In keeping with the last few days’ topic of charitable giving, and with my addiction to “historic documents,” I wanted to share a couple of letters from my “collection.”

The first is a letter written at this same time of year 63 years ago, in 1933, when things were tough. It comes from Paul Warburg, of the important investment banking family, and is addressed to the Star Towel Supply Corp. of Brooklyn, New York. It is individually typed (mail merge, like prosperity, were only distant dreams back then) and reads, in part . . .


May I plead with you to repeat for 1933 the special donation of $15 which you so generously gave to Federation [the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies] last year.

I had hoped to have an opportunity to tell you personally how much you and other Federation loyal friends helped last year . . .

Whatever may be happening in the business world certainly the demand for free service in all of the Federation institutions has not yet shown any letup. In fact, the institutions are really worse off because not only do they have to care for more suffering and needy men, women and children, but everything they has gone up so much in price that in the very nature of things, the deficits must be even larger than before.

Unless we succeed in raising the $4,200,000 which is needed this year, the institutions will have one of two choices — either they must care for fewer men, women and children, or they must cut down on the essentials which these cases require. And when I say essentials, I mean just that, because for several years now every institution in Federation has been operating on the barest minimum budget.

These are the simple facts. The answer rests entirely with you and the Federation’s other loyal and generous friends. I do hope that you will find it possible to be at least as generous as you were a year ago and that I shall have the pleasure of hearing from you within the next day or two.

I don’t know whether Warburg got that $15, but my guess is he did.

(OK, OK. So it’s a little less quaint when you realize that $15 back then was equivalent to about $180 today. But still.)

Tomorrow: How Andrew Carnegie Said No


Comments are closed.