The U.S. Department of Labor, in a recent newsletter, recalled the time in 1964 when U.S. Department of Labor Secretary W. Willard Wirtz had to reassure Beatles fans the group wouldn't be banned from the country.
It seems there was a regulation to restrict entry by foreign entertainers. The department was concerned that American entertainers were facing unfair competition and tightened rules on foreign talent seeking to enter the United States.
In return, the Beatles' teenage fans were concerned. Janelle Blackwell of El Dorado, Arkansas, in a letter dated April 3, 1964, wrote, “I can only hope and pray this letter will be read. I and three other girls were so upset we couldn't go to school today because of an article in the paepr saying the Beatles can not return to the U.S. until the government gives their approval.
“Maybe they didn't follow the law of immigration clearance order, but you must all agree the teenagers of the U.S. want them back. It's non of my business, but they've just go to return soon, please. I sincerly (sp) hope you can give me some kind of reply to this letter.
“Please if you can, answer if and when they will or won't return. Very truly yours, Janelle Blackwell.
“P.S. This is no laughing matter to me or any other fan of the Beatles. Please reply a letter back to me. This is a business letter, and should be treated as such, Mr. Willard Wirtz, sir, or whoever is reading this. This letter I know is not in good form of any kind. But I fell (sp) terrible. I'm 15 and I feel like 80.”
Fears that the Beatles would be banned became so strong that a petition was sent to the Labor Department. In a letter archived at Children & Youth In History, one of the organizers, Bonnie Wilkins, sent an impassioned letter to Wirtz on April 24, 1964. In it she showed her determination to get the “ban” overturned.
“But in this case, we cannot accept the statement that 'You Can't Fight City Hall.' We are going to fight, argue, negotiate, and keep on sending you thousands of names until some action is taken,” the letter read in part. “I'm sure that you had fads when you were teenagers, and just because they are from another country, there is no need to act that way toward the Beatles. We are a little tired of American singers, and the Beatles are a refreshing change.”
Wirtz promptly sent a reply about a week and a half later on May 4. After complimenting the fans on their “determination and ingenuity,” he wrote, “The reports that I am trying to keep out the Beatles are absolutely incorrect. I am sorry that this false impression was created by an erroneous newspaper report.” He said he felt certain “the Beatles would be permitted to enter the United States again as they were earlier this year.”
But he ended the letter with a little reassurance.
“You may be relieved to know that, while the Government of the United States is old, it is not run by old fogies. Yours sincerely, W. Willard Wirtz, Secretary of Labor.”
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