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April 22, 2014

Curator, Captain America exhibit
Smithsonian Institution
PO Box 37012
SI Building, Room 153, MRC 010
Washington, D.C. 20013

Dear sir or ma'am,

I toured your exhibit on Captain America recently, and was pleased to see that it has remained open despite the recent events above the Potomac River. The exhibit was very interesting. I did not know that so many personal effects from the war theatre had been preserved.

I noticed a mistake in the biographies, which I hope you can correct. Sgt. James Buchanan Barnes has two different birth years listed on the panel about him. He was born in 1917, not 1916. I am sure his birth date is recorded in the hall of public records in Brooklyn, NY. If I notice any other corrections, I will send them to you.

Sincerely,
A concerned reader

*

May 31, 2014

Graydon Carter
Editor-in-Chief, Vanity Fair
Conde Nast Co.
1 World Trade Center
New York, NY 10007

Dear Mr. Carter,

Your magazine editorial on Captain Steven G. Rogers ("Titan of Destruction," June 2014 issue) is confusing to me. You state at the beginning that you are sympathetic to Capt. Rogers, but then you describe his behavior as "reckless." I do not think any action taken against Hydra can be construed as reckless. Many SHIELD agents rose up against their Hydra coworkers on that day in April, at Capt. Rogers' invitation. This would indicate that Capt. Rogers is neither more nor less reckless than the approximately 280 people who died fighting Hydra that day.

Also, Capt. Rogers did not blow up the three helicarriers that crashed into the Potomac River. He and his team provided the computer programming that allowed the helicarriers to blow each other up, as soon as they began shooting. (I read this on the front page of the New York Times -- I think the April 9th issue.) If Captain America had not switched out their computer programming, Hydra would have had the opportunity to shoot at whomever they chose.

Sincerely,
A concerned reader

*

July 4, 2014

Editor-in-Chief
Wikimedia Foundation
149 New Montgomery Street, Floor 6
San Francisco, Calif. 94105

Dear sir or ma'am or members of the editorial committee,

On this the occasion of Captain America's 97th birthday, I write to you for help. I read his entry on your Internet encyclopedia this morning, and discovered a number of factual assertions with "[Citation needed]" marked next to them, which indicates someone doubts that they are true. It is my understanding that anyone can provide a citation or add material to this encyclopedia, but Capt. Rogers' entry is currently locked for editing. (It does not say why; I assume that the reasons derive from arguments over his role in the Potomac River disaster this spring.) Therefore I cannot add citations directly to the entry, and am sending them to you.

In the section on his career at SHIELD, Capt. Rogers is described as Level Six, and is marked "[Citation needed]." This can be verified from the SHIELD data dump, section 12, in the payroll records alphabetical by surname, as can the clearance level of all the non-classified SHIELD employees. I would provide a page number except I have not seen the raw SHIELD data in print as of yet.

The section on the Potomac River disaster is marked as needing citations for the fact that Capt. Rogers was already a Hydra target during the brief period after Director Nicholas J. Fury was assassinated and before the helicarriers rose and crashed. In case the newsreel footage of his arrest on April 4th, filmed by the Channel 7 helicopters just below the George Washington Bridge, is not citation enough, this too can be verified in the SHIELD data dump, in the daily activities log for April 3rd. He is listed as a first priority target on a city-wide manhunt.

If you could implement these updates for Capt. Rogers' entry in your encyclopedia, I would be grateful.

Sincerely,
A concerned reader

*

August 7, 2014

Mr. Benjamin Galakiewicz
c/o Beacon Press
24 Farnsworth St.
Boston, Mass. 02210

Dear Mr. Galakiewicz,

I hope that you are able to read this letter, as I see that your book, The Comics of Captain America, first got published in 1983. I am pleased to report it is still in print, and I acquired a copy at the Smithsonian Museum this spring. I enjoyed it very much.

I imagine other readers have sent you notes before me, but I wish to point out that the plucky child-sidekick (called "Bucky Barnes") cannot have been modeled on any of Capt. Steven G. Rogers' commandoes in real life, and certainly not on the real Sgt. James Buchanan Barnes, because Capt. Rogers himself was the youngest person on that squad by eight months. (Sgt. Barnes was the next youngest.) The Smithsonian Exhibition now running in Washington can provide exact ages.

