We recently acquired an enchanting collection of 140 letters that the iconic Katharine Hepburn sent to a friend named Sal between 1980-1997. Across seventeen years of correspondence, Hepburn’s notes delightfully reveal her personality and approach to friendship.
Hepburn was ahead of her time in communication style. Many of her short, quick notes more closely resemble the hastily sent text messages of today rather than the refined character of typed letters in the typewriter era.
Some of the letters reveal nothing more than Katharine’s headstrong personality – and others contain golden insights such as her view of the film E.T. shortly after its 1982 release: “E.T. himself was sort of totally appealing…”
The collection of letters arrived in a fashionable soft sided briefcase. Attached to it was an envelope with a letter from Sal inside:
Sal’s letter of provenance provides the context for his platonic friendship with Hepburn. The friendship started with a letter and grew from there.
The body of Sal’s letter reads: “My first letter to Katharine Hepburn was on yellow lined paper, in pencil, never thinking she’d respond, well she did in 1980. Here they are…starting with one in red ink on yellow paper and ending with the first in 1980. Twenty years of letters and visits for tea and her on stage in West Side Waltz. Enjoy…”. (The line “starting with one in red ink…and ending with the first in 1980” refers to the arrangement of the letters within the briefcase.)
Throughout the letters, we have redacted Sal’s last name, as well as Katharine’s former phone numbers. Nothing in the letters is salacious, embarrassing, or otherwise too personal – but we typically do not post content involving non-famous people that’s newer than one hundred years old, so we’re leaving out Sal’s last name to respect his privacy – and Katharine’s former phone numbers so no one bothers the current owners.
A quick note on how the full collection of letters below is presented: The letters appear in chronological order, except for undated handwritten letters that appear at the end. After the main collection of letters, there is a small section with the few letters that Katharine’s assistants wrote to Sal on Katharine’s behalf. At the very end, there is an image of the thank you card Sal received in response to the condolences he sent after Katharine’s death.
The letters start slow – remember that Katharine and Sal are strangers at the beginning. As the letters ramp up, notice, among other things, the nuance of Katharine’s many signatures.
And now, without further ado, here are Katharine Hepburn’s letters to Sal:
On several occasions, Katherine’s assistants responded on her behalf. Here are those letters:
The last item in this collection is the thank you card that Sal received in response to his condolences after Katharine Hepburn’s death in 2003:
“Death will be a great relief. No more interviews.” – Katharine Hepburn