A Murder Confession/Suicide Letter



I, William R. Talbot being of sound mind and body, wish to confess to the murder of Charles W. Sidman.  I killed him by pushing him over the side of the U.S.S. L.S.T. 1103 at Ting Han China.  I am sorry maw and am taking my own life in penance.  May God forgive me.

William R. Talbot


Foremost, I must admit I did not find this letter in my collection.  I have often told friends that I wish I could find something truly salacious, and thankfully this one finally came my way via an internet friend (thank you, Kelly).   I am a part of several online groups in which members post images of found art or forgotten things discovered in walls/attics/barns, etc.  A fellow member, Kelly, had a friend who found this letter in the back of a filing cabinet in the Seattle area a few years ago.  Sadly, it seems it was packed away and lost again, but luckily Kelly had the wherewithal to save a copy digitally, which is how it made its way to me.  She also reported the letter to a Naval department in Washington, D.C., though they told her she would never hear any follow up information as it would be considered classified.

According to navsource.org, ” Following World War II USS LST-1103 was assigned to Occupation service in the Far East for the following periods:
25 October to 10 December 1945
1 to 11 January 1946
22 January to 9 March 1946.”

Around 1941, United States Naval ships were sent to China with several missions in mind: to spy on the Japanese, to collect weather data for the United States fleet, and to aid China in the prevention of a Japanese occupation.  Though no date is written on the letter, it is entirely possible that William R. Talbot and Charles W. Sidman were sailors who died by murder and suicide during one of the aforementioned dates, though I can find no information on them specifically.

This letter unfortunately leaves us with more questions than answers.  Why would Talbot push Sidman overboard?  Did either of them have children, and perhaps grandchildren who could be alive today?  Did Talbot’s mother ever receive his apology to her?  Was Sidman’s body ever located?

Though we may never know answers to these questions, I will always believe it is vitally important to preserve what we do know.  This letter was a defining moment in the intertwined lives of two men that we have the privilege of reading today.


A 1907 Article About Typhoid Mary (And Why We Should All Wash Our Hands!)

As a global pandemic currently spreads and people slip further into hysteria, I thought it would be appropriate to share a 1907 article about Typhoid Mary from The Evening World newspaper.

“Typhoid Mary” (born in 1869) was an Irish Cook in New York who is believed to have infected 51 people (3 of whom died) with Typhoid Fever in the early 1900s outbreak.

Mary was an asymptomatic carrier, and therefore continued her work as a cook for several families, all while ignoring medical advice to practice standard hygiene procedures.

George Sober, the physician who first identified Mary as a carrier wrote the following in his 1937 essay about her life:

I first saw Mary Mallon thirty-two years ago, that is, in 1907. She was then about forty years of age and at the height of her physical and mental faculties. She was five feet six inches tall, a blond with clear blue eyes, a healthy color and a somewhat determined mouth and jaw. Mary had a good figure and might have been called athletic had she not been a little too heavy. She prided herself on her strength and endurance, and at that time and for many years thereafter never spared herself in the exercise of it. Nothing was so distinctive about her as her walk, unless it was her mind. The two had a peculiarity in common. […] She could write an excellent letter, so far as composition and spelling were concerned. She wrote in a large, clear, bold hand, and with remarkable uniformity. She read a good deal in the days of her captivity and seldom missed her daily paper. […] Mary possessed a violent temper against which, when fully aroused, few persons had ever been willing to contend.

Typhoid fever comes from the bacterium called Salmonella typhi, which causes a high fever, abdominal pain, and severe headaches. Typhoid was thought to have been isolated to poor communities in the early 1900s where sanitation standards were not in place. When wealthy families started to become ill, doctors traced the illness back to Mary, who refused to believe she was a carrier (and also refused to practice basic hygeine such as hand washing).

Sadly for Mary, she was forcibly quarantined and passed away from pneumonia 6 years after a stroke left her paralyzed. In a postmortum study, live typhoid bacteria was found in her gallbladder. Only nine people are reported to have attended her funeral.

It was simply ignorance, not malice, that led Mary to infect people with Typhoid. She never believed she was a carrier. She felt fine (healthy even) and therefore felt no obligation to shield those around her from Typhoid.

In times of a global pandemic such as we are seeing in 2020, let history serve as a lesson for us all. When we know better, we can do better. Let’s wash our hands and remember though we are healthy, we may pass a virus to someone who may not be.