If the fictional "Bucky Barnes" is modeled on anyone, he is modeled on Steve Rogers from before he enlisted in the Army and was transformed: this "Bucky" is tough, ambitious, and overlooked because of his size. But I guess that the Office of War Information could not fathom the idea of a 26-year-old man so overlooked, and turned him into a boy instead. And then gave him the name of Capt. Rogers' best friend, for reasons unknown to me.

Sincerely,
A concerned reader

*

September 2, 2014

Saskia Bunton
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell St.
London WC1A 2HN
Great Britain

Dear Miss or Mrs. Bunton,

Your essay from over the summer ("The Villainy of Superheroes," August 21) has recently come to my attention. I do not claim to understand anything about super heroes and their decisions to intervene or not intervene in any given problem, but I wish to correct a pair of factual details on which your argument rests.

In the second column of your essay, you describe Captain America as strongly anti-German and pro-war even before Pearl Harbor was attacked. This is not accurate. Steven G. Rogers, as a private citizen, disliked the rise of fascism in Spain and Germany, but had no particular dislike of people from those nations. He lived in an area of Brooklyn peopled by many families with German surnames, as the recently-released 1940 census records will reveal. I have looked through the listings myself on the Internet, and it clearly shows that the widow with whom he lodged between 1936 and 1943 was named Mrs. Ludwig H. Schulze. I guess he liked Germans well enough to live in the care of one.

I also happen to be reading new book by a Miss Miriam Lethbridge, which includes biographical details about Capt. Rogers. She provides a photostat on page 166 of a series of petitions delivered to the League of Nations between 1935 and 1938, requesting that the USA open up its borders and take in refugees from the German regime, to relieve the pressure then mounting in Europe. Miss Lethbridge has found the signature of Steven G. Rogers on all six petitions. He was not even a legal adult until 1939, but he must have lied about his age, and signed anyway. Surely that means he was not pro-war, but against the cruelty of the German regime towards its own people.

I suppose you will wish to re-think your argument about Captain America in light of these facts.

Sincerely,
A concerned reader

*

November 16, 2014

George H. A. Deamon
c/o Nonfiction Editor
Princeton University Press
41 William St.
Princeton, N.J. 08540

Dear Prof. Deamon,

I am writing in regard to your 2013 book Revival: Captain America in the Modern Imagination, which I read with interest last week. It has filled in many gaps in my knowledge, so thank you. In return I must inform you that your assertion on page 68, that Capt. Rogers was unemployed at the time the that war broke out, is not true. He is listed in the 1940 census as a sign-painter, in his own employ. He was 22 at that time. I doubt that many people of that age had the gumption to start their own business in the middle of the Great Depression. He must still have been at it in 1942, because the Smithsonian Exhibition in Washington has a poster he drew that fall for the Office of War Information, about how eating turnips is patriotic.

Perhaps you could ask him about this period of his life, as he surely remembers it himself. I did not see any interviews with him in your list of sources.

Sincerely,
A concerned reader

*

January 8, 2015

Miriam Lethbridge
c/o Penguin Press
375 Hudson St.
New York, NY 10014

Dear Ms. Lethbridge,

I have read several portions of your recent book The Crisis of Imagination: Biography As Iconography in the American Twentieth Century, although it is very difficult work for a reader with no college education. As you argue strongly against simplifying your subjects' life stories, I hope you will take this correction gracefully and include it in future editions of your book.

On the topic of nicknames, I have been looking through the 1940 census on the internet. You explain on pp. 85-6 that both Capt. Rogers and Sgt. Barnes used nicknames to sound more cheerful or accessible to their propaganda audience, and I suppose that might be true. However, in the census records Steven G. Rogers is marked down as Steve, not Steven: that's what he told the census taker. (He signed his name Steven G. Rogers, as shown on his Army paper-work on p. 81, but signatures are not the same as what a man may go by day-to-day.) On the facing census page, in the Barnes family entry, all three sisters are listed under their full names without any nicknames, but Sgt. Barnes is listed as Bucky, not as James. The name James is not recorded at all, despite the likelihood that it was Sgt. Barnes's own mother who answered the census taker. (In 1940, he was fully employed driving his father's delivery truck, so it is doubtful he was at home during the day.) I do not believe, therefore, that Capt. Rogers going by Steve and Sgt. Barnes going by Bucky was a decision made by someone in the Office of War Information; I believe it was a decision made by the men themselves. In 1940, they cannot have known that they would later become famous.

I understand that this is merely my opinion based on surmise from pre-war records. However, I believe that this viewpoint deserves consideration, and may alter your conclusions about famous people and how strategic their decision-making about how they are called might be (or not be).

