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11 Historical Artifacts You Can Own...For A Price

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For history buffs who won't settle for a trip to the museum or a good book, the Internet offers a treasure trove of artifacts you can own—if you've got significant money to spend.

1. Piece of a Titanic Door — $25,000

How much would you pay for a piece of wood, 3 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and 0.5 inches thick? What if it was a remnant from an RMS Titanic door? This particular fragment was recovered shortly after the April 15, 1912 sinking among the floating wreckage and includes a painted inscription that reads:

Part of Door Picked up by cable Str. Minia from wreckage of Str Titanic Lost Apl 15, 1912. Lat 41° 42’ 49 Long. 49° 20’ 1635 perished.

Curiously available for sale from the New York Times gift store—where you can also pick up an adorable crossword-printed cookie jar for $19.99—the piece of wood comes "with complete report from a top forensic expert who authenticated the item more than a decade ago and who theorized that this piece of Titanic door was to one of the fabled staterooms in the epic floating palace."

2. "Shoeless" Joe Jackson Signed Check — $110,000

The Times gift store also stocks a number of collectors' items for sports fan with cash to burn. The highest ticket item they have—beating out other autographed artifacts by big names like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Mickey Mantle by significant margin—is this mortgage voucher for a home Jackson bought in 1916 in Savannah, GA. Shoeless Joe—banned from baseball after the 1919 Black Sox scandal, despite debatable innocence—was illiterate and, painstakingly, signed just a few items in his lifetime. This is one of three known vouchers that passed from Jackson's widow to her sister in the 1950s and comes framed with an iconic photo of Jackson.

3. Signed Letter from George Washington — $15,000

In 2013, this letter sold for $8663.75 to the Ukrainian Institute of America at The Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion, but now it's back on the market. The contents of the October 21, 1778, letter to General William Smallwood concern routine Revolutionary War business: Washington is writing to urge Smallwood to "inlist" more troops in Maryland. Although much of the text is lost to damage, Washington's signature remains bold and bright.

4. Bloodstained Half of Abraham Lincoln's Shirt Collar — $200,000

For those with a slightly more gruesome, bodily interest in the presidents—or perhaps a desire to test out cloning techniques in a spectacular fashion—there is a fragment of the shirt Abraham Lincoln was wearing at the time of his assassination. It is "considerably soiled and bloodstained, with one particularly sizeable brownish-red bloodstain at one side." The collar was recovered by Lt. Newton Ferree of the 157th Ohio, who rushed into the President's theater box immediately following the gunshot, and comes with his diary entry from that night. In it he writes:

I...jumped on the stage and then learned that President Lincoln had been assassinated. I then started to go in the box where the President was but met five or six men carrying him out. I then went in... and found it one pool of blood. I picked up the collar which had been torn from the President's neck...

For $200,000, you also get a framed ensemble of copy photos of Ferree at various ages; a file of miscellaneous related material; and a detailed, notarized affidavit signed by his daughter-in-law, Erna C. Ferree.

5. Gene Cernan's own Astronaut Preference Kit from Apollo 17 — $30,000

If you'd prefer something sullied only by moon dust, perhaps you'll be interested in this small drawstring bag. According to the 1972 NASA Management Instruction:

Each flight astronaut shall be permitted to carry certain items of a personal nature in his APK [Astronaut Preference Kit] on each manned space flight mission for use by him as personal gifts for his immediate family and relatives (wives, children, parents, in-laws, brothers and sisters) or close friends. No more than one article may be given to one individual.

This particular Lunar Module Astronaut Preference Kit was carried by Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, during Apollo 17. He took it to the moon in December 1972. Cernan has handwritten on the front, "Flown Lunar Surface Gene Cernan" and "A-17/To Lunar Surface EAC."

6. “Norma Jeane Dougherty” Model Release — current bid $7139

According to this signed release, on July 29, 1946, model Norma Jeane Dougherty was paid $15 for a session with Earl Moran. It was one of her earlier modeling gigs; shortly thereafter she would start going by the name Marilyn Monroe. In addition to her name, Dougherty writes her West Los Angeles address.

