Rare Book & Manuscript Library
 

Michael Brody Jr. Letters, 1970

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#2040
Bib ID 15436738 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Brody, Michael, Jr, 1948-1973
Title Michael Brody Jr. Letters, 1970
Physical Description 33 Linear Feet (33 record storage cartons (boxes 22, 30, and 35 do not exist))
Language(s) English .
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. Boxes 1-4 have been reviewed and can be made accessible without further review. All other boxes must first be examined by an archivist. Email rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Please note that many of the letters are unopened. Patrons are not permitted to open letters in the reading room. If you wish to see unopened material, please email rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

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.

Arrangement

Description

Content Description

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. Boxes 1-4 have been reviewed and can be made accessible without further review. All other boxes must first be examined by an archivist. Email rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

Please note that many of the letters are unopened. Patrons are not permitted to open letters in the reading room. If you wish to see unopened material, please email rbml@columbia.edu for more information.

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.

Preferred Citation

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

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Envelopes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID