Illustrated Letters in the MGHL Collections

Sometimes words aren’t always enough: This week we’re featuring a handful of illustrated letters from the MGHL collections. Playful, affectionate, and humorous, the letters reveal not only something about the writer/artist, but also the relationship between him/her and the recipient. Take a look.


Undated letter from “Frank E.” to Al Parker, inviting Parker for a visit. Perhaps the hand drawn idyllic letterhead depicts the author’s location (and is additional attempt to persuade Parker to visit). From the Al Parker Collection.

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Undated letter from artist Marvin Friedman to Al Parker, recording a day in the life of a frustrated, out of work artist. The T.V. schedule for the day has a plausible beginning –“7:00AM I Love Lucy” — but devolves into surrealism as the day wears on: “5:30 Alice Cooper Sings Polish Songs from Japan.” From the Al Parker Collection.

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1991 letter from artist Dagmar Frinta to Robert Andrew Parker and his wife Judy, with a whimsical Christmas illustration. From the Robert Andrew Parker Collection.

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Undated letter from artist Rene Farkass to Karl Kaltenthaler which accompanied an issue of Farkass’s 1980s punk comics zine The Boogins. Is the cracked skull a doodle, or an illustration of The Boogins‘s staff’s “brain damage”? The letter is written on the back of a flyer for the zine. Part of the Karl S. Kaltenthaler Comic Books & Zines Collection.

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Undated letter from the editorial staff of Good Housekeeping to Al Parker, demonstrating “what happens when a Parker layout comes to the office.” The actual text of the letter, winding around the illustration, accomodates and accompanies the image, rather than the other way around. From the Al Parker Collection.
Interested in more illustrated correspondence? Check out the following:

More Than Words: Illustrated Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art

The Art of the Letter: What We Can Learn from Illustrated Letters in Collections by Elana Estrin

Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer

About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.