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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Amazing Christmas story revealed in a suitcase of letters

Photograph by Bradley E Clift

The Smithson Magazine (link embedded above) carries a heartwarming story by Ted Gup, who learned the truth behind a 75-year-old mystery when his mother took him up to her attic in Kennebunk, Maine, and gave him an old suitcase full of letters.

Back in 1933, when the Great Depression clutched the western world in its chilly grip, a mysterious "B. Virdot" placed an advert. in the Canton Repository, inviting those who were down on their luck to write him a letter.  "B.Virdot," the notice advised, was not a real name, but the nom-de-plume of someone who was willing to help.

Letters poured in, in their hundreds, and five-dollar checks were sent out to the 150 most beleaguered families.  Five dollars was a small fortune at the time, more money than most people had seen in months.  Unsurprisingly, the story became widely known, but while the generosity of "B.Virdot" was lauded, his identity remained anonymous.

And so it seemed destined to remain -- until the day Ted Gup was handed the suitcase of letters.  They were the original letters written in response to the newspaper advertisement, all dated December 1933, and addressed to B. Virdot.

B. Virdot was Ted Gup's grandfather, Sam Stone.  He had gone to his grave thirty years before, content to take the secret of his generosity with him.


Vanda Symon said...

What an amazing story, and that he'd managed to maintain his anonymity all that time! Can't imagine anyone doing that nowadays!

World of the Written Word said...

Vanda, I could not agree more -- what a marvelous story it is, in this era of Scrooge's rebirth!