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If Your Name Is Smith, This Man Wants to Hear from You

“I look for Smiths.” That’s how Bob Ziegler, from Minot, North Dakota, describes his hobby of 30 years. While most people are content with collecting stamps and bottle caps, Ziegler’s hobby is a little more complicated. He looks for people with the last name Smith and writes to them with a simple request: to send him their business cards. In the last 30 years, he has managed to track down thousands of Smiths, and sent them handwritten letters. Included with the letter is a stamped, self-addressed envelope that can be used to send him back the business cards.

Since 1982, Ziegler has sent over 2,500 letters, and collected 1,014 cards. The Smiths in his collection are spread in all 50 states of the US, and also seven other countries. Some of the responses he has received are a lot more interesting than the cards themselves. For instance, the chief deputy at Escambia County Sherriff’s Office, Larry E. Smith wrote, “It is an honor to serve the public whether it is providing assistance in times of need or providing a business card for someone’s collection because my last name is Smith.” The late president of American Pop Corn Co., Wrede H. Smith, sent not just his own card, but those of his son and nephew. He even threw in coupons for free JOLLY TIME popcorn. Of course, not everyone has been so enthusiastic to participate in Ziegler’s weird hobby. “What – are you nuts?” wrote back one Smith, with no card in the envelope. A few Smiths have been honest enough to admit that they did not have business cards.

Ziegler has created a few rules for his hobby, to keep things fair. He only uses the print media as a source for information on Smiths. Googling ‘Smith’, he feels, would amount to cheating. He also doesn’t approach companies and institutions with Smith in them. The reason he chose the name Smith is pretty simple – it’s the most common last name in the U.S. For him, the hobby has actually become a lot more than tracking down Smiths and asking them for their cards. It’s actually more of a lesson in psychology, he says, looking at various people’s reactions to his requests. The 60-year-old retired Air Force master sergeant sure has found himself a unique activity. He could have gone for ‘Ziegler’ cards as well, but he says the thought never crossed his mind.

via Wall Street Journal 

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