Jumbo's Hide, Elvis's Ride, and the Tooth of Buddha: More Marvelous Tales of Historical Artifacts

Harvey Rachlin, Author Henry Holt & Company $25 (372p) ISBN 978-0-8050-5683-9
In an irresistible, edifying romp through the centuries, Rachlin uses artifacts as portals to the past as he skips from a venerated tooth preserved in a Sri Lankan temple, believed to have come from Buddha's mouth, to the metal folding table on which the Japanese signed WWII surrender documents in 1945 and the Apollo 13 command module that carried astronauts through a scorching reentry. There are several familiar objects--the Magna Carta; Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation; the 1803 Louisiana Purchase treaty, which doubled our nation's size--as well as artifacts that deserve to be better known, like the funerary chest (discovered only in 1977) in which Alexander the Great buried his father, King Philip II of Macedonia, or the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written in 1776 by George Mason, to whom fellow Virginian Thomas Jefferson owed a significant debt in drafting his far more familiar Declaration of Independence. The basis for a new History Channel prime-time series, History's Lost and Found, this sequel to Rachlin's Lucy's Bones, Sacred Stones, and Einstein's Brain is a grab bag with something for every taste. The best sections are astute mini-essays that enlighten and entertain, whether Rachlin is discussing Freud's couch for his patients, George Washington's schoolboy copybooks, silver ""peace pipes"" bestowed on reluctant Native American tribes in 1814, Beethoven's ear trumpets or ENIAC, the wartime computer unveiled in 1946, which ushered in the information age. Rachlin's masterful grasp of the material, his employment of rich historical context and his storytelling flair make history come alive. Illus. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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