It’s so touching that Sam Stone felt a need to give to others ["The Gift"] during the Great Depression. What an outstanding American. Today, more than ever, we need more like him.
Stuart M. Novotny
Random Act of Kindness
Ted Gup’s article ["The Gift"] really touched me, first by the generosity and kindness of Sam Stone (alias Mr. B. Virdot), and then by the fact that Gup, his grandson, had the good fortune of finding that suitcase full of documents in the attic. Thank you for giving me a glimpse of a time I’ve only seen depicted in movies. I found myself wondering if this could ever happen today.
Hopewell, New Jersey
Inspired by recent newspaper stories about B. Virdot’s original act of generosity 77 years ago, three anonymous donors came forward in my hometown of Canton, Ohio, and made the same offer to 150 needy families during the 2010 holiday season, except they adjusted for inflation: each family received $100 instead of $5. The offer appeared in the same Canton newspaper that published Virdot’s, The Repository, but this time it was front-page news as well as an ad in the classified section. The recipients were selected by a priest, pastor and rabbi, and the United Way dispersed the funds. As news of the charitable effort spread, another 180 citizens contributed nearly $35,000 (as of late December) and assisted about 500 Canton families. B. Virdot is alive and well.
Ted Gup is the author of A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness—and a Trove of Letters—Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression (Penguin Press).—Ed.
I was quite surprised to see a picture of myself from long ago in the December issue. I am the little girl—10 years old at the time—in the photograph on page 30 with dollhouse miniatures designer Faith Bradford ["Deck the Halls," The Object at Hand]. I remember that day very well. My grandmother, Ruth Munson, a friend of Miss Bradford, arranged for me to meet her while I was visiting my grandparents in Washington, D.C. Miss Bradford was kind enough to give me a personal tour of her dollhouse, which was displayed in the Smithsonian Castle. She also gave me a tiny hairbrush, comb and mirror for my own dollhouse. Seeing that photograph made me appreciate again how special those experiences were.
Barbara Munson Albrecht
Joe Queenan mentions a study at Kingston University in London that proves that an unmade bed enables pockets of moisture in a mattress to dry faster, thereby killing dust mites ["Daughter Knows Best," The Last Page]. When I was a child in Milan, Italy, in the 1950s, we would take all the sheets and blankets off our beds every morning. The mattresses were placed before an open window and beaten with a carpet beater, and along with the linen, allowed to rest half an hour in the air. Only then was the bed made. I wonder how this method would fare in a scientific study.
Commack, New York
Pioneer Bird Man
To Richard Stone’s discussion of prehistoric bird fossils in his article "Dinosaurs’ Living Descendants," I would like to add the name John H. Ostrom. It was Ostrom, a Yale University paleontologist who died in 2005, who discovered the fossil of the small predatory dinosaur in central Montana in 1964, which Stone describes. It was also Ostrom who named the find Deinonychus ("terrible claw"). As Stone points out, the fossil and its sharp hind talons stirred much debate about the ancestors of birds. Further, of the ten fossils of the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx, that Stone discusses, Ostrom identified the fourth specimen, in 1970. Studying the dinosaur-bird link, Ostrom led a delegation of scientists to China in the early 1990s to examine a feathered dinosaur excavation. In 1999 Ostrom was honored at a Yale symposium that drew scholars from around the world, including Ji Qiang and Philip Currie, cited in Stone’s article.
John K. Lee
Princeton, New Jersey