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Who wrote the first Chain Letter?

Chain Letter
Chain Letter

One thing the Internet makes obsolete that today’s kids will never have the joy to experience is the CHAIN LETTER.

Getting that letter in the mail from a possible stranger, making 3… or 5… or 10 copies, sending the money to the person at the top of the list (while taking their name off) and adding your name to the bottom of the list before sending it out to all your friends…

Yup – CHAIN LETTERS MAY BE ILLEGAL (or not, depending on what you’re sending along), but the Post Office was making their money on each and every stamped envelope that found its way into the postal system.

Today, everybody forwards junk emails around to their entire address book. Sending chain mail has been relegated to a single click and push – all the fun and mystery has been taken out of them… all experiences that today’s youth will most likely never get to have.

But all this does bring up one question:  WHO WROTE THE VERY FIRST CHAIN LETTER?

Well, it all depends on who you believe.  If you believe that article’s research, the first chain letter (or, at the very least, the first DOCUMENTED chain letter) was begun in Chicago in 1888 when the CHICAGO TRAINING SCHOOL, a Methodist academy for women missionaries, came up with a plan to send out letters asking for recipients to send the school just one dime, before asking recipients to forward the letter on to additional people.

The phenomenally detailed HISTORY OF THE CHAIN LETTER archive shows chain letters that supposedly came from the 1700’s, and has dozens of chain letters from 1900-1905 or so.

While you go read up on your Chain Letter history, Web Watch would just like to remind you of some simple rules regarding Chain Letters that is equally applicable to email forwards:

  • Anything vitally important about a company will not be sent to you by a friend. You’ll be hearing about it in the news
  • Do your research – check SNOPES.COM or major news websites.  If Bill Gates really IS giving away a free computer just for forwarding an email or mailing a letter – don’t you think CNN, FOX News, the NYTimes or other news source would be talking about this?
  • You know all those chain letters that your friends sent out that have your name and address on them?  Do you know anyone who has ever received anything from these things?  Neither have we.

And the most basic rule — try to use some common sense and be skeptical.  If something sounds fishy, it probably is.