A Cartoon Death on Your Conscience

ByABC News
September 4, 2000, 5:00 AM

W A S H I N G T O N, Sept. 4 -- In 1954, Charles M. Schulz added a newcharacter to the Peanuts gang, a loudmouthed girl namedCharlotte Braun. But she wasnt very popular, and soon Schulzpromised a reader that hed get rid of her.

I am taking your suggestion regarding Charlotte Braun and willeventually discard her, Schulz wrote to Elizabeth Swaim on Jan.5, 1955, responding to a letter she and her friends had writtenhim.

Remember, however, that you and your friends will have thedeath of an innocent child on your conscience. Are you prepared toaccept such responsibility? At the bottom of the handwrittenletter is a drawing of the ill-fated character, with an ax on herhead.

In April of this year, two months after Schulz died, Swaiminformed the Library of Congress that she would be donating theletter to the library.

A Final Gift

I am now enrolled in a hospice and do not expect to live muchlongerand want to place what might loosely be called mytreasures, Swaim wrote. ...I would not be sending the letteruntil somewhat closer to my death, but Id like to save my executorthe trouble of disposing of it.

Swaim died of cancer three weeks later, at the age of 66. Heryounger sister, Kathleen Swaim, said that the framed response hadhung in Elizabeth Swains bathroom.

She was very pleased that he had answered, Kathleen Swaimrecalled. Elizabeth Swaim went on to become librarian of rare booksand archivist at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. Her firstlibrary job, ironically, had been at the Library of Congress.

An Unpopular Little Girl

Harry L. Katz, curator of popular and applied graphic art at thelibrary, noted that Swaim was not the only reader who wanted to getrid of Charlotte Braun.

Nobody liked her, Katz said. She was a little too serious.She didnt have the warmth or the humor of the other characters.