Let’s take care of each other…and wash our hands!

“Social Media” of 1916

One of the more recent things I was delighted to find in my trunk of letters is a copy of The Haralson Sentinel from June 1, 1916. Upon turning to the last page, I was really intrigued to find brief synopses of everyday life, much like the modern day Facebook or Twitter status updates.

From barbed wire to the teapot, there are so many inventions that have never changed since their inception. As we can see in this excerpt from The Haralson Sentinel, “Social Media” is a concept that existed even in the early 1900s, its platform has just changed over time. Even over 100 years ago we were interested (nosy?) neighbors, relishing in our desire for connection with each other.

In order to fully understand what life was like during this time, I’d like to show you this video of New York City in the year 1911 from the Museum of Modern Art’s archives. The first time I saw this footage I watched it over and over again, totally in awe of how much life has changed. Keep in mind that this footage was created only five years before the “Local News” article I found in The Haralson Sentinel. These amazing pieces of history also illustrate the differences between small town and big city life during the early 1900s.



A Debt Collection Letter from 1900



Waco Ga

Dec 21st 1900

Mr. JC Key

Dear Sir

Below you will find statement of your account with us. You will greatly oblige us to settle the same before January 1st 1901.

The goods you bought at cash price, with the understanding they were to be paid for in a few days. Now we have waited patiently more than a year though we have needed the money badly. We think you will appreciate our favor and attend to this matter at once and oblige.

Yours truly

Mauldin & Co

Nov 18th 1899

Mr. JC Key

In acct with Mauldin & Co

To 50# Flour 1.00

” Sugar .50

” Snuff .10

” Potted & C .25


Interest 7% .13


Before there was the modern-day grocery store, people mostly farmed their own food, butchered their own animals, or purchased dry goods from local proprietors. The first grocery store in the United States was Piggly Wiggly, which opened in Memphis, Tennessee 16 years after this letter was written. In the year 1900, the patron would often approach the counter of the store and hand the clerk a list of items to retrieve, rather than perusing aisles and choosing goods themselves.

piggly wiggly

In this letter, we learn that JC Key had purchased goods from Mauldin & Co, a local Waco, Georgia business on November 18, 1899 with the promise that he would pay for the items in a few days. This collection letter was delivered to him over a year later, with a $0.13 interest charge and a request for him to pay his balance by January 1, 1901. If we look at an inflation calculator, we see that $1.98 in the year 1900 is equivalent to about $61.00 today.

Literature and Longing in 1937

March 5th, 1937

Dear Will,

You are really sweet to write me such a nice cheerful letter.  I almost envy the girl who you say is a good friend of yours.  Sometimes I think if we had not lived so far apart and could have been together more, we could have understood each other better.  Anyway that is past history and perhaps all worked out for the best to all concerned. 

It is so nice for you to have Saturdays.  That gives you more time for rest and recreation.  I know you don’t mind that.

When I got your letter, I hadn’t heard of “Live Alone and Like It.”  I began at once to try to get a Sunday American.  Soon I learned I could get the whole story in book form at the city library.  So I did.  It seems to be a very much talked about book right now.  The edition I read had printed on the wrapper “Men absolutely forbidden to read this.”  However, I decided my salary would not permit all of the expenditures that author called for.  If I did all she mentioned my savings would be even less than now.  

Have you read “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell?  The author is an Atlanta lady, and the setting is in Georgia in the time of the War Between the States.  I have also read recently “90 Degrees in the Shade,” another southern book.  The last one was written by a Mr. Cason, a University of Alabama professor, who afterwards committed suicide.  The book is a criticism of the south.

Last weekend I visited a lady in Leighton.  She and I were good friends and taught together before she married twelve years ago.  This was the first time I had visited her since she married.  I surely had a grand time.  Leighton is a small place, but most of the people there live in beautiful old homes, have wealth, and keep servants.  She gave a party Saturday afternoon and I met some nice people.  Sunday I met more at church.

Tomorrow I am going to Birmingham to spend the day.  One of the other teachers is driving down and asked me to go.  

I am not sure whom you mean by the gentleman I was so interested in.  If you mean Harry, he married Christmas.  Boo-hoo!  I’ll tell you all about it someday if I ever see you again.  

