "U.S. Eyes Chain Letters."
Feb. 10, p. 35:
[Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield says department investigating new MCL titled "This is a Give-Away-Your-Wealth Campaign." Advertises a "possible return of $38,400 or $51,200 if you wait ten years." See NYT 1958a]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1955b. "U.S.
Oct. 30, p.44: 2.
[<politics> Civil Service Commissioner warns Federal employees against participation in Nixon chain postcard / chain telephone campaign scheme. Oct. 31, p. 25: 5: "Nixon is Accused on Postcard Plan." Sent to Federal employees "by the hundreds of thousands." Violates Hatch Act. Nov. 3, p. 10: 1: "Nixon is asked by Senate Unit for Comment..." Nov. 10, p. 31: 5: G.O.P. denies it targeted Federal Employees. Postcard & instructions have been collected.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1956a. "Car Buyers Warned
Against a New Hoax."
Sept. 10, p. 22: 7.
[Better Business Bureau warns of swindle. Buyer promised new car free by referring six customers. Each referred worth $100. These six must in turn supply six more prospects, each worth $50 to original buyer. Promoter sets base of 300 participants. See NYT 1959c.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1956b. " '150 Club' Based
Idea Raises $45,000 for Eisenhower in Trial."
Sept. 11, p. 28: 4.
[<politics> X puts up $150, gets 150 friends for $15 apiece, and 150 more for $1.50 apiece. Others ($15 members) become organizers. Celebrity contributions.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1957. "Chain Letters Revived."
Aug. 30, p. 12:
[Brief warning on MCLs by Postmaster General.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1958a.
"Chain Letter Warning."
Feb. 15, p. 13: 2.
[P.O. Dept. warns of bond MCL. Says copy quota is 10 ( but q=2, see NYT 1958b).]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1958b.
Gets a New Twist." April 1, p. 33:
[Bond MCL. Prospect purchases list of ten names for $37.50 - buys two $18.75 savings bonds in name of first person on list and sends. Makes two copies of list after updating - tries to sell to new prospects for $37.50 each. . Specs. s$37.50, q2x$37.50, n10, max $38,400 ($51,200 when mature). See NYT 1955, 1958a, 1958c, 1960, 1961, 1963. ]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1958c. "Chain Letters Fight
11, p. 85: 4.
[Chicago president of Insurance Company sends 1,000 letters to his company's salesmen instructing them to work an extra half hour per day and send five copies to any other salesmen.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1958d. "Bologna Prelate Sues
Sept. 14, p. 15: 1.
[Ponzi? Subtitle: "Objects to report that he urged Vatican honor for 'do-it-yourself' banker." Vatican had decorated former bank clerk Gianbattista Giuffre. After WWII Giuffre offered 20-40% interest. Later offered to double in a year - has done so for ten years. Often borrowed from parish priests who borrowed from their parishioners. Gave big to charities. No charges or complaints yet. Also Aug. 31, 1958, p. 28: 4. and Jan. 23, 1959, p. 2: 4.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1959a.
"L. I. Woman Receives
Note from Pasternak." -Milton Esterow,
April 11, p. 14: 2.
[Subtitle: "She sent him 'Good Luck' chain letter and he replies." Mrs. Roth received LCL (with name list) on Friday 13th, 3/59. Some text. She sent five copies to: 11 year old niece, Jack Paar, Alexander King, Vladimir Nabokov and Pasternak. Pasternak replied: "It is not the habit in USSR to make circulate such sendings, but I won't break the chain and so I return immediately the text of the Prayer to you to forward it in other directions." Pasternak crossed out top name, added his.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1959b.
Letter: "Chain Letters
Condemned." Apr. 20, p.
[Letter to editor. "Such letters prey on the weakness of the recipient's character, create fears, undermine his self-confidence and are therefore not at all harmless." "Ministers and educators should speak up against the spreading of these unreasonable and pagan epistles."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1959c.
"Advertising: Drive Held 'Phony'."
Nov. 19, p. 58:2.
[Same scheme as in NYT 1956. Promoted by telephone calls by an "advertising agency" claiming word of mouth campaign cuts advertising costs. Said to be limited to 300 participants. Also June 19, 1960, p. 72:3: "Chain-Sale Plan for Cars Scored."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1960. "A Savings-Bond Chain
Bilks Harvard Students."
June 16, p. 15:2.
[Bond MCL. Banks near Harvard restricting sales of U. S. savings bonds. Said to have started in Yale, spread to Princeton and Brown.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1961. "Chain-Letter
April 10, p. 21:3.
[Postal Inspectors claim 50% of professionals in parts of Puerto Rico involved in bond chain.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1963. "Chain Letter Nuisance."
Jan. 25, p. 14:
[Treasury Department denounces bond MCL. Even when many bonds received, likely to be cashed quickly, burdening Treasury. Specs s$75, q2x$37.50, n10, max $38,400]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1964. "Barnett
Flooded with Evers
Checks." Feb. 27, p. 20: 2.
[Jackson, Miss: Former Governor Ross Barnett has received 5,000 envelopes in response to a chain letter asking checks for $1 be sent to him to aid family of slain civil rights leader Medgar W. Evers.]
1968. Marylin Bender,
"The Chain Letter, Back Again, Breaks
Into Fashion and Society." July 2, p. 30:
[<propagation, immunization> Useful interviews. Current LCL "epidemic": depends on photocopying, circulates among fashion industry and socialites. MCL: "Executive vacation quickie." Promises $2190 for $15 in 10 days. Says check accompanies first receipt - should return if you don't participate. XCL: recipes. LCL: some text, q20, most copies made on office copying machines. Recipients (some names): socialites (4), fashion designers (2), editors, writers, art dealer. Multiple receipts of LCL: 5,7,6. Spoiler effect: most recipients feel compliance with first letter is adequate, but fashion publicist got 7 and complied with all. Wife of industrialist, bothered by threats, made her own copies (2): "I don't think it works with Xerox." Xerox costs 25c per copy. <origin> WWI dough boys wrote 'good luck' variety. 1949 pyramid clubs: members recruited at parties. <politics> Political CLs: Free France from Nazis, Czechoslovakia from Communists, Eisenhower-Nixon campaign. Stockholm Peace Appeal, 1950: end Korean War, ban atomic bombs, seat Red China in UN.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1973. "Pyramid Sales
Are Now Chief Consumer
Fraud Here." April 3, p. 45: 1.
[Complaints against: Action Industries (fuel additive), Alexander Taylor (clothes), Ameriprise (home cleaning products), Bestline (soap), Bob Cummings Inc. (vitamins), Cash-chek (buying club), Computerex (buying club), Dare to Be Great (motivation course), Futuristic Foods, Galaxy Foods, Golden Products (household items), Guardiante (fire and burglar alarms), Holiday Magic (cosmetics), Koscot (cosmetics), P.R.I.C.E Club (buying club), Princess Club of America (hosiery and cosmetics), Sta-Power (fuel additive), Steed (fuel additive). P.R.I.C.E Club in New York specialized in minorities, held "opportunity" meetings as respectable hotels, helped investors get Citibank loans, used planned bankruptcy to bilk prior investors.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1978. "A 'Gold' Chain
Letter Has Come
Full Circle, with Trail of Victims."
Dec. 17, Sunday, p. 69: 4.
[Circle of Gold MCL aftermath. Workings. Origin and tracking (8 locations). No one prosecuted yet in San Francisco.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1979. "Abrams Gets
Writs on a 'Pyramid' Plot." Aug. 31, p. B3: 6.
[Attorney General obtains permanent injunctions from State Supreme Court to shut down Circle of Gold ($100 ante). Against 15 organizers in NYC, Syracuse and Rochester.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1980. "Fraud Investigators
of 'Pyramid' Investment Schemes."
May 18, p. 24.
[Pyramid schemes spreading around country (states named), possibly related to inflation and harder times. Hundreds arrested in California - mostly middle class. Most popular now: the Business List Concept (described). Tony J. Stathos, Sacramento defense attorney: hundreds of thousands of participants in California. Parties: euphoric atmosphere, testimonials, those "cashing out" cheered. 3,000 protest crackdown in Sacramento.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1981. "Four Agree to
Repay Pyramid Losers."
July 13, p. B3: 1.
[New York State Attorney General's office obtains 3 convictions on misdemeanor violation of the state's General Business Law for pyramid games in summer of 1980. Restitution made to investors, payment of investigation costs. Involvement not illegal, recruitment is.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1987. " 'Airplane':
Letter." Elizabeth Neuffer. April 7, Sec.
B, p. 7: 4.