7. Martin Luther King, Jr. Manuscript — current bid $1183

This comparative bargain features a portion of the handwritten draft of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s book Stride Toward Freedom. The excerpt from Chapter XI, titled "Where Do We Go From Here?", is written in pencil on a piece of paper with Montgomery Improvement Association, Inc. letterhead, where King was president at the time.

8. Early Snow White Production Celluloid — estimate: $10,000 - 20,000


This far more whimsical artifact—which depicts the first ever Disney princess—is thought to be the earliest extant animated Snow White cel. It is distinguished from simply a color sketch by peg holes and a cel number at the bottom right. Created in 1935, two years before the movie was released, the Snow White shown differs slightly from the final product. Her round face and resemblance to Betty Boop were deemed too "cartoonish" by Walt Disney and later changed.

9. Prince of Wales Officer Sword and Record of Service — estimate: $16,830 - $25,245

This summer marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Great Britain entered the war on August 4, 1914, and 10 days later Edward VIII, then the 20-year-old Prince of Wales, joined the Grenadier Guards (but he wasn't allowed to serve on the front lines out of concern that he might be taken hostage). Featured here are artifacts from the the Prince's service. The sword is by Henry Wilkinson, with a steel blade, nickel-plated hilt bearing the regimental insignia, wire-bound rayskin-covered grip and original brown leather scabbard. The "Army Form B. 199. / RECORD OF SERVICES" is filled out by hand and under "Name and Address of next of kin" the Prince wrote "His Majesty, The King, Buckingham Palace, London."

10. Medieval Broadsword — estimate: $134,640 - $201,960

If your taste in weaponry runs a little older and lot more expensive, perhaps this medieval broadsword will strike your fancy. Although it cannot be proven conclusively, it is possible that this sword, which features a re-shaped Viking blade, was taken as a trophy by Humphrey De Bohun at the Battle of Hastings in October 1066. With its gold and enameled coat of arms on the pommel, this was not a war sword, but was handed down through the generations of the de Bohun family, Earls of Hereford and Essex.

11. Ornitholestes Skeleton — estimate: $475,948 - $611,933

The only question is, what would you do with a small carnivorous dinosaur from the late Jurassic period?

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Why Do the Lions and Cowboys Always Play on Thanksgiving?
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Because it's tradition! But how did this tradition begin?

Every year since 1934, the Detroit Lions have taken the field for a Thanksgiving game, no matter how bad their record has been. It all goes back to when the Lions were still a fairly young franchise. The team started in 1929 in Portsmouth, Ohio, as the Spartans. Portsmouth, while surely a lovely town, wasn't quite big enough to support a pro team in the young NFL. Detroit radio station owner George A. Richards bought the Spartans and moved the team to Detroit in 1934.

Although Richards's new squad was a solid team, they were playing second fiddle in Detroit to the Hank Greenberg-led Tigers, who had gone 101-53 to win the 1934 American League Pennant. In the early weeks of the 1934 season, the biggest crowd the Lions could draw for a game was a relatively paltry 15,000. Desperate for a marketing trick to get Detroit excited about its fledgling football franchise, Richards hit on the idea of playing a game on Thanksgiving. Since Richards's WJR was one of the bigger radio stations in the country, he had considerable clout with his network and convinced NBC to broadcast a Thanksgiving game on 94 stations nationwide.

The move worked brilliantly. The undefeated Chicago Bears rolled into town as defending NFL champions, and since the Lions had only one loss, the winner of the first Thanksgiving game would take the NFL's Western Division. The Lions not only sold out their 26,000-seat stadium, they also had to turn fans away at the gate. Even though the juggernaut Bears won that game, the tradition took hold, and the Lions have been playing on Thanksgiving ever since.

This year, the Lions host the Minnesota Vikings.

HOW 'BOUT THEM COWBOYS?


