Josephine Dos Santos
Papers, 1942-1990


Quantity: 3 boxes (0.75 cubic ft.)
Access: Open to research
Acquisition: Gift: Louis Dos Santos, July and September 2015; March 2016; July 2016; December 2016
Processed By: Michelle Fernandez and Regina Berry, Student Assistants, State University of New York at Albany, Fall 2015 and  revised July and December 2016

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Biographical Note:

Josephine Selvaggio Dos Santos was born in Palermo, Italy, January 1, 1901. When she was nine years old her family moved to Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, where she would live for the remainder of her life. Josephine completed two years of high school, then worked as a secretary for Commercial Investment Trust in Manhattan.  In 1926 she married Joaquim "Jack" Dos Santos, a Portuguese immigrant, at Saint Stanislaus Koska Church in Hastings. The couple had four children, Marie (born 1927 or 1928), Jack G. (1929-2002), Nina (born ca. 1936) and Louis (born ca. 1945). Mrs. Dos Santos was self-employed for much of her life, operating a typesetting and mimeographing business, the Hastings Letter Service, out of her home.

Jack Dos Santos died March 1, 1960, at the age of 67.  Josephine, apparently unable to find work, was left alone to raise her youngest son on Social Security and whatever she could earn from her letter business.  Money was tight and she made every effort to petition the state for relief from high taxes and what she perceived as unfair Social Security disbursements.  She became an active letter writer on many fronts. She died on June 11, 1992, and is buried with her husband in Mount Hope Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson.

In 2010, the Hastings Historical Society did a profile of Mrs. Dos Santos as a train commuter from Hastings to Manhattan in the years before her marriage: "Josephine Selvaggio: Hastings Commuter."external link

Scope and Content Note:

The correspondence and papers in this collection, spanning nearly 40 years, cover a variety of topics, including government services, food manufacturing processes and quality control, and comments on the media's cultural offerings. Also included are requests for educational materials for her son, who was struggling in school; letters pertaining to the running of her business; and medical inquiries regarding the health records of herself and her late husband.

Mrs. Dos Santos was not shy about contacting her elected representatives with her concerns.  There are letters to congressmen, senators and commissioners concerning her problems with her property taxes, Social Security, Medicare benefits, and other concerns.  She wrote to Presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter, Senators Edmund Muskie, Edward Kennedy and Jacob Javits and Representative Peter Peyser, to name a few.  She was passionate about some topics of public concern, such as her campaign to save November 11 as Armistice Day, and getting President John F. Kennedy's likeness on a postage stamp.  She wrote her representatives about such diverse topics as military training for children in order to fight communism; the need for programs for the aging; the safety of aerosol sprays; the need for better bicycle laws; and the trees on the Sawmill Parkway.

She wrote to a number of media companies to comment on their television and radio shows or magazine pieces, including WOR Radio, CBS Network, the National Enquirer and Merv Griffin Productions.  She also wrote letters to local newspaper editors, such as the one she wrote for the "Readers' Forum" of The Enterprise of Hastings-on-Hudson in 1983, discussing her exercise regimen and showing a photograph of her exercising.

The majority of the letters to consumer-product companies constitute exchanges between Mrs. Dos Santos and the manufacturers and distributors of various foodstuffs and services. Several exchanges involve a complaint about a foreign object or discoloration found in food, with an admonition for the workers to "be more careful" in the future.  She frequently received an apologetic or explanatory response from the manufacturer. These exchanges often include vouchers for refunds or complimentary items from the brand in question, such as when she wrote to the Purex Corporation with her ideas on how to improve Brillo Pads, and received a box of pads from the company in return.  A number of major companies received a letter from Mrs. Dos Santos with a question, concern or complaint, including Dow Chemical, Scott Paper, Thermos, PET Inc., Campbell's Soup, Tropicana, Kellogg's, and the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.

Letters are organized chronologically, according to subject matter, with repeat communications from a single entity frequently grouped together.  Most of Mrs. Dos Santos letters are the copies she kept for herself, and therefore are on fragile, low-quality paper.

Box and Folder List:

Box Folder Description
1 1 John Santos correspondence regarding tax issues, 1949, 1954  (2 items)
1 2 "Hastings Letter Service" correspondence and papers, 1945-1982  (12 items)
1 3 Requests and subscriptions, 1948-1986 (11 items)
1 4 Home maintenance and improvement correspondence, 1953-1975  (6 items)
1 5 Medical correspondence, 1954-1988 (55 items)
1 6 Educational materials requests, 1956 (4 items)
1 7 Employment efforts, notes and letters, 1960-1963, n.d. (6 items)
1 8 Correspondence with government officials regarding taxes, Social Security and Medicare, 1962-1975 (33 items)
1 9 Advocacy correspondence with government officials, ca. 1970-1984 (13 items)
1 10 Inquiries to media outlets; letters to editors, 1954-1988, n.d.
(25 items)
1 11 Campaign to save Armistice Day, 1973-1982 (14 items)
1 12 Personal correspondence, 1958-1984  (15 items)
1 13 Consumer product company correspondence, 1951-1973  (32 items)
1 14 Consumer product company correspondence, 1974-1975  (37 items)
1 15 Consumer product company correspondence, 1976-1979  (22 items)
1 16 Consumer product company correspondence, 1980-1983  (29 items)
1 17 Consumer product company correspondence, 1984-1990  (21 items)
1 18 Undated correspondence and notes (13 items)
2 1 Correspondence with the Hastings-on-Hudson Public School System, 1956-1958, 1964 (20 items)
2 2 Correspondence to Mrs. Wanda Chiocsky, 1956-1987  (35 items)
2 3 Correspondence from Mrs. Wanda Chiocsky, Southbury, Conn., 1956, 1981-1988  (18 items)
2 4 Correspondence with Margaret Yesnick, 1973-1977 (ca. 30 items)
2 5 Correspondence with Pete Selvaggio, 1973-1983 (ca. 24 items)
2 6 Letters from Louis Dos Santos, 1963-1964 (9 items)
2 7 Correspondence, 1956-1974 (7 items)
2 8 Correspondence, 1983-1986 (16 items)
2 9 Picture postcards and greeting cards, ca. 1949-1985 (12 items)
2 10 Miscellaneous notes and papers (ca. 20 items)
3 1 Josephine Dos Santos Tax Records, 1942-1980
3 2 Papers relating to Louis Dos Santos, ca. 1955, 1964 (2 items)
3 3 Sympathy card on the death of Jack Dos Santos, 1960 (1 item)
3 4 Miscellaneous notes and papers (ca. 50 items)
Last Updated: May 21, 2021
May 21, 2021