"Jumbo's Hide, Elvis's Ride, and the Tooth of Buddha...

Editor's Choice

March 18, 2001|By Michael Pakenham

"Jumbo's Hide, Elvis's Ride, and the Tooth of Buddha: More Marvelous Tales of Historical Artifacts," by Harvey Rachlin (Owl Books, 372 pages, $16).

I know of no recent book that more engagingly delivers that fire of delight that can only be ignited by the collision of the elegantly arcane and the illustriously ridiculous. Have you often worried about Jesse James' stickpin - the jewelry that confirmed his identity after death? It's in four pieces now, but available. How about the pistol that killed John Lennon? It's in the New York City Police Museum -- but its story is complicated. How now the Chippendale armchair that, in the Constitutional Convention of 1787, gave Benjamin Franklin the metaphor for concluding: "But now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun." Today, it is still in Philadelphia's Independence Hall, the last remaining artifact of that convention. All this and lots and lots more are detailed in this charming collection of memorabilia and exquisite trivia.

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