Eight decades later, trying to unravel mystery enveloping Westport letter
Published 5:10 pm, Tuesday, November 25, 2014
They were on a mission to find old photos when they stumbled on an old envelope tucked into a filing cabinet.
"I opened it and inside I found some news clippings and a letter," said Ashley Heher, assistant director of the news office at the University of Chicago Medicine and Biological Sciences. That original letter, now yellowed with age, was written in 1932 by, they assumed, a "little kid from Westport."
She said it was "sent to our hospital, likely after an AP story about how we were lowering prices for maternity services by 25 percent, because of the Great Depression" making a 10-day stay costing $55 for a four-person room.
The letter -- with some misspellings -- read: "Dear Sir, If I send you $55 will you send us our baby because our baby aint come yet an I want wone." It was signed: M. Adams of Westport Conn.
The letter, postmarked April 11, 1932, from New York City, managed to get the attention of Jessie F. Christie, a nurse who was superintendent of what was then called the Chicago Lying-in Hospital and Dispensary, according to Heher.
Christie responded in a typed letter dated April 14, 1932.
Her letter read: "Dear little Miss or Master Adams, I'm sorry we cannot send you a baby for $55. You would have to send your mother to us before any arrangement could be made. The stork will only fly for mothers, not for little boys or girls. I think it is a very poor arrangement but it is one we cannot alter. I hope your own baby will come soon."
But, Heher explained, Christie's letter was returned to sender by the U.S. Postal Service for having an insufficient address. The original letter had no return street address.
As a former AP reporter, Heher said she was intrigued by the discovery and, besides, she added, the letter was "cute -- precious."
She said it's a reminder of a simpler time, "a different time and different place."
So she undertook a mission trying to find the letter writer, who by this time would be at least in his or her late 80s or early 90s. That's if it was written by a child, she said.
"We haven't gotten anything definitive," she said. "There are some arm chair detectives who think maybe it wasn't a kid, maybe someone without a good grasp of the English language" who misinterpreted what the AP story was about.
Heher said the quest to resolve this 82-year-old mystery will continue.
Anyone with information, can contact her at: Ashley.Heher@uchospitals.edu.