[". . . an illegal pyramid scheme called the airplane game." Widespread in state, on Broadway. Roles: pilot (1), co-pilots (2), flight attendants (4), passengers (8). Pilots collect $1500 from passengers and bail out. Co-pilots become pilots, attendants become co-pilots, etc., two "airplanes" formed. "Each passenger is required to recruit at least one new investor." Specs s$1,500, q1+, n4, max $12,000. State law against promoting a pyramid scheme: $500 fine, year in jail.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1987a. "Finding Links
in a Chain Letter."
Sept. 20, p. 72: 1.
[The Airplane game. See NYT 1987 for specs. "As far as we know, the 'airplane' has crashed." - spokesman for Attorney General. 3 guilty pleas, ll agreed to make restitution and inform. New game: "Corporate Ladder" promises $12,000, enter as "vice president."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1990. Alan W. Petrucelli
in Ron Alexander's column: Metropolitan Diary, Sept. 5, p. C2.
[Receives media LCL. Says threats include "suicide, insanity and bankruptcy" (?). Some standard text. Comments by celebrity participants. "Effusive epistles" from Oliver Stone, Tom Smothers, Dick Martin, chief executives of Lord & Taylor and Macy's.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1990a.
"The Chain Letter
Of the Rich and Famous." Deirdre
Fanning column: The Executive Life.
Oct. 7, Sec. 3, p. F25. *check page designation
[Media LCL. Circulating "in the last year." Recipients and their comments. "Respondents are asked to send their signed reply to the letter to five friends, along with copies of all previous responses to the letter that they received in the packet." <origin> Fanning's packet suggests origin in Hollywood, then television executives, New York book-publishing, newsrooms, Washington political circles. Side trips to Wall Street and Detroit auto industry. "The originator of the chain must have recognized that its recipients would be loathe to pass up a chance for social cachet - to be among the inner circle." Richard Holbrooke (Lehman Brothers): "As soon as I broke the chain, I ruptured my Achilles' tendon."]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1993a.
"Book Notes" by Esther B. Fein. Jan. 6, p. C19: 1.
[Used paperback ("of recent vintage", "not too badly worn") XCL circulating nationwide. Specs. q6n2s1max36. Four accounts of participants. Receipts: 15-20, 2, 0, 0. Negative feelings about chain letters in general.]
NEW YORK TIMES. 1993b.
"A Haven for Hopeless Causes." Nov.
10, p. B1:2.
[ Devotional practices of St. Jude, the "patron saint of impossible causes." Raymond Orsi (Indiana Univ.): "... St. Jude is not firmly identified with the religious experiences of any particular ethnic group. . . Jude is really an Americanized saint." St. Jude classified ads: "some priests worry that the ads are part of an improvised religious tradition that in some extreme cases are more akin to superstition..." and that "the money spent on the ads could be better used on donations to soup kitchens or homeless shelters." A LCL "promises solutions to any problem in return for saying a prayer to St. Jude and other prayers over a nine-day period. It also asks the worshiper to leave nine copies of the letter inside a church each day."]
NEW REPUBLIC. 1935 (Day 34).
Ted Olson, "Brother, Can You Share A Dime?" V. 83, May 22, p.
[Send-a-dime: early text, no "wrap dime" instruction. Denver mail volume, legends of winnings. "For the last two weeks most of Western America has talked and thought of nothing but the dime chains." Originator unknown. Comparison to Huey Long (Share the Wealth), Father Coughlin (National Union for Social Justice).]
NORTHWEST FOLKLORE. 1966.
"Chain Letter: A Folk Geometric Progression."
V. 1, n. 2, Winter, p. 15-19.
[CL structural pattern: (1) proclamation that the letter is a CL, (2) injunction to send a specific number of copies, sometimes within a definite period of time, (3) description of desirable consequences of compliance to injunction, (4) warning of undesirable consequences if injunction is ignored or disobeyed. Full text and psychological analysis of wife exchange parody. Full text of scholarly reprint (R) XCL, specs s1q4n4d3 max 272. An XCL "...like other forms of folklore, provides a socially sanctioned outlet or excuse for the overt expression of an actual wish." Full text of Medgar Evers social action & charity CL, specs C=9, W=10$100,000, one dollar to be donated to family in care of Ross Barnett, governor of Mississippi.]
OGDEN STANDARD-EXAMINER (Ogden,
Utah). 1940. "Disregard Chain Letter Demands, Urges Official;
Threats Causing Worry." April 12, p. 13
["These chain letters demand the recipient send a handkerchief to the person from whom he received the letter, and to send similar letters to four others. They threaten if this is not done that a calamity will befall, 'similar to that of so-and-so in Flanders Field and others." "I have received reports of at least two women in Ogden being violently upset by such letters."]
OGDEN STANDARD-EXAMINER (Ogden, Utah). 1955. "Writer 20 Years Ago Started P. O. Problem - Chain Letter" March 9, p. 4.
[(AP) "Twenty years ago this spring a Denver resident - name, age and sex unknown - dropped a letter in a mail box and started a minor social revolution." Recalls well known incidents about the Send-a-Dime craze of 1935. Error: SD did not read "Do not break the chain." "At its peak, the post office estimated it handled 10 million extra letters each day." Used to show that by 1955 the author of SD was still unknown.]
OMNI. 1992. Antimatter: "Chain-Letter
Black Hole." V.
15, n. 3, Dec., p. 100.
[Mostly same content as Skeptical Inquirer 1991. Since forming Chain Letters Anonymous (CLA) Emery has received 163 letters.]
and Profane." May 11, V. 86, p. 48-9.
[Two LCLs "recently received." Ancient Prayer type, prayer text given and remaining letter described. Letter claims it was "sent out" by Bishop Lawrence. "It was an outrage to associate his name with so gross a profanation of the Christian view of prayer, and to make him stand sponsor to this attempt to turn the union between the human child and the Heavenly Father into a species of cheap jugglery, a kind of vulgar magic." The chain contained a negative testimonial and accompanying letter.]
THE OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY.
1989. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
[Definition of "chain letter": "A letter written with an invitation to the recipient to pass it on to another (or copies of it to others), the process being repeated in a continuous chain until a certain total is reached." Example: "1906 Daily Chron. 27 July 6/2 In 1896 Miss Audrey Griffin, of Hurstville, New South Wales initiated a 'chain letter' with the object of obtaining 1,000,000 used postage stamps." (This letter has been collected -DWV). Definition of "snowball": "A scheme or project that relies for its growth on a snowball effect (see quotes)." Example: "1892 Whitehall Rev. 17 Sept. 7/1. The system of 'snowball' is multiplication at a very rapid rate, each giver being obliged to bind himself to find a certain number of others who will not only give, but bind themselves each to find an equal number of contributors on the same terms." Other quotes.]
THE PATRIOT-NEWS (Harrisburg, Pa.). 1990.
Robert M. Andrews,
"Chain (letter) of command.," Aug.
29, p. B5.
[Associated Press report. Media LCL - no complete text. Celebrity recipients and some of their comments. Resulting luck for NewsWeek reporter (Iraqi invasion of Kuwait). Jack Nelson (Washington bureau chief of LA Times) breaks chain, no bad luck.]
THE PATRIOT-NEWS (Harrisburg, Pa.).
Hendrix (Los Angeles Times), "Celebrities
make up new kind of 'chain gang,' " Jan.
18, p. C1.
[<motives> Informative survey of Media LCL. It is "the chain letter of the stars, real or wannabe, or the chain letter from hell." Multiple receipts. Los Angeles writer Nikki Finke (10 receipts) breaks it: "Maybe that's the bad luck: You keep getting the letter." Full text. Variant text has story of Dutch farmer who started the letter, had best harvest, concluded "God touched his land." "These accompanying documents, most recipients admit, are what prompt recipients to play the game and write their own 'I can't believe I'm doing this' notes, as they pass the letter on." Started latter half of 1989, toured major publishing houses, television networks, newspapers and magazines, studios, law firms and public-relations agencies. Earlier 1989 letters now illegible. Participants comments. Tom Goldstein (Dean of School of Journalism at UCB) breaks chain (10 receipts) but retrieves phone numbers: "the chain letter could be a plot of the photocopying companies." Time spent thinking of who to send it to, and tracing how it got to you. Mention of "Just play golf" item. Jim Murray wrote about this item in May 1978 LA Times.]
THE PENNSYLVANIA DUTCHMAN.
Wilbur H. Oda, "The Himmelsbrief."
