[Ads-l] Anecdote: The bedbug letter

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 8 13:11:47 EST 2017

Back in 2010 I explored the "bedbug letter" anecdote and communicated
with Bonnie about the topic offlist. Expert Jan Harold Brunvand
included the story in the "Encyclopedia Of Urban Legends (Expanded)".

The earliest instance I found appeared in multiple newspapers on June
12, 1913, e.g., the "Oshkosh Daily Northwestern" of Oshkosh,
Wisconsin. Bonnie had already found this version of the anecdote.
Below is an instance. Earlier evidence or pertinent citations would be

[ref] 1913 June 12, The Duluth Herald, Statesmen, Real and Near by
Fred C. Kelly, Quote Page 10, Column 6, Duluth Minnesota. (Old

[Begin excerpt]
Senator Miles Poindexter had occasion to stop at a leading hotel in a
big Western city a time ago, and while there was unable to sleep
because of certain vexatious conditions that existed with reference to
his bed. He was obliged to toss about all night and act like a man
with hives.

When he got back to his office he wrote a scathing letter to the
proprietor of the hotel. The proprietor wrote back a three-page letter
done in the politest of phraseology. In which he thanked Poindexter
for telling him.

"Such a thing has never occurred before in this hotel," said the
proprietor, "and we trust it never will occur again. We are deeply
obligated to you for telling us, because if we did not know of such
things the trouble might become greatly augmented. While we are
astonished that the condition you mention could exist, we are thankful
that you told us before any other guest is exposed to similar

Thus the letter went on. But the writer had unintentionally inclosed
in the envelope a small scrap of yellow memorandum paper. On it was a
line written evidently for the stenographer's eye and for no other. It
said: "Write this man the bedbug letter."
[End excerpt]


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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