Archive for December, 2010

Sixteen stolen paintings returned for Christmas

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

The Carabinieri art squad recovered 16 paintings stolen over a period of decades in the house of a Roman designer. The designer has been charged with receiving stolen goods. His collection is enormous. Police found 180 paintings from a variety of periods reportedly purchased in markets and fairs over the past 30 years.

Authorities were tipped off to the collection by a would-be buyer. Unlike the accused, this collector, who was hoping to buy a 15th c. painting of the Sienese school, checked with the Carabinieri art squad to ensure the piece was legitimately owned by the seller. The squad looked into the collection and found one piece listed in their stolen art database: Suicide of Cleopatra, a painting by German renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, best known for his woodcuts. The Dürer had been stolen from the Palazzo Piccolomini museum in Pienza, outside of Siena, on May 28, 1972.

That discovery set off an in-depth investigation of the rest of the collection. They found another 15 paintings that had been stolen in 10 thefts from churches, museums, and private homes in Rome and central Italy. The estimated total value of the 16 recovered pieces is approximately €1 million ($1.3 million).

Police discovered the thefts in September but only announced their recovery last Friday. The paintings will be returned to their rightful owners in time for Christmas.

Art expert Vittorio Sgarbi examines 'Suicide of Cleopatra' by Albrecht Durer


Vote to put a historical car on display at Smithsonian

Monday, December 20th, 2010

The Smithsonian has a large collection of historical transportation, but most of the 73 vehicles have never been on display. The America on the Move exhibit at the National Museum of American History only showcases 14 of them. The rest live under tarps in a storage warehouse miles away from the National Mall.

Now for the first time the Smithsonian is opening the warehouse to let the public vote for two of its cars to roar out of the darkness into the Mall light. Over the past week, Roger White, Associate Curator in the Division of Work and Industry at the National Museum of American History and the man who hunted high and low to acquire famous 80s crash test dummies Vince and Larry for the museum, has been blogging about eight gems from the history of transportation.

Read all the Race to the Museum entries and pick your favorite. Voting opens tomorrow, December 21. The two vote leaders will go on display at the museum from January 22 to February 21.

The problem is trying to narrow down the awesome to just one favorite. I tend to be partial to the earliest pieces just because they look so damn cool. The Long steam tricycle (ca. 1880) is the oldest of the eight and the unique creation of a Massachusetts carpenter.

Long steam tricycleWhat’s made of bicycle parts, weighs 350 pounds, and is self-propelled? Not your typical 1880s vehicle. Before George Long, a carpenter in Northfield, Massachusetts, built this one-of-a-kind experiment, he and other inventors built heavy, steam-powered wagons. So why switch to thin, spidery body materials? Long borrowed technologies developed for the high-wheel bicycle craze, which was just taking off. Bicycles were lightweight; for Long’s three-wheel wonder, a tubular steel frame and spoke wheels meant a better power-to-weight ratio and easier travel on rough dirt roads. Adult-size tricycles were safer, more comfortable, and easier to mount than high-wheel bicycles, so Long’s vehicle pointed the way toward practical, powered road transportation.

Long dismantled it when his horse-riding neighbors complained (boo! hiss!) and even though he patented the design, the Long steam tricycle was never produced again. Steam vehicle collector John Bacon reassembled the original and gave it to the Smithsonian.

I’m also crazy about the Tucker sedan (1948), made famous by the movie in which Jeff Bridges played Preston Tucker, brilliant engineer, automotive innovator and tragically awful entrepreneur.

Tucker sedan, 1948“The First Completely New Car in Fifty Years”—that’s how Preston Tucker billed his audacious assault on Detroit in the late 1940s. He promised that his car would be fresh, advanced, and different, from its futuristic styling to its rear engine and rubber suspension. Tucker laid plans on a massive scale, hiring a design team and an executive staff, obtaining a huge assembly plant, and building a dealer network. For all of Tucker’s brashness and avant-garde outlook, his most important innovation was his obsession with safety. He insisted on a padded dashboard, obstacle-free zone for the front passenger, pop-out windshield, and turning center headlight. But he stopped short of installing seat belts, thinking that they would hurt sales.

Production of tomorrow’s car was cut short by a federal investigation of Tucker’s business practices.

There are only 46 Tucker sedans left in the world; the one in the Smithsonian collection is number 39 of 51 made. A product of a drug forfeiture, the Tucker was given to the museum by the U.S. Marshals Service in 1993.

The GM Sunraycer solar car from 1987 is also highly awesome. If the older ones weren’t so dreamy, I would be sorely tempted to vote for it. I might have to vote early and often to spread around the love.

Click here to cast your vote.


Louvre raises €1 million to get Cranach’s Graces

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

The Three Graces, Lucas Cranach the Elder’s 1531 masterpiece, has been in private hands since it was first commissioned. A French family has owned it since 1932, but when they sold it this November to a foreign buyer for €4 million ($5.4 million), the French government declared it a “national treasure” (despite its German origin) and gave the Louvre three months to raise the money to buy the 9″ x 12″ oil on wood painting. The museum had €3 million good to go thanks to its acquisition budget and two corporate donors, but to raise the last million the Louvre launched a fundraising campaign.

Although this sort of campaign is fairly common in the US and the UK (the Staffordshire Hoard campaign, for example), France’s tradition of state-sponsored art goes back to Louis XIV, so it is not accustomed to having to make public appeals for donations to purchase historical and artistic masterpieces. There was some grumbling in the press, but the discontent was not widespread enough to interfere with the campaign.

The Three Graces by Lucas CranachDonations from €1 to €40,000 ($52,700) came pouring in from the Louvre’s fundraising website and the shortfall was overcome in just one month. Most of the 5,000 donors were on the low end of that scale, with the average gift being €150 ($195) and fully a quarter of the donations hovering around the €50 ($65) mark. Donors ranged in age from eight to 96, and a quarter of the donations were dedications, some in memory of a loved one, some in the name of a newborn, some to a living person, some in honor of a special event.

The names of all 5,000 donors will be listed in a special exhibition room where the painting will be on display from March 2 to April 4. Donors who gave €200 ($270) will be be invited to a special viewing of the work and donors who gave €500 ($680) will be invited to a special preview before the painting is put on public display. Remember, this painting has always been in private collections, so this exhibit will be the first time the wider public has a chance to see this The Three Graces.

From the Louvre’s website:

The Three Graces is a theme that dates back to Antiquity. It has spun off into a number of mythological variants, but they often personify mirth, abundance and splendor. Artists have often revisited this theme throughout history, right up to the present day.

Lucas Cranach’s art intertwines the realism cherished by Northern European painters and the softer, smoother style verging on the imaginary realm of Italian paintings, with a very personal, strange and deliberately ironic version.

For a Renaissance artist, painting the Three Graces first of all entailed broaching the notion of depicting female nudes. And Lucas Cranach’s take is brimming with virtuosity and a deeply original way of depicting the female form. He shows his ability to use his brush to draw the silky texture of the flesh, the elegance of the faces, and the graceful, flowing sensuality of the bodies. There is something disconcertingly erotic about these female nudes (Lucas Cranach was a master of this discipline, and indeed built his reputation on it). The Three Graces crowns this artist’s musings on other figures such as Eve or Venus. The landscapes that provide the backdrop for those compositions, however, have vanished and the plain dark background in their place brings out the intensity of the flesh and the objects in the painting.

Cranach worked on every detail in this painting with exquisite finesse: the eyes, the elegant noses, the position of the chignons, the pinkish cheeks and the delicate work on the hands.

Each of the Graces has its own distinctive movement, which affords each of them their own independence and sensuality. Their postures radiate extraordinary freedom, and are eminently modern: the one on the left is turning her back and clutching her thigh; the one on the right is facing sideways, standing on her right leg and holding her left ankle with her left hand; the third is the only one facing us, and wears an elegant hat. An extraordinarily ethereal and transparent haze intensifies the seductive aura and underlines the three young women’s nudity.

Cranach’s flair in creating a scene that is at once lively and harmonious is one of the reasons why this painting is considered one of his masterpieces.


Fountain of the 99 Spouts flows again

Saturday, December 18th, 2010

Fountain of the 99 Spouts reopening ceremonyThe Fountain of the 99 Spouts, a landmark 13th century fountain in the historic center of L’Aquila in the Abruzzo region of Italy, was reopened to the public on Thursday, the first historic monument to be fully restored after the earthquake that devastated the city on April 6, 2009. Under the leadership of the Italian Environmental Fund (FAI), various organizations public and private contributed funds to the €750,000 ($1 million) restoration.

Although at first the fountain’s unique trapezoidal design and 93 stone faces spouting water seemed not to have been severely damaged in the earthquake, upon closer inspection it was found to have severe structural problems from leaking water conduits, a weakened floor and cracked walls. Once those immediate issues were seen to, restorers focused on the decorative elements, repairing the masks, the floral-motif separator stones, and cleaning the lichens and stains from the tanks and marble cladding.

Meanwhile, rubble still peppers the historic center, and the basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio which overlooks the fountain and shares its red and white marble color scheme is still roofless and held together by steel beams and giant braces. So sure, it’s a small first step towards recovery, but a significant one nonetheless because the fountain is inextricably linked to the founding of the city.

L’Aquila was founded by Frederick II, “Stupor Mundi,” Holy Roman Emperor, King of Jerusalem, King of Germany, of Italy, of Burgundy and Sicily, as a city-on-a-hill counterpart to the corrupt decay of Rome and geopolitical bulwark against the power of the papacy, Frederick’s greatest enemy in Italy. According to legend, the people from 99 castles (meaning not just the buildings but the mini-towns inside and around them) in the Aquilan Valley closed up shop and moved to L’Aquila. Each castle built its own piazza with a church and houses in the city to accommodate the new citizens.

Fountain of the 99 Spouts, spout detailFrederick’s son Conrad IV finished building the city in 1254 after his father’s death, only to have it destroyed by his half-brother Manfred just 5 years later. King of Sicily Charles I of Anjou rebuilt it shortly thereafter, and the Fountain of the 99 Spouts was completed in 1272. It wasn’t called the Fountain of the 99 Spouts then, probably because there weren’t 99 spouts. It was called the Fountain of the Rivera after the central neighborhood adjacent to the river Aterno in which it was built. The 93 spouts sprang from stone faces, each one different, representing figures from mythology, animals, monks, knights, and more. There are another 6 spouts perched against a flat wall on the side of the piazza, but those were probably added later to make the fountain match the foundational legend.

The striking red and white checkerboard walls made from marble quarried at Genzano di Sassi like the facade of Santa Maria di Collemaggio were added probably in the 15th century. The wide basins underneath the spouts were added in 1578 so that townspeople could do their laundry and then spread it out on the wide, shallow staircases to dry in the whitening power of the sun. In 1657, gripped by a plague that killed 40% of the population, the city put four huge boilers in the middle of the square so all laundry could be sterilized.

There are also mysteries surrounding this fountain. For instance, the source of it is unknown. The Rivera neighborhood was said to have a spring that was a perpetual source of clean water, but over the centuries of construction, the spring has been lost. Now legend has it that the architect of the fountain, Tancredi di Pentima, is buried in the middle of the piazza under the largest stone after having been executed for refusing to divulge the location of the spring or for offering to divulge the location of the spring, nobody knows which.


Oswald’s coffin goes for $87,468

Friday, December 17th, 2010

The bidding for Lee Harvey Oswald’s original coffin was quite brisk at the end. Thirty-six people were in the bidding, and the price leapt from $23,000 this morning to $37,000 two hours before closing to the final hammer price of $73,000.

The deadline for bidding was originally set to be 7:00 PM, but the auction house extended the sale until 10:00 to allow the last three competitors to duke it out. The rest of the $87,000 is the 20% buyer’s premium that goes to the auction house.

The buyer has chosen to remain anonymous thus far, although there were rumblings that he might make a statement today.

Laura Yntema, Nate D. Sanders Auctions, with Oswald's original coffinAuction house officials declined Friday to release the name of the bidder who successfully purchased Lee Harvey Oswald’s wooden coffin, saying the purchaser would make an announcement in the coming weeks.

“It’s something he wants to do himself,” said Laura Yntema, manager of the Santa Monica, Calif.-based Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

Yntema declined to offer information about the winning bidder, other than it was an individual collector rather than a museum.

The other JFK assassination memorabilia at the auction also sold extremely well. The piece of blood-stained leather from JFK’s limo sold for $19,036. The first draft of Oswald’s death certificate with Jack Ruby’s name crossed out sold for $49,374.

On a more whimsical note, check out this both insane and awesome blog post from Booktryst’s Stephen J. Gertz who actually got to clamber inside and take a quick nap inside the coffin.

Reporters were enlisted to act as Oswald's pallbearers


Germany donates $80 million to Auschwitz fund

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Auschwitz main gate, AP file photoAlmost 2 years after the International Auschwitz Council started the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation to raise the $120 million needed to fund a major renovation of the crumbling structures at Auschwitz, Germany has pledged to donate $80 million to the foundation over the next year. That’s fully half the $160 million dollar goal, an endowment that would support not only the emergency restoration work but would also generate enough yearly interest to provide steady maintenance funds.

The United States has donated $15 million, Austria $8 million, and smaller sums have been pledged from a variety of European countries. Germany’s donation puts the goal, still distant, in sight. Up until now the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum has been financed almost entirely by its own revenues — proceeds from Holocaust survivor memoirs, documentaries and visitor’s fees — and by the Polish government. Donations from foreign governments and organizations provided only 5% of the museum’s budget in 2008.

The $10 million or so in yearly revenue from those combined sources hasn’t been sufficient to maintain a death camp that wasn’t exactly built to last in the first place. Add the stresses from constant tourism and from thieving bastards, and you have invaluable history on the brink.

Most urgently in need of repair are the 45 brick barracks of the women’s camp in the Birkenau section of the camp, Mensfelt said.