V. 1, n. 21, Dec., p. 3.
[Summary of the types of Himmelsbrief (Letters from Heaven) Oda was able to find in the U.S. Used during both World Wars. Often rendered in gold or blue letters, framed and displayed in homes. Many variations. Most enjoin Sabbath observance, alms giving and protect the bearer from various harms and facilitate child bearing. Letter types: (1) Cologne stresses Trinities, no Sabbath admonition, (2) St. Germain had added poems, (3) Count Philip [text] protects against a long list of weapons, no Sabbath advocacy, (4) Lady Cubass may have attached the letter from Jesus to King Abgar, (5) King Charles [text] protects from death in war, say five Vater Unsers and seven Ave Marias daily, (6) Frauen letter ( Cologne, 1750) is introduced by a dream of Mary, (7) Madgeburger [another text] is the most common, only one published in illuminated form. References to early American sources.]
THE PENNSYLVANIA DUTCHMAN. 1953. "A
True Prayer for
Everybody." V. 5, n. 6, Oct., p.12.
[Contains English text of a King Charles Himmelsbrief. Original is located in the Berks County (PA) Historical Society.]
PENTHOUSE. 1975. "The Sex Chain Letter."
Thom Racina. Nov.,
[Fiction. In beginning author mentions common chain letters: money, recipe exchange, pen pal (?). Gives prayer from luck chain letter: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and all your knowledge and He will light the way of consciousness." The purported "sex chain letter" is fictional.]
PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS. 1991. Stu Bykofsky column:
"Pulling the chain:
Examining links in the letter."
March ?, p. 37.
[Media LCL. "Do you strangle the person who sent it to you? Or are you happy that a friend passed along good luck (and made if necessary for you to send out five copies to others)?" Links among Pennsylvania politicians.]
INQUIRER. 1989. Clark DeLeon,
("The Scene") "Chains: What did Aretha
Franklin call it?" March 28,
[Humor. Receives KISS LCL, some text. Concludes with "Dale Fairchild" warning. <numbers> Received about a dozen over the years.]
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. 1991.
"Chain letter's welcome message."
Jan. 1, p. 4-C.
[Receives Media LCL "in a big envelope, all 25 pages of it..." Complete text. Senders' comments, mostly often quoted celebrities. Sends to five friends, gives motivation: "There's something about the idea of wishing your friends good luck that appeals enormously to me. If nobody gets anything tangible from it, we at least know that people who matter are thinking about us, cherishing the friendship. " "I liked the letter because it made me feel good." Interprets fourth day hence for good luck.]
THE PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER. 1991a. Katharine Seelye,
chain letter doesn't deliver." March
22, p. 1-B, 6-B.
[Media LCL - no text. Mayor of Philadelphia, W. Wilson Goode, receives the chain during a city fiscal crisis and sends it to "five key players in the city's money mess." No luck results. Other well known recipients. GOP leader William A. Meehan did not send it on and is presented as having bad luck after four days. Meehan said: "I try not to put too many things in writing, let alone a chain letter."]
PITTSBURGH PRESS. 1937. "Chain Letter Gangs Start Up Once More" Feb. 26, p. ?
[Clipping without a year dating but 1937 likely: "The fugitives from a chain letter gang are at it again, this time not with dimes but with dishcloths. Brooklyn, it developed tonight, is the seat of the new chain letter iniquity, and it is strictly for the ladies. No men are wanted unless they happen to have a yen for tea towels." Describes a q=3, n=3 exchange chain letter promising 27 tea towels. "Unlike the dime chain letters which often gave nasty warnings of disaster to anyone who might contemplate breaking the chain, the tea towel chain is conducted in a spirit of neighborly camaraderie.]
Chain Letters Take Religious Turn." Feb.
[Clipping, complete text: "A new wrinkle in 'chain' letters - a mysterious message to St. Anthony that will bring good or bad luck - was making the rounds in Pittsburgh today and frightening many superstitious persons who have received a copy of it. Written in a poorly penciled scrawl on an ordinary penny postcard, the message requests only that it be kept alive 'to go around the world' and that it be sent to 13 friends. Ill luck is forecast for persons not following instructions. Postal authorities, however, who discovered the latest in 'chain' letters last night, believe them to be the creation of a religious fanatic." See Blind13 type.]
POLSKA SZLUKA LUDOWA. 1981.
"Lancuch Szczescia W Pól Wieku
Pózniej", no. 1.
[Polish, no translation. Contains seven photocopies of old chain letters (or Letters from Heaven) including 1826 and 1852.]
THE PORTSMOUTH HERALD (Portsmouth, New Hampshire), 1943. "Chain Letters 'Sinful,' Cardinal Cushing Says" Nov. 29, p. 12.
[Writes chain letters are 'superstitious and sinful'. Mentions a chain letter supposed to have originated from the "Sisters of St. Francis" in Boston; denies this order exists. "The letters demand that the recipient carry on the chain by sending copies to five friends within two days, or nine friends within four day." "Chain letters are wrong because they claim magical effects will come unfailingly to the person who recites some prayers a certain number of times. Christians know prayer is not like that."]
POSTAGE AND THE MAILBAG.
Calhoun, "Within Three Days Make
Five Copies." V. 23, June,
[Send-a-dime MCL as a sales letter: (1) brevity, (2) simplicity, (3) clearness, (4) direct, emotional appeal, (5) action-compelling ending. Complete text with address list. Population: early estimates. Modes of person-to-person recruitment. Purchases by winners. Families on relief benefit. Purchasing power theory.]
(Appleton, Wisconsin) 1928.
"Priests Condemn 'Chain Letter' Stunt"
May 5, p;. 3.
["Chain letters, long feared and welcomed by the superstitious, have made their appearance in a new form in Appleton, according to reports to pastors of Catholic churches who are warning their parishioners to shun them. Recently a number of Appleton people have received letters purporting to have started by a group of cloisters with instructions to make 13 copies and send them to 13 friends with the assurance that a 'miracle' would be worked when the letters 'have gone around the world.']
THE POST-CRESCENT. (Appleton,
Wisconsin). 1931. "Chain Letter Craze Keeps Hollywood Postmen
Busy." Nov. 19, p. 22.
["... another chain letter epidemic is sweeping Hollywood ..." "Fans feel it their duty to let their favorite stars have a share in the impending benefits. Maurice Chevalier received nearly 400 of the beneficial letters one day this week, and Marlene Dietrich found 300 in a single mail."]
(Syracuse, New York), 1949. "Hubby a Bore? Just Ditch Him
in Chain Letter." Jan 1, p. 1.
[Describes earliest known husband exchange (husbx) parody chain letter. No text. Claims idea started "somewhere in Colorado."]
PRIMO TIMES (Bloomington, Indiana).
"Don't break chain." July 26, p.
[Complete text of DL type LCL.]
THE RECORD UNION (Sacramento, California). 1884. "Superstition in Cornwall". Dec. 9
["In the extreme north and west of England superstition perhaps wields the strongest sway over the inhabitants, and a very notable instance of the manner in which the credulity of the temperate, virtuous and hospitable Cornish peasants was some years ago played upon by some artful rascals has recently come under my notice, writes a London correspondent to the San Francisco Chronicle. Hanging in the place of honor in the best room of many hundred cottages in Cornwall is a most remarkable document, which professes to be a copy of a letter written by Jesus Christ. The broad sheet is so curious that I have taken the trouble to have it copied. It is illustrated and begins thus:" (Standard text of Jesus' Sabbath letter follows). "At the foot is a hand and this warning: 'You shall not have any tidings of me but by the Holy Scriptures until the day of judgment. All goodness, happiness and prosperity shall be in the house where a copy of this letter is found'." The sting of this precious document lies in its tail, and it is very evident that the glib-tongued rascals who sold this rubbish to the poor, ignorant Cornish folk found the fact that the presumed Divine author of the letter promised his special blessing to any on who should buy a copy of it, which savoreth much more of the wily methods of the peripatetic vender of religious lore than of the son of Mary and Joseph."]
(Reading, Pennsylvania). 1884.
"Unmailable Matter." Dec. 11, p. 4.
["Postal cards or letters addressed to go around the world, are now also excluded from the foreign mails, the sending of such matter having become a nuisance."]
RÉSEAUX. 1995. Le Quellec, Jean-Loïc,
"Des lettres célesetes
au 'copy-lore' et au 'screen-lore'
: des textes bonjs à copier." no.
74, Nov.-Dec., pp. 145-190. Molineaux, France.
[<French> No translation except for three chain letter texts. Important source. Covers luck and money chain letters, Craig Shergold, banknote chains, parodies. Discusses the Car testimonial and initials on the outside of envelopes. Some English and German texts also in appendix. L-36 is from Dear Mr. Thoms, Jan. 1990 (not 1980). Several chain letter texts within article. Thirty-eight texts in appendix (L-1 to L-38). English translations by Sarah E. Winter are available for L-7, L-8 and L-12.]
REVUE DES SCIENCES
SOCIALES DE LA FRANCE
DE L'EST. 1984, Serge Bonnet
& Antoine Delestre, "Les Chaînes
Magiques", no. 13, pp. 383-402. Strasbourg,
Université des Sciences Humaines.
