In 1944, a World War II lieutenant wrote a love letter to his wife at their Greenwich Village apartment. Nearly 70 years later, the letter arrived in 27-year-old Abbi Jacobson’s mailbox. It was Jacobson’s apartment listed on the yellowed envelope, but she didn't recognize the Mr. and Mrs. Joseph O. Matthews listed as the intended recipients.
The letter had been opened, and when Jacobson took a look at its contents, she knew she had to find its rightful owners. Unbelievably, she found the Matthews family just 36 hours later, thanks to her innovative -- and amazingly widespread -- Internet campaign.
Jacobson said that when she first received the letter, she started searching the old-fashioned way:
I knew it was obviously old and when I started reading it, I realized it was a very sweet love letter from WW II. (...) At first, I didn't want to use the Internet to find them, so I went to the municipal archives and visited a few libraries near my Greenwich Village apartment.
After her initial research turned up no leads, Jacobson focused on crowdsourcing via the Internet. Last week, she launched the Lost Letter Project, asking people from all around the world to help find the letter's owners. She also started a Facebook group, a Twitter hashtag, and posted this YouTube video:
Amazingly, less than two days later, Jacobson was able to locate a 67-year-old son of the Matthews. Scott Matthews says his parents are no longer alive, but he's eager to see the letter in order to learn a bit more about his father:
I don’t know much about my dad’s life before I was born -- I wonder what he was feeling about shipping out [for war]. He was a stiff-upper-lip type of guy, not very demonstrative. So I really have no idea what might be in the letter.
Matthews and Jacobson are planning to meet soon so he can pick up the letter in person.
This is such an incredible example of how the Internet gives people the power to make widespread connections. We hear so many creepy stories these days of social media gone wrong, it's refreshing to read about someone using these communication tools for a uniquely positive purpose.
Jacobson says she hopes this story will inspire others to share similar mysteries, and maybe even reunite more letters with their owners:
It was so awesome that this letter connected so many different people together, searching for the couple, and then finding their family. (...) I think a lot of letters during wartime were held because they were afraid that soldiers were sharing information. If other people find lost letters, it could be a place to come together in that way.
Had you heard about the Lost Letter Project before?
Image via the Lost Letter Project