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Using the Collection
Note: some material may be restricted or offsite
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At a Glance
This unique collection contains letters from all over the world sent in response to an announcement by Michael Brody Jr., the 21-year-old heir to a margarine fortune, that he would give away his inheritance to people in need, and in doing so would solve the problems of the world.
Brody's announcement appeared at a press conference in New York City on January 10, 1970. His offer was: free money for anyone in need who he deemed worthy, and a promise of a new era of world peace. The story was reported far and wide. He and his wife, Renee, appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. The public response was immediate and intense. The telegrams and letters arrived by the truckload. Hundreds of people lined up at Brody's Scarsdale home and more waited outside his midtown-Manhattan office. Requests poured in, in increments large and small — for college tuition, hospital bills, food and clothes for children, bail money — from people of all walks of life. In a frenzied few weeks, Brody and his young wife were mobbed by the public, scrutinized by the media, and overwhelmed by the outpouring of requests. Three years later, Brody committed suicide at the age of 24.
Tens of thousands of the personal letters mailed to Michael Brody Jr. never reached him, were never even opened. These letters sat unacknowledged and lost for nearly 50 years until they were rediscovered. These letters are personal and the requests are diverse. A 9-yr-old boy asks for one or two dollars to buy a headstone for his grandmother's grave. A young woman named Squeeky writes asking for help bailing her friend out of jail on a drug charge. A poet sends in nine pages of poetry from a collection he wanted help publishing. These letters reveal a great swath of humanity. Hand-written postcards, carefully typed letters, and envelopes of every variety contain untold stories, questions, unsolicited advice, and even money. One writer sends in $5 in support of Brody's mission, hoping to keep it going after the inheritance is gone.
The collection consists of 30,000 letters and postcards. The majority have not been opened. Those that have been opened contain a variety of artifacts, artworks, and other ephemeral materials.
The Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation donated the Michael Brody Letters.
Using the Collection
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Conditions Governing Access
You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.
Material is unprocessed. The only material that can be made available is the opened letters in boxes 1-4, which have been reviewed. The opened letters in all other boxes must first be examined by an archivist before they can be made available. Patrons are not permitted to open any unopened letters in the reading room. If you wish to see unopened material, or for more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.
Conditions Governing Use
Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.
Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Michael Brody Jr. Letters; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation donated the Michael Brody Letters in 2021.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library