[<French> No translation. Many texts. Saint Antoine. Chain of Lourdes.]
REVUE D'ETHNOGRAPHIC ET DES
1928. W. Deonna, "Superstitions
actuelles." V. 9, p. 213-216.
[<French> Have English translation by Sarah Winter. French texts (a, b with English translations) of two LCL's that circulated in Geneva in 1928. Text (less a list of senders at end) in Italian of similar letter. References to earlier examples (including Christian World, referenced in Revue D'ethnographic, 1927, p. 127). Supposed authors are an "American colonel" and "the ladies of the American army" - who are repeating "the immemorial formulas with a mentality that makes them and their disciples akin to primitives of all ages, and with the puerile naiveté typical of Anglo-Saxons."]
RUSSKAIA LITERATURA. 1993. Luri,
V.F. "Holy Chain
Letters as a Phenomenon of Traditional Folklore."
N1: pp. 144-149.
[Russian. Have translation by Yana Tishchenko. Stresses traditional aspects of "Holy Letters." Structure: (1) title, (2) a prayer - exorcism, (3) legend about origin or finding of the Holy Letter, (4) thesis - statement of supernatural strength of the letter, (5) request that the letter be re-written and distributed during a period of time, (6) promise of good fortune for compliance, punishment for refusal. Possibly re-writers introduce what they have heard or read in a similar letter. Origins of Letters from Heaven (M. Beliayev). Much on Sabbath Letter (Verlovsky). Sabbath Letter said to have been used to counter pagan derived celebration of Friday by Slavs, up to 19th century. Sabbath Letter popular in Russia, spread by singing and story telling as well as written form. Partial text. Appendix has three (1, 2, 3) full texts of recent LCL's.
THE SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SUN . 1914. "Hunt Religious Firebug, Wanted for Nine Fires." April 14, p. 1.
[By Associated Press to THE SUN. Los Angeles, April 18 - "County authorities are searching for a religious pyromaniac who is believed to have set fire to nine homes after he had threatened residents with "misfortune" if they did not send on endless chain letters left at the houses to friends. ¶ Two houses were burned Wednesday night after the occupants had received the mysterious letters. In each case the letter was slipped under the front door after dark. Investigation showed that other fires in the neighborhood during the last few months were preceded by the receipt of these letters.]
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH. 1935 (Day 21).
Idea Is Replacing Send-Dime Letter."
May 10, p. 3A.
[Subtitle: "Enterprises spring up to collect 25-cent notarial fee on pleas for $1, $3 and $5." Local MCL events. Profiting envelope manufacturers, printers of blank letters, manufacturers of "play money" and printers of "fantastic parodies." First "Prosperity Club" in St. Louis opened last night - by midnight six others. One started in law office, $3 chain promising $3072. One had 100+ waiting in line for opening. Five and ten cent stores selling thousands of printed forms and envelopes, 5 for 5c. Mail volume 798,200 letters; 19,000 more than previous day, double over last year. <numbers> Downtown restaurants and cigar keepers have received and discarded hundreds. When handed one they pay for it with play money.]
SANN, PAUL. 1967. Fads, Follies and Delusions of the
New York: Crown Publishers.
Chapter 15, p. 97-104.
[Send-a-dime incidents: requiem (Denver Post, 8/15/35); Denver dead letters 100,000; photos. Springfield craze (thorough): extensive quotes from Springfield Leader and Press. "The Cream of the Crop" ($3) and "The Pot of Gold" ($5) hand delivered. Springfield crash (AP "Sad-faced" quote). <variations> Biblical citations; GOP square deal; American Legion support for Patman bonus; GOP tax protest; draft Calvin Coolidge; Hollywood $100. Humorous variations: Send-a-Pint; Sweet Adeline Club (Lincoln, Neb.); Good Riddance Club ("When you receive this letter buy yourself a gun and shoot the guy at the top of the list"); Kiss-chain (Birmingham, Alabama); "Send-a-dame" (UC Berkeley). National dead letter count: 3 million. Subsequent variations: Defense savings stamps (1943); Robert A. Taft fund; Pantie Club (Dallas, gets 30 panties, barred by Texas postal authorities); Stop-the-Bomb (alleged Communist plot); $18.75 bonds (1953, suppressed). Threats on MCLs (?): Japan, England, Germany, China, Abyssinia. Wife exchange full text.]
SANTA AN REGISTER (Santa Ana, California), 1929. "Person receiving 'lucky' chain letters requested not to continue missives. April 5, p. 3.
["The present epidemic appears under the title of the 'Flanders Field Good Luck Chain' and the text of the individual letters claims that it was started Jan. 26, 1926, by an army officer." Earliest in archive is 1927-04-08.]
SATURDAY EVENING POST. 1947. Robert
"Sucker's Delight." , V. 220, Nov. 22,
[Interviews C. W. Hassell, Post Office lawyer working on CLs for 30 years. New money CL: $2 in mail but copies handed out. Complex hosiery scheme (Sheldon?). League of Equity. Send-a-dime. Bohemian Oats.]
1959. "We Have Finally Reached the
Ultimate in Chain Letters." V. 231, May 23,
[Received wife exchange anonymously. Full text.]
SATURDAY REVIEW. 1967. Goodman
Be A Prayer Tonight." , V. 50, September
30, p. 10.
[Humorous treatment of compliance to a 20 copy Death20 type LCL. Presumes one copies by typing. Complete text.]
SATURDAY REVIEW 1970. John Boni,
"The Weakest Link."
V. 53, July 25, p. 4.
[Humorous treatment of receipt of a quota 20 LCL. Name list: 60. Some text. Copying: typewriter makes at most 5 or 6 legible carbons. Complains of 20 copies even in "age of Xerox." Variations on Death and Money protagonist (Cal Napke, Cal Nips, Col. Napak, General Wasp). Mother once received quota 3 letter. History: Hollywood celebrity letter received 4 years prior (name list had Agnes Moorehead, Elizabeth Montgomery, Larry Hagman, George Halas). Col. Napak variants.]
SCARNE, JOHN 1961. Scarne's Complete Guide to
[Has section on chain letters and pyramid schemes.]
SCIENCE & MECHANICS.
Mechanics of Chain Letters." October.
SCIENCE NEWS LETTER. 1953. "Chain Letter
Lottery." V. 64, Dec. 12, p. 372.
[<numbers> Wave of CLs "every few years." War bond chain in 1942. Current money CL with specs. s$2q5n5. Calculations. <immunization> "Repeats begin early" - spread from where started.]
SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN. 2003.
Charles H. Bennett,
Ming Li, Bin Ma. "Chain Letters
and Evolutionary Histories." June, Vol. 288,
No. 6. p. 76.
[Subtitle: "A study of chain letters show how to infer the family tree of anything that evolves over time, from biological genomes to languages to plagiarized schoolwork." "We believe that if (algorithms used to infer phylogenetic trees from the genomes of existing organisms) are to be trusted, they should produce good results when applied to chain letters." Describes method of measuring the distance between two letters using a file compression program (GenCompress by Xin Chen). Constructs a cladogram of 33 DL type letters collected by Bennett from 1980 to 1995. Advent of nine changes marked on cladogram (two pairs supposed concurrent). Changes used to diagnose phylogeny include variations in names and dollar amounts. Differing mutation rates related to replicative functionality. Applications to biological and linguistic evolution. Link to chain letters used (updated): www.cs.uwaterloo.ca/~mli/chain.html.
AND FOLKLORE SOCIETY
PROCEEDINGS. 1937. Anderson,
Walter. "Chain Letters." October, 1937.
SEAL, GRAHAM. 1989. The Hidden Culture.
Univ. Press, p. 66-68.
[Complete text of DL type LCL with LOVE title which "has been circulating the world's postal systems for decades in one version or another." Husband XCL parody complete text (the "man chain") collected in Perth in 1986, "popular in recent years throughout Australia, and possibly elsewhere."]
SKEPTICAL INQUIRER. 1991.
"Chain Letter Weighs Heavily on Top Journalists."
V. 16, Fall, p. 24-25.
[Derides participation in the "media" chain. Possible origin: "The decision to copy other people's cover letters as part of the package apparently started with Judy Kurianski of cable TV's Consumer News & Business Channel." Gives celebrity participants and their comments, including Jody Powell and Pierre Salinger. Gene Foreman of the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Understand that I am not doing this because I'm superstitious. I just want to avoid bad luck." Offers to receive LCLs to allay anxiety at: Chain Letters Anonymous, P.O. Box 6866, Providence, R.I. 02940. Also in Omni 1992.]
