By Ben Welter
The Minneapolis Tribune of 1921 devoted an entire page of the Sunday paper to younger readers, anchored by a feature called the Happy Thought Club. To become a member, all you had to do was write a friendly letter to the “club,” stating your name and age and describing your pets, siblings, school work, favorite foods and the like. The benefits of membership? Your letter might be among the dozen or published in the paper each week, for all your friends and family to see. Even if your letter didn’t make the cut, your name and mailing address would appear in a list of new members, which served as an invitation to other members to write to you. The two letters below are typical: friendly but formal in tone, with strict attention to grammar.
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News of our Happy Thought Club
My Dear Happy Thought Club: I enjoyed the group of letters that I read in the Tribune this morning. It made me want to join the little Happy Thought Club. Will your members let me join? I hope they will write to me and tell me that I am welcome. Isn’t this a beautiful day? It really has been cold in Gonvick. The sun peeped out through the clouds anyway and it was like fairyland here when the snowflakes came flying and whirling down. I sat on the window seat and watched thousands and thousands of them cover the lawn. Aren’t snowflakes like beautiful thoughts? That is why I want to join this fairy club. It is so much like our happy fairy snowflakes. They work together and make everything beautiful. And we can do the same. It was such a long time to wait for the snow this year, wasn’t it? My friends Phyllis Mansrude and Dorothy Engford and I were so impatient. Mother always tells me to be a little more patient and I try to be but this year waiting for the snow took all the patience I had. I will tell you about my pets. They are Kitty Shawnee, Kitty Topaz and Doggy Buster. I named Kitty Shawnee after an Indian city. Kitty Topaz belongs to my 9-year-old sister and Doggy Buster belongs to all of us. Everybody loves our pets and who can help it? The neighbors are fond of them, too. I just love them. Now I must go and rest, but I wish all of my friends a very happy new year and I hope you all enjoyed a merry Christmas as I did. Your new member,
A LETTER FROM RICHARD.
|This young St. Paul artist — a future Bob Ross, perhaps? — put his happy thoughts to paper in about 1925. (St. Paul Daily News)|
Dear members of the Happy Thought Club. I would like very much to join your happy little club. Oh, I should be so pleased if some of the members would write me letters, real nice long ones. I surely would answer them the very best I know how. I live in a flat in the very small city of Detroit and there is not much to do here in the winter but go sliding, so I have to amuse myself writing, reading, and playing games. In the summer we go hunting, fishing, swimming and boating for there are a great many beautiful lakes all around us. I have no pets for we cannot keep pets in a flat as perhaps most of you know. For Christmas I got a great many books, games, shirts and many nice useful things to wear. I would like to tell you about the nice skating party I went to a few days ago. We had the very best time and I will tell you about it some other time. If some of the members will write to me I will be so glad to tell them all about the winter sports here in Detroit. I am in the 8th grade in school and I expect to graduate this year. The only subject that I find very hard is grammar. Everything else comes rather easy for me. I have four teachers, one for spelling, one for history, one for study periods and one for arithmetic. We do not have reading this year and we have spelling only two times a week. I hope to see my letter in the paper and I hope to hear from some members of the club. Your new friend,
Detroit, Minn., care of M. Christiansen