Famed inmate and ornithologist Robert Stroud composed and signed this personal correspondence while serving his sentence in Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas. Addressed to “Miss Mamie. E. Stroud,” the letter dates to 1939 and is typewritten on both sides, with content regarding Stroud’s passion for birds. At the conclusion, Stroud’s black ink signature projects (“8-9”) strength and clarity, though is technically lesser as a tiny hole in the page results in separation on the “S.” The letter reads (in full):
I got your card and am glad that you are sending that Woman that address, but there is one thing I am not glad about, that way you feel about doing it, the way you fail to understand other and me. You fail to appreciate that I have been sincere in every thing I have done in the last 20 years, or to understand my nature.
I do not know the lady from Adam’s off ox, but I could not deny her the treatment for her birds even if she were my worst enemy and even if I had to pay for it myself. You saw mother die a slow and lingering death. It was not nice. You loved her, and it did not make you feeling very nice to see her suffer. Still, in her case, it was natural and inevitable. There was nothing you or anyone could do about it, but if there had been anything that could have been done; you would have done it regardless of the sacrifice required. Isn’t that true?
Now there are some people who love birds. I am one of them. I have seen (obscured) of them die; I have killed them to stop their suffering when there (sic) loss hurt me more than that of the passing of any human I have ever known, and it was to make such cases forever unnecessary that I have invented that treatment. The disease it is designed to cure is the most frightful known to birds. Sometimes they live as long as a month, suffering the most horrible agany (sic) all the time, not a moments rest. Knowing that, do you think that I could or would refuse that treatment to any bird? I know that it breaks Powell’s heart every time he has to send one of those letters on to you, even, for he is not and never was a true bird lover; but he has to do it, for he knows that if he ever got caught turning down such a request every bird lover in the country would look upon it as something worse than any stunt he has pulled to date. So far as Dell is concerning, she gets no profit out of those sporadic orders, for there is no profit in them. It happens, though, that she is a bird lover and a very faithful person in the bargan sic. Someday you are going to understand all of this, Sis. And in the meantime, just answer all of those letters you get as quickly as you can. If the people do not send stamps, that is all right too. I will be glad to send you money to cover the postage. You know the good book says that God notices even the sparrow’s fall. Well, of course, I do not believe that; but if it were true he would not be apt to overlook a kindness to his most beautiful and dependent creatures, whose only function is to give joy.
Well that is enough sermon, Sis. I know you mean only my good, but the important thing in such cases is not me, is not the bird owner, is not any question of profit and loss, it is the birds themselves. I am still pretty busy on the book, but I have over 505 of the drawings completed, and they are certainly beauties. I have less time to work on it now, for I have my birds mated so it may be a month or more before the book is finished, when it is finished, though, it will be the best book in the world on the subject of birds and it should save the lives of millions of them. Naturally, I hope that it is published and that I get a profit out of it. It represents years of the hardest kind of work, but even if I know that I would never get a cent out of it, but just that it would save the birds, I would have done all of that work just the same.
I had a card tonight from Mrs. Slawson. She enquired for you and said she hoped you were keeping well. They have all had the flu and she says that Betty, who has never been ill in her life before has been sick since Christmas and would probably have to be operated on. She does not say what Betty is suffering from.
I am going to have to make this short, since I have a lot of other work to do tonight. I hope that it finds you well and all thing going well with you.
A world of love,
(signed) Robert Stroud