SKOLNIK, PETER L. 1978. Fads: America's
Crazes, Fevers and
Fancies from the 1890's to the 1970's.
New York: Thomas Crowell and Co., p.
[Basic facts of send-a-dime craze, Springfield craze, aftermath.]
SLATE. 2010. "You Must Forward This Story to Five Friends. The curious history of chain letters." Oct. 1 Link
[Attributes the origin of (charity) chain letters to an appeal by the Methodist "Chicago Training School" in the summer of 1888. Some text, including the "peripatetic contribution box". Mentions a charity CL to fund "The Home for Destitute Women in Whitechapel", site of the Jack the Ripper murders. Other charity appeals, little text. The "Self Help Mutual Advance Society" of London allegedly told recipients to "mail dimes to previous senders while adding their name to a list that, enough links later, would bring the coins of subsequent generations showering down on them". This is an error: this "Society" was involved in what could be described as a "pyramid sales" lending scheme - there was no use of letters or lists of names, and certainly not "dimes". See Truth, vol. 46, Google ebook, 1899, p. 214. Other examples from WWI and the Send-a-Dime era.]
Link URL: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2010/10/you_must_forward_this_story_to_five_friends.html
SOCIAL NETWORKS. 1994. "Defining and
locating cores and
boundaries of social networks." P. Doreian
& K. Woodard. V. 16, pp. 267-293.
[Authors' abstract: We propose a general procedure for locating the boundary of a network and a second, related, procedure for discerning the boundaries within a network. The first is an expanding (snowball) selection procedure. The second requires the specification of two critical parameters: the value of k for a k-core and the threshold, w, for the quantitative magnitude of network ties. The use of these parameters generates a sequence of nested cores. Single sector and multi-sector social service inter-agency networks are used to illustrate the procedures.]
THE SPECTATOR. 1922. "The Evil Eye in Modern England."
Letter - A. Hugh
Fisher, V. 129, July 29, p. 141.
[Complains of Good Luck type letter ("snowball-commands") with fifty names. Text fragments.]
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. 1988. "Scorecard:
For Your Wardrobe."
V. 69, n. 1, July 4, p. 13.
[Briefly reports XCL for basketball T-shirts. Text: "we can all use 216 shirts."]
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. 1989. E. M. Swift, "Post-nuclear
and other chain-angler items." , V. 71,
July 10, p. 8.
[Detailed results of participation in the "Trout Fly Club". Partial text, letter specs s1q6n3w21 max 216.]
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. 1991. "Chain Gang."
Jan. 21, V. 74,
[Media LCL "made the rounds of the NBA recently." Recipients named, incl. Pierre Salinger and Art Buchwald. Transmission to NBA traced: novelist Judith Krantz sent it to Laker general manager Jerry West.]
SPRINGFIELD (MISSOURI) NEWS LEADER. 1935. (Day
13). "Chain Letter Gang Riches Fade Under Investigation." May 2, p. 1:3&4.
[<motive> "Scores of exaggerated reports of Springfield people cashing in on send-a-dime chain letters were current today." Interviews dispel reports. Woman received $1.50 instead of $18. Only a few dimes have been detected in letters handled at the Post Office. "Yesterday there was a a widespread report that a waiter in a St. Louis street cafe received 40 letters containing dimes. I found that no mail was delivered to the cafe yesterday." ""Everywhere people were speculating upon the possibilities of the scheme for getting rich, and upon its legality. Stories of people who got $300, $800 or $100. Some thought the Post Office was going to start opening letters that contained dimes. Others claim legal because the letter said the dime was a charity donation, hence not gambling.]
SPRINGFIELD (MISSOURI) NEWS LEADER. 1935. (Day
17). "The Day's Best Story." May 6, p. 1:4.
["Chain letters began to flood the postoffice here today. Between 8000 and 10,000 extra letters were handled." Mostly dime letters, some quarter, a few dollar. Variety of envelopes, usually no return address. Dollar chain letters being circulated. "They instruct the sender not to give away his letter until he has made sure that a dollar has been paid to the proper person. This is supposed to eliminate cheaters."]
NEWS LEADER. 1935. (Day 18). "Dollar
Chains Hamper Business Here As 'Fortunes'
Are Made Over Night." May 7, p. 1:5,6.
[Photos: (1) crowd lined up at print shop. (2) overburdened mail man, (3) secretaries at work. Subtitle: "Postoffice Burden Vastly increased, Printers Reap Quick Profits and Few Folks Are Talking About Anything Else." Lead sentence: "Springfield has gone wild over chain letters." 15,000 extra pieces of mail this morning, thousands of letters circulated by hand. "Printing shops all over town are turning out letters as fast as they can be run off." Many businesses virtually paralyzed. A barber (who had realized $72 on his letters) could not remain in his shop - "the telephone kept ringing: calls from people who said they had a chain with his name on top and could he help them find a couple of buyers to carry it on." "Wild stories of fabulous sums received . . ." Dime chains forgotten. Dollar chains: mail not used except to send $1 to winner. $5 chain, $5 and $10 chains circulated by telegraph. <method> Garbled account, reorganizing: (1) You agree to take a letter with ten names on it, and to send a dollar to the top name (addressed envelope provided). (2) You go to a print shop and get two printed copies of the letter and pay a typist to type in the names, escalated, with your name at the bottom, plus two envelopes with the address from the top of the list. (3) You try to find two people who will take the letters off your hands by sending $1 to the top name.]
LEADER. 1935. (Day 19). "Money Making
Magic Starts Fevered Boom." May 8, p.
1:4,5,6,7,8. & other articles.
[Photo: Men, a few women, crowd around a bank of typists. Caption: "Letter Go, Gallagher! We'll Make a Fortune.!" Col. 8: Subtitle: "Like a Nation-Wide Lottery Chain Letter Craze is Causing Amazing Frenzy." By Docia Karell. Lead sentence: "Everybody's crazy!" "Dooley and me haven't been abed all night! We're just staying in and pushing 'em - carryin' 'em around - pushing our names up and everybody else with us." Compares to the "good old days before the depression." Col. 6-7: Subtitle: "Springfield Spins Madly on Financial Whirligig." "Chain letter exchanges popped up like mushrooms all over the business district and soon filled with milling throngs eager to turn dollars into thousands." "Hatless men hurried along the sidewalks waving chain letters. They stopped every one they saw, desperate to dispose of their wares before the urge to buy should die down." Crowd presented a fair cross-section of Springfield's population - cab drivers, debutantes, elderly matrons, business men, clerks, students, soda jerks. "Freak chains began to spring up. One is said to be circulating for children under 14 years old, and another confined exclusively to persons with the surname "Mason." (surname?, or lodge!). Col. 3: Alabama kiss chain. Col. 4: "Chain Fortunes not Guaranteed." <method> "When you get a copy of the letter ($2) - you must . . . accompany the salesman who sold you the letter to a notary, where you enclose $2 in an envelope addressed to the top name on the list on your letter. The letter is sealed by the notary, and you pay him 25 cents and buy a stamp and mail it in the presence of the salesman." School superintendent complains: (1) people are willing "to surrender their mind to the collective mind," and to refuse to see that the whole fantastic structure must soon "collapse of its own weight." And (2) "It isn't polite betting on your own friends - you put them on the spot, and they either have to break your chain and feel they are not good sports, or else send money to somebody they never heard of against their better judgment . . ." Banker notes that "conservative, cultured women that you would never dream would do such a thing - out on the streets trying to sell their letters!"
LEADER. 1935. (Day 20). "Day's Career
as Chain Letter Gangster Takes Reporter to
the Verge of Madness." May 9. p. 1: 5,6.
[Photo: Passers-by look at store front window with "Pot O' Gold" chain letter sign. Reporter Allen Oliver recounts his experiences pushing chain letters. Details on methods in the "factories." (p. 2, dialogue): <origin> "Someone was yelling in our ear. 'They're starting a $5 one right now. If you want in on the bottom, now's your chance. Got all I can handle. This one's a honey. You sell two copies, mail one $5 out, and pocket the other one. That way you get your money right back." Col. 8: "'Chain Gangs' Nearly Broke as Gold Ebbs." Subtitles: "Glittering Fortunes Turn to Brass as Everybody in Town Becomes a Seller." "Craze Swiftly Waning." "Tales of easy money and quickly-made fortunes continued to spread through the city, but to the thousands who came in late they were tales and nothing more." Well known Doctor denies story he made $2,700 on a $20 chain. "Every one had a letter to sell, and no one wanted to buy." "It was conceded the craze would die down tonight and there was a grimness in the air that contrasted with the hysterical speculation of yesterday." <origin, see also nyt 1935-20> "One chain that was doing a big business last night and early today was supposed to be unbeatable. You bought a letter for five dollars and sold two copies for the same price each, keeping one five. It died before noon." <method> Postoffice officials investigating a printing plant . . ."Six men were operating it and the name of one of them was in the pay-off position on every letter. They got a mailing list from the city directory of Springfield and are supposed to have collected considerable money."]