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The Cowboys, too, jumped on the opportunity to play on Thanksgiving as an extra little bump for their popularity. When the chance to take the field on Thanksgiving arose in 1966, it might not have been a huge benefit for the Cowboys. Sure, the Lions had filled their stadium for their Thanksgiving games, but that was no assurance that Texans would warm to holiday football so quickly.

Cowboys general manager Tex Schramm, though, was something of a marketing genius; among his other achievements was the creation of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Schramm saw the Thanksgiving Day game as a great way to get the team some national publicity even as it struggled under young head coach Tom Landry. Schramm signed the Cowboys up for the game even though the NFL was worried that the fans might just not show up—the league guaranteed the team a certain gate revenue in case nobody bought tickets. But the fans showed up in droves, and the team broke its attendance record as 80,259 crammed into the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys beat the Cleveland Browns 26-14 that day, and a second Thanksgiving pigskin tradition caught hold. Since 1966, the Cowboys have missed having Thanksgiving games only twice.

Dallas will take on the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday.

WHAT'S WITH THE NIGHT GAME?


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In 2006, because 6-plus hours of holiday football was not sufficient, the NFL added a third game to the Thanksgiving lineup. This game is not assigned to a specific franchise—this year, the Washington Redskins will welcome the New York Giants.

Re-running this 2008 article a few days before the games is our Thanksgiving tradition.

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Why Your Traditional Thanksgiving Should Include Oysters
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If you want to throw a really traditional Thanksgiving dinner, you’ll need oysters. The mollusks would have been featured prominently on the holiday tables of the earliest American settlers—even if that beloved Thanksgiving turkey probably wasn’t. At the time, oysters were supremely popular additions to the table for coastal colonial settlements, though in some cases, they were seen as a hardship food more than a delicacy.

For one thing, oysters were an easy food source. In the Chesapeake Bay, they were so plentiful in the 17th and 18th centuries that ships had to be careful not to run aground on oyster beds, and one visitor in 1702 wrote that they could be pulled up with only a pair of tongs. Native Americans, too, ate plenty of oysters, occasionally harvesting them and feasting for days.

Early colonists ate so many oysters that the population of the mollusks dwindled to dangerously low levels by the 19th century, according to curriculum prepared by a Gettysburg University history professor. In these years, scarcity turned oysters into a luxury item for the wealthy, a situation that prevailed until the 1880s, when oyster production skyrocketed and prices dropped again [PDF]. If you lived on the coast, though, you were probably still downing the bivalves.

Beginning in the 1840s, canning and railroads brought the mollusks to inland regions. According to 1985's The Celebrated Oysterhouse Cookbook, the middle of the 19th century found America in a “great oyster craze,” where “no evening of pleasure was complete without oysters; no host worthy of the name failed to serve 'the luscious bivalves,' as they were actually called, to his guests.”

At the turn of the century, oysters were still a Thanksgiving standard. They were on Thanksgiving menus everywhere from New York City's Plaza Hotel to train dining cars, in the form of soup, cocktails, and stuffing.

In 1954, the Fish and Wildlife Service tried to promote Thanksgiving oysters to widespread use once again. They sent out a press release [PDF], entitled “Oysters—a Thanksgiving Tradition,” which included the agency’s own recipes for cocktail sauce, oyster bisque, and oyster stuffing.

In the modern era, Thanksgiving oysters have remained most popular in the South. Oyster stuffing is a classic dish in New Orleans, and chefs like Emeril Lagasse have their own signature recipes. If you’re not looking for a celebrity chef’s recipe, perhaps you want to try the Fish and Wildlife Service’s? Check it out below.

Oyster Stuffing

INGREDIENTS

1 pint oysters
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter
4 cups day-old bread cubes
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
Dash poultry seasoning
Dash pepper

Drain oysters, saving liquor, and chop. Cook celery and onion in butter until tender. Combine oysters, cooked vegetables, bread cubes, and seasonings, and mix thoroughly. If stuffing seems dry, moisten with oyster liquor. Makes enough for a four-pound chicken.

If you’re using a turkey, the FWS advises that the recipe above provides enough for about every five pounds of bird, so multiply accordingly.

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