Sincerely,
A concerned reader

*

February 21, 2015

Mr. Andrew Gagliano
c/o Knopf Doubleday
1745 Broadway
New York, NY 10019

Dear Mr. Gagliano,

Your book from 2001, Sergeant America, was a very interesting biography of James Buchanan Barnes. However, it contained an error which should be corrected. On page 143 and again on page 302 you mention that Sgt. Barnes was ambidextrous, but he was not. He, his father, and his youngest sister Mary Ann were all left-handed, but schools at that time required that all left-handed children learn to write right-handed. Therefore, most left-handed people learned to use their right hands almost as well as their left. Young Bucky Barnes batted left, and threw left when he played outfield. (He threw right when playing shortstop only, for obvious reasons.)

Issues of the Daily Eagle or the Beacon from 1935 may be useful in proving this detail, as they regularly printed line-ups and box scores for high school games. Also probably Capt. Rogers could verify that detail for you, if you contact him.

Sincerely,
A concerned reader

*

March 17, 2015

Curator, Captain America exhibit
Smithsonian Institution
PO Box 37012
SI Building, Room 153, MRC 010
Washington, D.C. 20013

Dear sir or ma'am,

Thank you for keeping the Captain America exhibit going. I try to visit it whenever I am in town, as it sparks many memories for me.

I have discovered another error in the exhibit about which I would like to inform you. Capt. Steven G. Rogers was never 5' 4" as is marked on the wall next to the picture of him when he was small. He claimed to be 5' 4" on his Army paperwork, but this was a lie to make him a more attractive candidate for induction. He was never taller than his mother or for that matter Fiorello La Guardia till after he turned into Captain America, and his mother was 5' 3" in her shoes. Surely there are some photographs of the two of them together that you can use to verify this.

Sincerely,
A concerned reader

*

May 8, 2015

Letter to the Editor
The Washington Post
1301 K Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20071

Dear sir or ma'am,

I believe I will have to write several letters to news organizations about coverage of the disaster in Sokovia now ongoing. Silver robots have turned evil and attempted to destroy an entire city: very well. All the wild imaginings of scientifiction have come true in this century. But your reporters say on both May 5 and May 7 that the Avengers, led by Capt. Steven G. Rogers, have not undertaken rescue missions until this event. However, at least two members of the Avengers, including Capt. Rogers, participated in the destruction of SHIELD in Washington, D. C., as I am sure you know. During that day, Capt. Rogers' team instituted a general evacuation of the building on Roosevelt Island, saving many lives as the building was destroyed within that hour. Capt. Rogers saved many lives that day.

I have heard that Capt. Rogers also rescued several people during the alien invasion in Manhattan, in 2012. I was not in a position to read the news in 2012, so know very little about that event by comparison. Perhaps you could look into it, and mention any prior rescues the next time you write about Capt. Rogers' actions in Sokovia.

Sincerely,
A concerned reader

*

May 26, 2015

Norman H. Chao
c/o SAGE Publications
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320

Dear Mr. Chao,

I have been reading many volumes about Captain America over the past year, and have finally turned to your 2008 book, The Kid From Brooklyn: Captain America Behind The Shield. I found it very informative, about both Capt. Rogers himself and about the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood which produced him.

You dwell for several pages (220-225) on the anti-war sentiment among residents of Brooklyn Heights in 1940-41, compared to Capt. Rogers' own interventionist stance. I am impressed at the sources you found for his disagreements with Becky and Nancy Barnes, and their membership in the Peace Party at City College during that year. I had not known that their involvement was so well-documented in the club's archival records, or that they and Capt. Rogers yelled at each other in public more than the one time about whether to join in the war. I do not believe that this indicates as serious a rift as you claim, since all parties were strongly argumentative and the Barnes family clearly held multiple conflicting opinions about the war all at the same time. The inclusion of Mary Ann Barnes' July 1941 letter to Life Magazine praising the Eagle Squadrons was a real find, and I am grateful that you re-printed it in full.

I am sorry you could not persuade the two at-the-time surviving Barnes sisters to agree to be interviewed, although I understand that Nancy died while your book was being printed, so perhaps she was already in ill health. As your book was published three years before Capt. Rogers was discovered alive, you did not have the opportunity to consult his memory. Perhaps you could write to him and with better information put out a second edition of this book. If you decided to write an additional chapter about the lives of the three Barnes sisters after their brother died in the war, I would gladly read that as well.

Sincerely,
A concerned reader