SPRINGFIELD (MISSOURI) NEWS LEADER. 1935. (Day
21). "Fever Passes, 'Magic Money' Places Close." May 10, p. 1:1.
[Subtitles: "Most of City's 'Exchanges' Find Operations Aren't Any Longer Profitable." "Shouts of 'Gyp" Heard." Many complaints from . . ."people who 'just knew' they had gone over the top. - Their names were ahead of someone's name who did go over the top, consequently they were bound to have gone over." Others thought that because they went over the top on one list that they would on all others. Others were told they went over the top falsely, to get their help. Stories of success were deliberately fabricated. "A dollar chain was charging 25 cents to keep an register of all persons to whom money was mailed and agreed to check by phone to see if it had been received." p. 8: 4 "State Promoters Get Kansas Haul." Accounts of chain letter exchanges in Joplin, Poplar Bluff and St. Louis. Police describe "professional chain letter promoters." "Copying the model originated in Springfield six exchanges were doing a rushing business in St. Louis today."]
SPRINGFIELD (MISSOURI) NEWS LEADER. 1935. (Day
22). "Stolen Letters Are Abandoned in Alley But Officers Unable to Trace
Thieves." May 11, p. 1:2,3,4.
[Photo: Postmaster examining letters. 680 letters stolen from a postal substation. 444 opened, of these 236 taken out of their envelopes. Of these, "scores were love notes which started with such greetings as 'Sweetie' and 'Darling'." "Only 25 letters were of the chain variety and all but one of them were for less than $1."]
SPRINGFIELD (MISSOURI) NEWS LEADER. 1935. (Day
23). "Guaranteed Chain Spreads to Denver As Suckers Hunted." May 12, p.
[Denver. May 11. "Factories" open in Denver to crowds. Traffic increased at Oklahoma chain-making facilities.]
SPRINGFIELD (MISSOURI) NEWS LEADER. 1935. (Day
24). "Probe of Chain Gangs Promised." May 13, p. 1:2.
[Says will not go after dime chains, or letters passed friend to friend. Will target "the people who started big chains with promise of a quick turnover."]
LEADER. 1935. (Day 28). "Negro Sleepily
Gives New Slant on Chain Letters. May
17, p. 10:2.
[Police inquire about mobs that beset home of J. H. Edwards. He was running the "negro personal chain letter exchange." Edwards says he doesn't put his name on any. For a week his home has been used by those trying to sell their dollar letters. Hires two typists, three runners and some relatives. Had not slept for six days. Avoids use of mails entirely.]
SPY. 1990. Aimée
Bell & Josh Gillette, "Chain of Foolishness."
Dec., p. 74+.
[Media CL. Described as co-opting of "numb, credulous lower-middle-class escapism" by the "haute bourgeoisie." "During the last year, a chain letter was sent from one opinion-maker and media nabob to another. The letter was a goofy exhortation to play golf, combined with vague references to luck." Full text (reduced so barely readable), includes leading office humor golf item. " Over 5 pages of linked transmissions, 169 senders, short bios provided. "... a sweeping diagram of the American media elite."]
THE STAR.. 1991. Janet Charlton feature
Star People: "Why
Jane Fonda & Goldie Hawn are in Kennedy
rape case file." Sept. 17, p. 12.
[Media CL. Celebrity recipients, including Sally Field, "Pee-Wee" Herman, Charles Keating, Melanie , Girth Whoopi Goldberg and Kennedy relatives. A copy is filed in court records in West Palm Beach, Fla.]
THE SUN (Rouses Point, NY). 1987.
"Broken chain letter
plagues woman with 100 accidents."
Feb. 24, V. 5, no. 8,
[Subtitle: "...all in just a year's time." Tabloid article. "A BROKEN chain letter tossed into the garbage by a 46-year old housewife has turned her life upside-down with some 100 near fatal accidents." Brenda Huggard (Toronto) discarded a LCL "telling her to send it to 10 other people," the next day her car "spun off the road." "I don't know how many times things have fallen off buildings missing me by near inches." Hopes her bad luck will stop this year, duration not specified by letter. Probably total fiction.]
THE SUNDAY HERALD (Provo, Utah). 1967. "The Return or the Notorious Chain Letter." Travis Ann Keller. Nov. 5, p. 55.
[Well informed general history of chain letters. Characterizes chain letters with five "I's": Illegal, Illogical, Immoral, Impious, Intriguing. "Let's face it, despite their absurdities, chain letters always have had a fascination. In 1935 someone hit on the idea of money as a chain-letter incentive, and send-a-dime took the Depression-racked public by storm. For six weeks, an estimated 10 million letters were mailed daily. The Post Office was forced to add thousands of workers to handle the load. ¶ The entire country was possessed. Then, as suddenly as it began, the mania stopped, leaving puzzled experts to ponder one of the greatest examples of mass neurosis in history."]
TENNESSEE FOLKLORE SOCIETY
1976. Michael J. Preston, "Chain
letters." V. 42, p. 1-14.
[Essential documentation and analysis of mid 1970's CLs. Recipe chain text, specs s2n2q6 max 30 (deduces that prior quota was 5). MCL attributed to William Neham of Nashville: full text, specs s$1q4n20. MCL full text, "As you give...", specs s$5n5q25. Observes that most circulating luck chain letters are a concatenation, in both orders, of two previously independent letters (Death20 and Lottery24). Gives full unedited text of eight luck chain letters, the following transcriptions taken from original letters by DWV: a, a1, a2, b1, b2, b3, b4.]
THOMAS, JOHN L. 1900.
and Obscenity in the Mails.
E. W. Stephens, Columbia, Mo. p. 121.
["CHAIN LETTER SCHEMES, AS LOTTERIES. Sec. 105. In the last few years a scheme known as the 'Chain Letter Scheme' has become quite popular and has been resorted to by the gamblers and by those who did not scruple to perpetrate a fraud upon a confiding and unsuspecting public. The scheme is this: The promoter writes a letter to some one and states that he desires to raise money for a certain purpose and requests the addressee to send him ten cents or some small amount and to write a similar letter to a certain number of his friends, the number varying in the different schemes, being three in some, ten in others, etc. all the addressees being requested to forward the required sum to the promoter. Each correspondent, it states, would become the starter or originator of a series and a prize is offered to each of these upon condition that the series, he originates or starts, would continue, without a break, till 10,000 or some other number named, is reached. For instance, A starts a series by writing letter to ten of his friends and thus starts a series and if all of his ten friend, all of the hundred, that his friends write to and all of the ten thousand this thousand write letters to write similar letters to their friends and send the required sum each to the promoter the starter or originator is to receive a prize but if anyone of the ten, hundred, thousand or ten thousand fails to do this the prize is lost. It is very readily seen that the chances of winning such a prize is remote indeed. / In such schemes we have a forcible illustration of the proposition that a prize, dependent on what others may do or not do, is dependent on chance. / The chance feature in such schemes is too apparent to require further comment or elucidation." Also gives history of postal regulations regarding lotteries.]
TIME. 1955. "Any Bonds
Today." V.65, Jan. 31, p. 80.
["A new person-to-person chain letter" exchanging US saving bonds. MCL specs s$18.75, q2x18.75, n11, with seller guaranteeing bond is mailed to top name. Started in South last fall. Some text. Used-car dealer Cliff Pettitt of Knoxville got 252 bonds.]
THE SUNDAY TIMES (LONDON).
Brien's Diary," July 29, p. 28: 8.
[Receipt of two LCLs: Lottery24 type ( or LD?), name variation, q24 appears. <numbers> "sudden resurgence." Concludes, to a sender: "Drop dead."]
THE SUNDAY TIMES (LONDON). 1975. "The
chain gang's icy
finger" - Patrick Campbell. Jan.
5, p. 12: 1.
[Campbell receives LD type LCL mailed 16 Oct. 1974 from Spain. Some text. Had name list, recognized sender. Humorous (?) association with bad luck.]
THE SUNDAY TIMES (LONDON). 1977. Richard
Milner, Inside Business,
"Free gift?" July 24, p. 64g.
["Financial Gift Service Club" MCL debunked. Testimonial by "Ryan Mann of San Francisco." Specs. q50+, n3. "Chain letters are lotteries (q.v. Atkinson v. Murrell, 1972)."]
THE TIMES (LONDON). 1978a.
Inside Business, "Chain letters for charity."
Jan. 8, p. 60g.
