Letters of Note has curated hundreds of interesting letters, telegrams, memos and faxes, from famous people, regular people, and even fictional people. Here are 10 thank you (and one thanks-for-nothing) letters from its archives.
1. Roald Dahl
In 1989, a little girl named Amy sent a bottle of colored water, oil, and glitter to Roald Dahl, who knew right away that this was a dream in a bottle inspired by his book, The BFG. In response, the author penned this short note to his 7-year-old fan:
Dear Amy, I must write a special letter and thank you for the dream in the bottle. You are the first person in the world who has sent me one of these and it intrigued me very much. I also liked the dream. Tonight I shall go down to the village and blow it through the bedroom window of some sleeping child and see if it works. With love from, (Signed) Roald Dahl
2. Neil Armstrong
When your job involves leaving the planet to walk on the moon, it’s important that the people who build your equipment do things the right way. The complexity of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit engineering team’s task—that is, building a spacesuit that kept a man safe and alive on the moon—was not lost on Neil Armstrong, who wrote this letter for the 25th anniversary of the lunar landing.
To the EMU gang: I remember noting a quarter-century or so ago that an emu was a 6-foot Australian flightless bird. I thought that got most of it right. It turned out to be one of the most widely photographed spacecraft in history. That was no doubt due to the fact that it was so photogenic. Equally responsible for its success was its characteristic of hiding from view its ugly occupant. Its true beauty, however, was that it worked. It was tough, reliable and almost cuddly. To all of you who made it all that it was, I send a quarter century's worth of thanks and congratulations. Sincerely, (Signed) Neil A. Armstrong
3. Conan O’Brien
Remember your prom? Nikki Simmons probably won’t forget hers, even though the guy she asked had to politely decline. Seems he’d just gotten married and, honestly, he was probably busy.
Dear Nikki - Thanks for your very flattering offer. It's great to know I have such a devoted fan out there, and I'm sure you would make a great prom date (I didn't go to mine—it's a very sad story). Unfortunately, I got married recently and my wife doesn't allow me to go to proms anymore with cute 16-year-old girls. Still, it was very cool of you to ask me. Thanks and have a great evening. Your Friend, Conan
4. John Lennon
John Lennon showed up drunk to LA’s Troubadour club in 1974 and proceeded to heckle the Smothers Brothers during their act. A fight ensued which involved just about everyone, including actress Pam Grier. The next day, she got this letter from Lennon:
Dear Pam, I apologize for being so rude and thank you for not hitting me. John Lennon P.S. Harry Nilsson feels the same way.
5. Marilyn Monroe
Sometimes less is more.
Dear Mr. von Fuehlsdorff: Thank you for your champagne. It arrived, I drank it and I was gayer. Thanks again. My best,Marilyn Monroe
6. Barack Obama
After reading Yann Martel’s book Life of Pi with his daughter, a fan sat down to write this short note of thanks.
Mr. Martel — My daughter and I just finished reading Life of Pi together. Both of us agreed we prefer the story with animals. It is a lovely book—an elegant proof of God, and the power of storytelling. Thank you. (Signed) Barack Obama
7. Clyde Barrow
Dear Sir: — While I still have got breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car you make. I have drove Fords exclusivly when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned and even if my business hasen't been strickly legal it don't hurt enything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8 — Yours truly Clyde Champion Barrow
Legend has it that Henry Ford received the letter about a month before Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934 while attempting to outrun the police—in a V8-powered Model B Ford. There’s some evidence against the note’s authenticity, however.
8. Elizabeth Taylor
Andy Warhol first printed his Liz series in 1963, but it wasn’t until 1977 that Elizabeth Taylor got her own version of the iconic painting. She didn’t wait 14 years to send Warhol a thank you note:
Dearest Andy I'm so proud I finally have your Liz and thank you for signing it so sweetly to me. I do love you. Elizabeth or Liz (of A.W.'s fame)
9. Audrey Hepburn
This is just a little note from an actress to the man who composed the score for her recent film. That’s all.
Dear Henry, I have just seen our picture—BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S—this time with your score. A movie without music is a little bit like an aeroplane without fuel. However beautifully the job is done, we are still on the ground and in a world of reality. Your music has lifted us all up and sent us soaring. Everything we cannot say with words or show with action you have expressed for us. You have done this with so much imagination, fun, and beauty. You are the hippest of cats—and the most sensitive of composers! Thank you, dear Hank. Lots of loveAudrey
10. Ronald Reagan
My fellow Americans, I have recently been told that I am one of the millions of Americans who will be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. Upon learning this news, Nancy and I had to decide whether as private citizens we would keep this a private matter or whether we would make this news known in a public way. In the past, Nancy suffered from breast cancer and I had cancer surgeries. We found through our open disclosures we were able to raise public awareness. We were happy that as a result many more people underwent testing. They were treated in early stages and able to return to normal, healthy lives. So now we feel it is important to share it with you. In opening our hearts, we hope this might promote greater awareness of this condition. Perhaps it will encourage a clear understanding of the individuals and families who are affected by it. At the moment, I feel just fine. I intend to live the remainder of the years God gives me on this earth doing the things I have always done. I will continue to share life's journey with my beloved Nancy and my family. I plan to enjoy the great outdoors and stay in touch with my friends and supporters. Unfortunately, as Alzheimer's disease progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience. When the time comes, I am confident that with your help she will face it with faith and courage. In closing, let me thank you, the American people, for giving me the great honor of allowing me to serve as your president. When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future. I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead. Thank you, my friends. May God always bless you. Sincerely, Ronald Reagan
11. Roger Taylor
Not every thank you note is a token of gratitude—sometimes the writer’s attitude is more “thanks for nothing.”
Say you’re the drummer for a band and someone writes a bad review of your latest tour. What do you do? If you are Roger Taylor, the drummer for Queen, you write a letter on an airline motion-sickness bag and send it to the editor of Rolling Stone. From 1981:
Your peculiar 1970-time-warp attitude, coupled with an innate, congenital miscomprehension of rock & roll, continues to fascinate and annoy. Thank you, oh thank you, for the pseudopolitical slant and personal dishonesty that you continue to peddle in your outdated, opinionated, down-home rag. Thanks also for the finely tuned musical assessment of my group from our sound check! Grow up. You invented the bitterness. I pity you. You suck. You are boring and you try to infect us. Awaiting your charming review of my current album in about eight months! ROGER TAYLOR London, England
A version of this story was originally published in 2012; it has been updated for 2021.