My club is giving a benefit bridge party to-night.  For several reasons I decided at the last minute not to go.  I had rather give my part out-right.  We are trying to raise money to pay for a scholarship that the club is giving to a poor girl to the University Center.  

Are you tired of reading all this I am writing?  I hope not for I just felt like writing and writing and writing.

A Friend,


P.S. Sometime when you have a little time to spare, you might remember I like to get a letter from you.  

This 1937 letter from Florence to J.W. Key was actually the first one I ever read from my collection.  I’m not sure why I haven’t written about it yet, because it’s easily my favorite I’ve come across thus far.  This letter is the one that sparked a desire in me to record these pieces of history.  It’s the catalyst behind this blog and reading it made me pause to realize that I had just found something vitally important to preserving our shared human experience.  This one isn’t just a letter to me.

There are so many things I love about this one:  the slight longing in Florence’s tone for J.W. to return her affection, her eloquent writing, the flirtation, and the historical context provided by the literature references.

I had never heard of Live Alone and Like It until reading this letter.  It was written in 1936 by author and Vogue editor Marjorie Hillis, with the intention of teaching single women how to live lavishly and enjoy being alone.  Notable chapters include “A Lady and Her Liquor” and “The Pleasures of a Single Bed.”  Hillis advocated that women should have breakfast in bed whenever possible, own several pairs of luxurious pajamas, and keep a bottle of the best whiskey money can buy.  Sounds like a plan to me, Marjorie.  She also coined the phrase “Independence is its own reward.”

One of the sentences that made me fall in love with this letter is when Florence says, “Have you read ‘Gone With the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell?”  Gone With the Wind was published the year before this letter was written in 1936.  The iconic film was released on January 17, 1940, three years after Florence wrote to J.W.  I wonder if they saw it and what they thought of it.

The third book she mentions, 90 Degrees in the Shade, was a collection of essays written by Clarence Cason in 1935, two years before this letter was written.  One of Cason’s main arguments was against the practice of lynching, which was still prevalent (though declining) in the 1930s.  Lynchings were most common in the southern United States from the 1890s to 1920s, and Cason was among a class of southern intellectuals who both loved his home and was simultaneously appalled by it.  He killed himself before the book went into print, and though no suicide letter was left behind his colleagues believed he feared the backlash 90 Degrees in the Shade would receive.

Finally, the part of the letter I love most is Florence’s “P.S. Sometime when you have a little time to spare, you might remember I like to get a letter from you.”  It makes me wonder if J.W. wrote to her more, if their letters grew increasingly flirtatious, or if time came between them once and for all.








Career Requirements for a 1947 “Air Hostess”

Any working mother will tell you that they experience guilt from time to time. I currently work in a predominantly female industry, and have seen even the most badass career women endure moments where they just want to give it all up and stay home with their kids.

Three years ago, I remember dropping my son off at his first daycare when we lived in Chattanooga. I choked back tears as I handed my sweet infant to his daycare provider. She gave me a premade baggie of Hershey’s Kisses and said, “All moms cry on the first day, it’s okay.” I remember thinking to myself how simpler life must have been in say, the 1950s, where it was commonplace for all women to stay home and raise their children. I then pulled into my parking space at work and angrily threw my breast pump into my bag, mad at the world that my ultimate dream of idyllic postpartum womanhood wasn’t a reality.

I know that personal anecdote seemingly has nothing to do with the article I’m posting this week from Life magazine. I promise, there is some perspective here. The entire time I was reading this piece entitled “School for Air Hostesses” from the December 1947 issue of Life I was flabbergasted…utterly floored at what I was reading.

Contrary to my thoughts during that tearful ride from the daycare center to my job, life was not simpler in the 1950s. Women have come such a long way. We no longer have a shelf life of 26 years. We are taking care of ourselves now, not just working to achieve a trim figure as we wait on a man to marry.

And even though I still have days where I still don’t know what I want to be in life and question my role as a working mother, I’m really glad to be a woman in 2019, where the decisions are all mine.

In this article, we learn the requirements to become a flight attendant in 1947, which was only a career option for the young, beautiful, slim, poised, and unmarried.

(You may need to zoom in on the images for readability…the captions under the photographs are the most entertaining/cringeworthy!)