[MCL headed "THE INAUGURATION OF FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE - WOULD YOU TRADE £3 FOR £125,000?" Signed by "Nelson Robbards of Boston." Some text. Says legal because participants asked to pledge 20% of profits (after £1,000) to charity. Possible s£1, n3. Milner recommends discarding, or contacting A-4 Dept. of Scotland Yard.]
THE TIMES (LONDON). 1978b. "The
case of the frightened
lady." The Times Diary - PHS.
Jan. 24, p. 14d.
[Brief mention of receipt by a secretary of "one of those nasty letters." LCL: q20w9, one "lost his wife," another died "for no reason." Fears of recipient, and PHS.]
THE SUNDAY TIMES (LONDON). 1978b.
Inside Business, "Still in chains."
Aug. 27, p. 51g.
[MCL allegedly started by "Nelson Robbards of Boston." <numbers> One reader received 12 this year; received by nearly every advertiser in Business to Business classifieds. Promises £125,000 for £1 investment. See The Times 1978a.]
THE TIMES (LONDON). 1982. "Circle
of Gold turns to
ring of shame," Margaret Drummond.
Nov. 27, p. 15a.
["Every second person in the Covent Garden wine bar . . . was offering me the Circle of Gold . . ." MCL specs s£20, q2x£20, n12, max £164,000. Some text: "Please do not decide to invest in this paper until you are totally and completely sure and understand the concept." Cheating by selling more than two copies: ". . . tales of underwriters deserting their desks and stockbrokers forsaking the floor in order to copy as many as possible."]
THE TOPEKA DAILY CAPITAL. 1887. "A Grand Undertaking", June 19, p. 4.
["The Remarkable Scheme for Providing Christ's Hospital with an Endowment." Gives a detailed description of the "Progressive Subscription" scheme for raising money for a charitable cause. Participants are designated by the letters A through F and each is assigned an amount to contribute and recruiting duties dependent on this letter. A forerunner to charity chain letters which developed beginning in 1888. Here is the text describing the scheme. ¶ "It consists of a popular subscription, by which the subscribers also become solicitors. Beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, a number of persons form themselves into a class, taking the name of "A". Each "A" selects four "B's" and so on compounding the alphabet and the fund at every jump, until in the grand round up the "object all sublime" is duly attained. ¶ The scheme in detail is as follows: six A's have subscribed $1.00, and they will collect from four others, who will be called B's, 25 cents each, and will ask each of these B's to find four C's who will each give 25 cents and in return pass on the request to four D's. The four D's ask four E's and the four E's ask four F's. Then each F asks ten persons for 25 cents each, and the scheme ends, F asking more persons than the others because she does not have to find those who will continue the scheme. F must get $2.50, but may do so either by asking the persons for 25 cents each, or by getting the whole amount from one or more persons. Four cards like this (allowing for change of letters) must be written out by each subscriber and given to each one of the next letter. Money may be received from those who are not willing to press on the work, but each letter must in addition get her four subscribers." Gives totals: 6,144 persons, $17,412.00 cash. Scheme was working well in Topeka. Reference found by Patrick Davison using newspapers.com.]
TRUE MEN. 1965. "Good Luck 'Chain' Letters
- Your Secret Invitation
to a Mail-Order Sex Orgy!" Robert LaGuardia.
September, 1965, p. 16 &. [Subtitle: "Read
them fast, and they're innocent. But read
between the lines, answer them, and chances are
good you'll be invited to the wildest - or the
most frightening - party of your natural life!"
Dubious exposé of swing clubs. Names
fictional. Claims a couple new to San Francisco received
"what seemed a conventional 'good luck' letter
through the mails. The letter promised that if they
added their names to the list of its signers and sent
copies of the letter to three of their own friends, plus
a postcard to the sender, 'good luck would happen
to them within 30 days.'" Claims the couple
complied with this and a second such letter, with a different
name to respond to. After this they were contacted by
a couple "who specialized in wife-swapping cults."]
TRUTH (LONDON). 1880. A weekly journal. Vol. 46. Google ebook. pp. 231-2214. Link inactive (7-2-2014).
[Describes the "Self-Help Mutual Advance Society": "The modus operandi is stated on their circular with engaging . candor would-be borrower of 5 pounds forwards to the "Society" an 'office fee' of 1 shilling for a 'membership voucher', and a further payment of 10 shillings, for which he receives a 'certificate sheet' with ten other membership vouchers attached. He disposes of these vouchers to would-be borrowers of 5 pounds at 1 shilling each, and when the other ten borrowers have each forwarded 10 shillings to the office for a 'certificate sheet,' the "Society will advance the first man 5 pounds less 10 per cent for interest deducted in advance. In return for this the borrower agrees to repay advance within two years with interest at 10 percent. Before, therefor, the Society advances the 5 pounds, the borrower has to get 10 friends to pay 5 pounds to the 'Society'. The borrower, in fact, collects from among his friends, the sum he wishes to borrow, and then the 'Society' very kindly lends it to him less 10 percent, and 1 percent, for office expenses, and with the further result that at the end of two years the 5 pounds will come back into the permanent possession of the 'Society'."]
UKIAH DAILY JOURNAL (Ukiah,
California), 1978. "A chain letter for high rollers.",
Dec. 6, p. 4.
[Discussion of the "Circle of Gold" pyramid scheme. Started in California distributed hand to hand, but ... "Someone is now sending it in the mail to people throughout the United States". Revised copies read: "As I give, so shall I receive. I do not always receive according to my expectations, but am provided according to my needs". "The people who really cash in on them are those who put fictitious names on all the top places on the list before selling it. In the case of the 'Circle of Gold', ..., if you stand at the door of a party and sell copies to everybody coming in at $100 each and your name is first on the list, you are going to make money."]
UNITED STATES CODE SERVICE.
1979. Title 18. Lawyers Edition, Rochester:
The Lawyers Co-Operative
[Title 18, Section 1302. Mailing lottery tickets or related matter (¶1) Whoever knowingly deposits in the mail, or sends or delivers by mail: ( ¶2) Any letter, package, postal card, or circular concerning any lottery, gift enterprise, or similar scheme offering prizes dependent in whole or in part upon lot or chance; (¶3) Any Lottery ticket or part thereof, or paper, certificate, or instrument purporting to be or to represent a ticket, chance, share or interest in or dependent upon the event of a lottery, gift enterprise, or similar scheme offering prizes dependent in whole or in part upon lot or chance; (¶4) Any check, draft, bill, money, postal note, or money order, for the purchase of any ticket or part thereof, or of any share or chance in any such lottery, gift enterprise, or scheme; (¶5) Any newspaper, circular, pamphlet, or publication of any kind containing any advertisement of any lottery, gift enterprise, or scheme of any kind offering prizes dependent in whole or in part upon lot or chance, or containing any list of the prizes drawn or awarded by means of any such lottery, gift enterprise, or scheme, whether said list contains any part or all of such prizes; (¶6) Any article described in section 1953 of this title [18 USCS § 1953]-- (¶7) Shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both; and for any subsequent offense shall be imprisoned not more than five years.
Title 18, Section 1718. Libelous matter on wrappers or envelopes "(¶1) All matter otherwise mailable by law, upon the envelope or outside cover or wrapper of which, or any postal card upon which is written or printed or otherwise impressed or apparent any delineation, epithet, term, or language of libelous, scurrilous, defamatory, or threatening character, or calculated by the terms or manner or style of display and obviously intended to reflect injuriously upon the character or conduct of another, is nonmailable matter, and shall not be conveyed in the mails nor delivered from any post office nor by any letter carrier, and shall be withdrawn from the mails under such regulations as the Postal Service shall prescribe. (¶2) Whoever knowingly deposits from mailing or delivery, anything declared by this section to be nonmailable matter, or knowingly takes the same from the mails for the purpose of circulating or disposing of or aiding in the circulation or disposition of the same, shall be fined not more than $1,000 or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."
Under Interpretive Notes and Decisions: "18 USCS § 1718 is unconstitutional in that it is overly broad and violative of the First Amendment which guarantees freedom of expression. Tollett v United States (1973, CA8 Ark) 485 F2d 1087. ¶Prohibitions of 18 USCS § 1718 must be construed in light of First Amendment rather than in light of any regulatory power granted to Postal Service; if purpose is to deter potential libelers, who would not be frightened of civil judgment, while 18 USCS § 1718 might meet "rational basis" test, it does not rise to level necessary to meet "compelling interest" test applicable in cases involving restrictions on First Amendment protected speech; additionally, 18 USCS §1718 is unconstitutional because language is substantially overbroad and no indictment based on it can stand. United States v Handler (1974, DC Md) 383 F Supp 1267." LCLs on postcards are often still claimed to be illegal based on Section 1718! - DWV. ]
USA TODAY. 1990. Pat Guy, "Big-Name
Links for Chain
Letter." Aug. 31, p. 7B.
