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Happy and sad

  1. Jul 7, 2008 #1

    turbo

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    I just watched a segment of the Antiques Road Show and was surprised with a segment featuring Bill Guthman. He died a couple of years ago, and he was the ultimate authority on the authenticity of pre-revolutionary powder horns. He was a gentleman, and though we never met in person, we had spent so many pleasant hours on the phone that I considered him a good friend. I knew that he had been diagnosed with cancer, but he was really up-beat, and I was concerned when I couldn't get in touch with him at home for a couple of weeks. I found an old cell-number for him and called it on a hunch and found him in a hospital. He was practically on his death-bed, with his wife by his side, and he insisted on taking the call. He was in the last few days of his life, and a representative of Sotheby's was in the room, making final arrangements to auction his life-long collection of maps, letters, etc, related to the origin of the US. We talked for about 30 minutes and he handed the phone to the Sotheby's agent, telling him "send my friend a complementary catalog of my auction - he'll give you the address." That was the last time I spoke to him.

    I was happy to hear Bill's voice on PBS and see his image yet again, and saddened to reflect on how much historical knowledge that he had not been able to pass down (despite the wonderful books that he authored) and sad to miss a friend. Bill had so much left to say, as did my departed friend Frank Sellers. I had taken in a powder-horn to auction believing it to be perfectly right. My boss denigrated the horn, saying it was an obvious fake, and gave me a hard time for agreeing to auction it. Frank looked at the horn, which had a scrimshawed map of the Connecticut River, and said "It's real." I asked him how he knew and he told me that the location of one fort position was presumed to be on the west bank of the river until a dig less than 25 years previously located the fort on the east bank of the river, which was properly portrayed on the horn. We're losing REAL scholarship and knowledge at a frightening rate.
     
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  3. Jul 7, 2008 #2
    Was he a professor of american history?

    I had a teacher in high school much like this guy who died of a heart attack my senior year. He was a great guy, and knew a ton about american history. He would walk around arlighton cemetery recording the names and learning about their lives just for the fun of it.
     
  4. Jul 7, 2008 #3

    turbo

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    Not a professor, but a scholar. He could have schooled a generation of professors if they could have pried themselves away from academics and immersed themselves in scholarship instead. Bill was a gem, as was Frank. Frank Sellers wrote the bible on the Springfield rifle as well as at least 10 other books on militaria. Frank was a curmudgeon, who softened quickly with just a little interest and conversation. Bill started out engaged, and would flood you with information when he realized that you were receptive.

    I know (and am on good terms with) many of the top researchers on Confederate weaponry. These guys are aging and dying off at a pretty good clip. One of my pals has perhaps the best collection of Confederate handguns extant, and he is getting up there. It would be depressing to see his collection auctioned off and dispersed to the winds because he has spent his life building it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2008
  5. Jul 7, 2008 #4
    We can only hope people like this{Bill Guthman} have inspired younger people to quest for the knowledge. As a hobby, collecting and history are very rewarding. I have noticed many younger people at the re-enactments the past few years, so there is hope.

    I agree Turbo, if only these collections would remain intact.
     
  6. Jul 7, 2008 #5

    turbo

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    It is sad to see collections of historical memorabilia come under the auction block and be dispersed. I would much rather work (for free, even) to see collections gathered under the protection of qualified non-profits and be preserved for everyone.
     
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