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Chain Letters, or Chain Mail, is a movement where a person sends a message to one person, while at the end of the message declaring that the reader must send the letter to however many participants to avoid a negative outcome or achieve a positive one.
Though it is hard to pin, the earliest recorded instance was in 1935, when the "Send-a-Dime" chain letter started circulating.
The usage started becoming ridiculous, oftentimes declaring it had put a curse on the receiver and they must send money back though all the receivers to break it. It was declared as a method of fraud and made illegal, though found new life on the internet.