[Media LCL. "Big-league journalists are supposed to be so skeptical they need a second source to verify that their mother loves them. That hasn't kept a chain letter from making the rounds." Comments of four senders.]
USA TODAY. 1991. "Team-by-team Notes."
June 19, p. 5C.
[Media LCL. "Phillies utility IF Rod Booker received a chain letter from Toronto IF Rene Gonzales." "Booker said he would do his part keep the chain letter in circulation."]
U.S. NEWS AND
1975. "More States Turn to Gambling to Raise
Money in Hard Times." June 30, p. 22-23.
[State lotteries spreading. New Hampshire first in 1964. Now in 12 states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, Ohio, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine. Sales total 1 billion, up 47% in one year. More frequent drawings (many daily).]
VANITY FAIR. 1935,
Corey Ford, "The
Chain-Letter Priest." July, p. 13-15,
[Purports to be an interview with "Father Riddell," the "Chain-Letter Priest." Difficult to distinguish facts from satire here, but apparently there was a Father Riddell who cashed in on the chain letter fad in some manner.]
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. 1979. Frederick
C. Klein, "The Nice
Lady Who Peddles a Chain Letter."
Nov. 1, p.28:6
[Pyramid party in Chicago, max $32,000 with $1,000 ante. Recruiters pitch: "rewards salesmanship and persistence." Rockford, Ill. hearing on charges had spectators in green T-shirts promoting the "money pyramid."]
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. 1987.
Paul B. Carrol,
"Yuletide Chain Mail by Prankster Slows
Networks at IBM." Dec. 17, p. 34:6.
["The message consisted of an innocuous Christmas greeting plus a drawing of a Christmas tree... But the message also contained a program that searched the computer files of the recipient's personal computer to find the automatic distribution list that would be used to forward notes to co-workers, bosses or customers. Once the program found those names, it forwarded the message to them." Circulated through IBM internal communication network "last Friday" - "slowed message traffic to a crawl" - spread worldwide. No files lost. IBM posted warnings on its BBS.]
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. 1990. Thomas
R. King, "Read
This Story and Pass It On To Five of Your
Friends--or Else." May 9, p. B1:1.
[Media LCL. Says traveled from Hollywood to New York where it is "making its way through media circles." Celebrities and their comments. CEO of Fox Inc.'s TV production unit: "I would've chucked it, but the letter came just as we were getting our pilots ready for the fall." No idea who started; now 50 pages long. CBS casting director received three packets, sent the first two on.]
WARING, PHILIPPA. 1978. The Dictionary of Omens
Treasure Press, p. 52.
[Brief entry on CLs. <origin> "The very earliest chain letters date from the Middle Ages and carried details of simple cures and prayers to be recited with them. They were sold by travelers or fortune tellers and widely believed to be most effective. In the last hundred years, however, they have degenerated into what are little more than begging letters . . ." ]
THE WASHINGTON POST. 1913. "Church Built on Dimes." March 23, p. 4.
[Claims in 1881 a structure for the English Lutheran Church of Salina, Kansas "was erected by the means of a system of endless chain letters started from Salina, and reaching into nearly every foreign country in the civilized world." Says the names of the donors were inscribed on the surface bricks of the structure. This would be the earliest endless chain letter by far, but the report is probably false. I contacted (2014/2) the current secretary of the church and the 1881 date is correct but not the means of financing the building, nor the inscribing of the names of donors. The Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) Telegraph, Sept. 20, 1879, p. 1, reports an appearance of Rev. A. J. Hartsock, pastor of the Salina church, at a Synod of The Evangelical Lutheran Church of East Pennsylvania - Home Missions and Church Extension. Rev. Hartsock reported that "A new mission church is being erected, and cards had been sent out, each card to represent one brick in the edifice, and each brick to cost ten cents."]
THE WASHINGTON POST.
Clark, "The Great Chain (Letter) of Being."
, V. 114, Sat. Nov. 16, A27: 1.
[Receives Media LCL (calls it the "VIP" CL) which "came clipped to notes on letterhead stationery from a pantheon of big shots in government policy circles, corporate suites and the news media elite." Complete text (same). "Once somebody got the ball rolling, a peer pressure set in among the elite, and these illustrious citizens indulged in thinly disguised efforts to laugh off their obvious fear that an anonymous, fuzzily photocopied, threatening chain letter could actually be a tool of the gods of fate." Names of prior senders and many of their comments.]
THE WASHINGTON POST. 1995. Michael
D. Shear, "A High-Tech Chain Letter Hits Town." March 13, Washington
Business, p. 17&20.
[Subtitle: "Get-Rich-Quick Scheme Involves Copying Disks." Spec q5 (disks), s$5, n?, max $19,500. You receive disk with program named Network!, send $5 to top name for secret code that allows you to copy disk. Copy and send to five others. Circulating in Washington area, has a California address. Leading text: "Do you own, or have access to an IBM PC compatible computer and printer? Would you like to earn $19,550 in just 12 weeks? Can you afford to invest $25 (only $5 to start!!)." Quotes Paul Griffo on illegality.]
THE WENATCHEE WORLD. 1996. Elizabeth
Weise (AP Cyberspace
Writer), "AIDS outbreak on Internet."
January 28, p. 11.
[Subtitle:" Boy's e-mail virus is fake but spreads faster than real thing." Partial text: "Could you all pretend that I have HIV, and I gave it to you. Then could you pass it on to your friends? Let's see if the entire e-mail population could get infected by me alone." Attributed to "young Bradley" as part of a health class project. Has circulated "for the last two months." Sent out Wednesday as part of the daily Internet AIDS news summary by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.]
WESTERN FOLKLORE. 1948. D. H. Hall,
"The Spanish Prisoner
Letter." V. 8, p. 265.
[Complete text of 1898 Spanish Prisoner Letter confidence racket.]
in the News" - "Chain Letter."
V. 9, n. 1, p. 273.
[Cites Berkeley Daily Gazette. (1) Feb. 2, 1950: A variant of the Mexican prison treasure epistle. (2) Oct. 27, 1949: A LCL said to have originated with a French army officer (text of collected letter likely of same type -DWV). <number> Non-monetary CL said to be "novel"!]
WESTERN FOLKLORE. 1956.
"Chain Letters." V. 15, October, p. 287-289.
[Full text of LCL specs q4+1, d1w4. Full text of wife exchange parody.]
CODE. 1989. Penal code,
St. Paul: West Publ. Co.
[Title 9, Section 327. Endless chain schemes. "Every person who contrives, prepares, sets up, proposes, or operates any endless chain is guilty of a public offense, and is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year or in state prison for 16 months, two, or three years. As used in this section, an "endless chain" means any scheme for the disposal or distribution of property whereby a participant pays a valuable consideration for the chance to receive compensation for introducing one or more additional persons into participation in the scheme or for the chance to receive compensation when a person introduced by the participant introduces a new participant. Compensation, as used in this section, does not mean or include payment based upon sales made to persons who are not participants in the scheme and who are not purchasing in order to participate in the scheme.]
THE WORLD AND I.
L. Welsch, "The Endless Chain."
Sept., p. 500-511.
[LCL type Death20 testimonial variations. CLs: "long life, anonymity, variation of detail within a fairly constant larger framework." "St. Antoine's" (same as "Venezuelan" or "Dutch" letter): in India, Germany, Japan. Send-a-dime basic history. Pyramid sales described in revealing 1900 letter: Parisian skirt fad, coupons 20 cents, books of 5, value of skirt $5. Author's CL classification: exchange, money, merchandise (commercial), St. Antoine's (prayer), social action. LCL variant: sequences of two or three initials to be placed on corner of letter, or envelope containing it (?). Full text of DL type LCL (no date) with TRUST leader (Proverbs) and REMEMBER trailer plus "May you continue to be encircled in gold." St. Antoine name variations (18), Joe Dilliot variations (7). Social action CLs: Shell Boycott (UPI, June 6, 1979); Feminists poems; protest of movie image of Jesus Christ (1985 - Ann Landers). Parodies: Return of chain (full text, no date); excuses for not writing paper; wife exchange (full text, no date, signed by King Farouk & two others); fertilizer club; Academic co-author parody (full text).]
WRIGHT, A. R. 1929 (?). English
York: ? p. 103. (Also
[<gender> Good Luck LCL: "...the 'chains of luck' which for a number of years, right up to 1928, have worried nervous women." Some text.]
THE WRITER. 1993. Roving Editor: "Chain
letter with a twist."
April, p. 5.
[Used paperback XCL: all as reported in NYT, Jan. 6, 1993.]