1908 Ladies Fashion and My Vintage Singer Sewing Machine



When I read through old letters between women there is a common pastime that is often mentioned…sewing. I was fortunate to have a Singer Model 27-4 passed down to me, and it currently serves as a unique piece of furniture in my home. The drawers have become a catch-all for decades, housing everything from 100-year-old spools of thread, to one of my son’s infant-sized diapers I can’t part with, and finally a cassette tape from the early ’90s entitled “Jessica’s Boogie Songs” (I shudder to think what is on that).


20190823_120305 (1)

Through years of opening the drawers to throw in a random hair tie or pen, I never really noticed the owner’s manual that still lives in the drawer after 111 years. For this post, I decided to share some of it with you, as well as some images of artwork from the famous American portrait artist, John Singer Sargent, who was producing work during the time this machine was manufactured. By looking at his portraits of women (I chose all images from the year 1908 specifically), we can see the types of garments that would have been produced on the Singer Model 27-4.

First, images from the instruction manual:

img009 (2)img010

If we look at an inflation calculator, we see it was not cheap to make repairs to your sewing machine in 1908. It appears to have cost $35 for a new feed dog, which in 2019 money would be over $900.

1908 Portraits by John Singer Sargent:

John Singer Sargent, Miss Eliza Wedgwood and Miss Sargent Sketching, 1908
John Singer Sargent, Almina, Daughter of Asher Wertheimer, 1908
John Singer Sargent, The Black Brook, 1908
John Singer Sargent, Cashmere, 1908
John Singer Sargent, Mosquito Nets, 1908



Talking Politics During the Great Depression

It has been quite some time since I posted a letter.  I have the day off work today so I decided to reach into the trunk and choose a letter at random, and was thrilled with the one I selected.  It has it all…rich history (Great Depression era), use of technology (typewriter), political commentary, and personal anecdotes.

Here is a picture of the antique trunk where all the letters are kept in my home:


This letter was written by Dora Comfort to her friend Stella Key on October 31, 1938 (My birthday!  Well, my birthday was technically 48 years later, but I was still excited).

img004 (2)

img003 (2).jpg



This letter was written during the Great Depression in the United States, which began in 1929 and lasted until 1939.  Dora writes about the upcoming election, and how she will not be voting for “a single old democrat” this time. (For perspective, women only had the right  to vote for 18 years when Dora wrote this).

Dora’s letter was written in the midst of Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second term.  In the 1938 election, the Democratic Party lost 72 seats in the House of Representatives to the Republican Party.  FDR was responsible for the New Deal, a series of programs, reforms, and regulations enacted by the government in order to restore prosperity to Americans after the worst downturn in economic history.  

Americans at the time (as this letter proves) were losing trust in the government, so the New Deal garnered quite a bit of criticism for giving the government too much power.  In 1941, three years after this letter was written, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, which essentially ended the Great Depression due to the war effort’s stimulation of the American economy.  

I smiled when reading the part of Dora’s letter that says, “Politics is the only thing you can hear on the radio now and will be until after next Tuesday Nov. 8.” Oh, Dora. If only you were alive today to see how that has evolved!

“More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette!” (And Other 1940s Ads)

I haven’t blogged in awhile because life has been pretty busy with work, home, and a toddler (who just recovered from two consecutive bouts of Strep Throat) but I’m back! I’ve been really wanting to dive into these LIFE magazines from the 40s. My intention when I got them out today was to do a post on 1940s fashion and makeup (which I still intend to do later) but I got distracted by the advertisements! They really paint a solid picture of what life was like in this decade.

During the 1940s the world witnessed most of World War II, the bombing of Pearl Harbor (and subsequently Hiroshima), and the death of Adolf Hitler. With the world seemingly being turned upside down, Americans yearned for escapism. LIFE magazine was undoubtedly one of those pleasures for many. Advertisers capitalized on the influx of LIFE readers as the publication led the media industry for decades.

Below are several ads from LIFE magazines from the years 1940 to 1946:

I’ll start with my own personal favorite:

Advancements in technology:

PBR and Kellogs:

A question about “what will happen to him” without wondering what will happen to HER as well:

An ad for men’s hair products:

And the good old beauty industry, who will help you with your ultimate life goal of landing a man:

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I actually adore beauty products myself and my husband has a great time making fun of the many bottles that clutter our bathroom counter. I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness for the state of the current beauty industry?

I’ll be back with another letter soon, but I wanted to have a little fun this week. I hope you all enjoyed some vintage ads!