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A Boyhood Letter That Didn't Get Delivered, 1947

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

In December 1947, John Schott was an 11-year-old living in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. If he was a baseball fan - and I suspect he was (you'll see why in a moment) - he must have been pleased with the Cleveland Indians. They finished 1947 with a winning record and in fourth place in the American League. That was also the year that Larry Doby played his first game with the Indians. That's noteworthy because Doby was the first black player to appear in an American League game. Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in professional baseball, started his career with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League earlier in 1947.

Sometime in 1947, probably in the latter part of the year, John penned a letter (Figure 3) to his friend Peter writing:

I was wondering if you could come to New York State and come to my farm near Cooperstown. Also you would like to see the famous Hall of Fame for Baseball players. Please ask you [sic] mother if you can come. By the way, do you like school? I don't. Try to come. I'm sorry & I have to cut off there but I must.


John R. Schott


If you have forgotten my address it is:

John R. Schott

2422 Demington Dr.

Cleveland Hgts.



I don't know Peter's last name, but I do know that he never received John's letter. Why John's letter was not delivered is a mystery (he probably had an incorrect address for Peter), but it ended up in the Dead Letter Branch of the Miami Post Office. Because John must have neglected to put his return address on the envelope, a postal clerk opened John's letter and found his address on the letter. At that point, the letter was placed in an official envelope (Figures 1 and 2), 5-cents of postage due stamps were affixed, and it was returned to John. I assume John or his parents paid the 5-cents.

The 5-cents of postage due was per postal regulation. According to the 1948 edition of Postal Laws and Regulations, page 370, Section 45.9(b):

Fee for return. The fee of 5 cents for the return of ordinary letters and parcels of the first class to writers which do not bear the card address of the sender shall be collected by means of postage-due stamps to be affixed by postmasters to such letters and parcels before delivery, and the amount to be charged shall be indicated on official or penalty envelopes before dispatch to post offices from a dead letter branch.

Two postage due stamps were affixed for the 5-cents of postage due: a 2-cent postage due stamp, which in the US Scott Catalog is #J81, and a 3-cent postage due stamp, which is #J82. Both stamps have a scarlet color, are perforated 11x10-1/2, and were wet printed.

I'm sure at the time John was bummed that his letter to Peter was returned, but it doesn't seem like it had any lasting impact on him. Indeed, John had an illustrious career in academia and international affairs.

Born in Rochester in upstate New York in 1936, John's family moved to Ohio sometime in the 1940s. Census reports show the family living in New York in 1940 but in Ohio in 1950.

After graduating high school presumably in Ohio, John attended Haverford College outside of Philadelphia where he graduated magna cum laude. He followed up his undergraduate education by attending Oxford University in England and then earning a Ph.D. from Harvard (i).

During his professional career, he taught at Harvard, Wellesley College, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He also served as senior vice president of Thunderbird Graduate School of International Development. He founded and served as president of Schott & Associates and worked as a consultant in international affairs. For these and other accomplishments, he was awarded the 2005-06 Rotary International Foundation Global Alumni Service to Humanity Award (Figure 4).

John lived in New Hampshire for a good portion of his adult life where he was very active in community and environmental affairs.

He passed away in Dublin, New Hampshire in 2018 at age 82 and was buried in Francestown Cemetery #3 (ii). He was survived by his wife Diane and a daughter and son. He was predeceased by two children, a boy and a girl.

Figure 1- Front

Figure 2 - Back

Figure 3 - Enclosure

Figure 4 - Rotary International Award

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