[Readings] | Brush with History | Harper's Magazine

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Brush with History


From a June 7, 1923, letter sent to the personal secretary of Leon Trotsky, then Russian minister of defense, by the Nestle Laboratory for Hair Research in New York City, included in Letters to Trotsky, a play that draws on correspondence found by the historian Gleb Albert in the Russian State Military Archive, in Moscow. The play, directed by Yuri Birte Anderson, premiered in March at the Theaterlabor, in Bielefeld, Germany.

Dear Sir:

This institution is conducting scientific research work to establish hair qualities of the various leaders of world affairs, and in order not to inconvenience his Honor, the Minister, I take the liberty of addressing you with the following request.

May it be possible for you to obtain from the Honorable Minister a small sample of his hair? As our testing instruments provide for hair about three inches long it may be most advisable to use the hair which falls out while combing it, as the hair is obtained in its entire length in that manner.

I assure you that your compliance with our request will serve no other purpose than the above mentioned and will be greatly appreciated from that point of view.