Selling Off History

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Last week, I replied to a question put to historical archivists about Chicago’s Field Museum selling off its rare book collections. I responded, using the recent experience of the Jesse James family:

Zee James Collection trunk
James Family Trunk from the Zee James Collection – Put Up For Auction

Many think archives and institutions are forever. The fact is, they are subject to failure as anything else. This sad realization hit home in recent years for the family of America’s iconic outlaws, Frank & Jesse James. Their experience prompts the question, is there any reliable custodian for history’s meaningful remainders?

Over the years, the James family had made donations of their property, homes, artifacts and relics. The family placed their trust in Clay County, Missouri, and its governing commissioners. As the economic climate fluctuated like the weather across decades, the enthusiasm of the politicians and their governing body for preserving the James family’s donation grew stormy. Donations that the family made became lost, never to be retrieved.

Claybrook
Claybrook – Former Home of Jesse James’ Daughter

When the historic home of Jesse James’ daughter burned down, an investigation proved the county was responsible and negligent, the county took the insurance money and ran. Instead of restoring the burned hulk, or replicating it, the county announced it intended to use the land for an animal shelter.

What lessons has the James family learned? History is best preserved by those best able to respect and maintain it. Reliance upon government or political bodies is tenuous. Time itself is preservation’s enemy. Money for permanent preservation will always be a factor. If, at all possible, it is best to self-insulate by self-insurance or underwriting. A particular endowment also may not last or endure forever, but it’s the foundation that gives history improved prospects for survival.

Tyrannosaurus Rex
“Sue” the Tyrannosaurus Rex at the Field Museum in Chicago

 

Cover for Stray Leaves Daily
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Stray Leaves Daily

Stray Leaves Daily

Daily updates from the family of Frank & Jesse James with stories, photos, & two searchable genealog

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1 week ago
Stray Leaves Daily

FIND-A-GRAVE BLUNDERS LEAVE JAMES FAMILY HOWLING . . . Can you spot the errata in this Find a Grave post for the grandfather of Frank & Jesse James? The most glaring deception is the photograph!

History tells us the photograph was invented about the time John M. James was dying. Neither history, nor the administrator of this posting, Charlotte Raley McConaha, can tell us is how photographic technology made its way from France to the distant American frontier to take a photo of John M. James, months before his demise.

Another imprecise miscalculation in this post is the attribution of the middle name “Martin” to John M. James. The name never has been proved by evidence. To guess the name is unreliable and wrong.
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FIND-A-GRAVE BLUNDERS LEAVE JAMES FAMILY HOWLING . . . Can you spot the errata in this Find a Grave post for the grandfather of Frank & Jesse James? The most glaring deception is the photograph!

History tells us the photograph was invented about the time John M. James was dying. Neither history, nor the administrator of this posting, Charlotte Raley McConaha, can tell us is how photographic technology made its way from France to the distant American frontier to take a photo of John M. James, months before his demise.

Another imprecise miscalculation in this post is the attribution of the middle name “Martin” to John M. James. The name never has been proved by evidence. To guess the name is unreliable and wrong.
2 weeks ago
Stray Leaves Daily

JAMES-YOUNGER GANG TO CLOSE . . . Sad news as Danny Urban, former President of the J-Y Gang, posted to Facebook that the organization is about to disband. Here’s the statement: "It is a sad year for us in the Gang. Since I originally posted this, we have lost members due to death. We are down to around 30, but the Board has decided to shut the Gang down at the end of the year. Donate all of our monies to Non-Profits around the country that are history related in the areas that the real Gang had robbed, etc. Two of our members will be taking over the website and they plan on keeping it going." The photo below is of yours truly in 2002 at the family reunion with some great-grandchildren of Jesse James. The 2017 logo is from the last meeting of the Gang that I helped to organize. See MoreSee Less

JAMES-YOUNGER GANG TO CLOSE . . . Sad news as Danny Urban, former President of the J-Y Gang, posted to Facebook that the organization is about to disband. Heres the statement: It is a sad year for us in the Gang.  Since I originally posted this, we have lost members due to death.  We are down to around 30, but the Board has decided to shut the Gang down at the end of the year.  Donate all of our monies to Non-Profits around the country that are history related in the areas that the real Gang had robbed, etc.  Two of our members will be taking over the website and they plan on keeping it going. The photo below is of yours truly in 2002 at the family reunion with some great-grandchildren of Jesse James. The 2017 logo is from the last meeting of the Gang that I helped to organize.
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