“They are in tragic condition due to the method of their construction and due to the ground water that is washing away the ground where they were built,” he said.

“They are crumbling away and could collapse at any time,” he added.

The barracks were built during the winter of 1941-42 by Soviet inmates, captured Red Army prisoners who were cruelly treated by the Germans and then executed, Mensfelt said.

Wooden barracks and the ruins of the gas chambers at Birkenau also need urgent repair, as they are crumbling because of harsh weather and sinking due to unstable ground.

Germany wants to ensure that this symbol of the Holocaust remain ever present, and that is why they’ve stepped up to the plate in such a large way. In the statement announcing the donation, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said “Germany acknowledges its historic responsibility to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and to pass it on to future generations. Auschwitz-Birkenau is synonymous with the crimes of the Nazis. Today’s memorial recalls these crimes.”


Head of France’s King Henry IV identified

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Mummified head of Henry IVA mummified head that’s been floating through private collections for a few hundred years has been identified as the head of King Henry IV of France.

Henry, the Protestant king of Navarre who converted to Catholicism so he could claim his throne after the assassination of Henry III by a monk, was himself assassinated in 1610 by François Ravaillac, a Catholic fanatic/nutjob who had seen in a vision that Henry’s preparation for war with Spain was really a war against the Pope.

Assassination of Henry IV, engraving by Gaspar BouttatsIn 1793 after the execution of King Louis XVI, French revolutionaries desecrated the royal tombs in the Basilica of Saint-Denis, decapitating them and dumping the bodies in mass graves. It was a symbolic extension of the guillotine going back through time to sever the connection between France and its monarchs, even the once-beloved ones like Henry IV, who had ended 30 years of religious civil war by reinstating the civil rights of Protestants and general freedom of conscience in the Edict of Nantes in 1598.

After the revolutionary upheaval, the head disappeared only to turn up at an auction in 1919 where an antiques dealer bought it for three francs. It’s been in private collections since then and was widely reputed to be the head of King Henry, but until now there was no proof, only rumor.

Led by Philippe Charlier, a forensic medical examiner at Poincaré University Hospital in Garches, France, a 19-person multidisciplinary team composed of forensic anthropologists, archaeologists, geneticists and even perfumers examined the head, using a variety of techniques to determine its identity. Unfortunately they were not able to compare its DNA to living descendants of the first Bourbon king because they couldn’t extract any uncontaminated mitochondrial DNA from the mummified head, but the physical evidence is extensive and so overwhelmingly points to Henry that we can say the head has been positively identified.

Details of the different facial characteristics: (A) mole, (B) pierced ear, (C) bone lesion from knife wound, (D) grey scalp deposit, (E) red moustache, (F) red hairsThe head displays a variety of distinguishing characteristics matching extant portraits and the medical history of the king. There’s an unevenly shaped mole above the right nostril and a pierced right ear. The piercing is quite large and the lobe has a patina developed from years of earring use, a fashion adopted by many men in the Valois court.

There’s a lesion in the upper left maxilla (aka the mustache bone or the top of the jaw) corresponding to a stab wound inflicted by would-be regicide Jean Châtel in 1594. There are red and white hairs on the head and face, but none on the pate. Henry had ginger tresses and goatee but was bald on the top of his head. He had horrible teeth according to contemporary witnesses, and so does the mummified head.

Radiocarbon dating returned a date range of between 1450 and 1650; Henry was assassinated in 1610. Gray deposits on the head matched three different moulds of the head, one done right after the king’s death before embalming, one on the mummified head in 1793 right after it was so rudely separated from its body, and the last done in the early 20th century by one of its owners. The head also mutely testifies to its removal from the body. Three postmortem cutting wounds at the base of the neck indicate deliberate decapitation.

Overlay of skull with a sculpture of Henry IVOverlays of the skull and sculptures of the king done near the end of his life match perfectly, as does a facial reconstruction. Also, the embalming method matched the very specific technique used at Henry’s request.

The autopsy report of King Henri IV, published in the complete works of the surgeon Guillemeau (1549-1613), showed that the brain was not examined. Such an examination was not systematically performed when the cause of death was known (which for Henri IV was two knife wounds made in the thorax by Ravaillac). Another practitioner, Pigray (1532-1613), was in charge of the embalming process, and he took into account the king’s wish to be embalmed “in the style of the Italians.” This form of embalming minimises the mutilating aspect of the embalming procedure by not opening the skull—the brain and all internal structures remain in the skull (no vault sawing, no evacuating trepanation, no ethmoidal perforation). Computed tomography of the head confirmed that no sign of skull base or vault trauma (except for the old maxilla lesion), sawing, or opening of the cerebral cavity was present.

A circumferential band of black pigment was seen on the skin at the base of the neck. Using Raman spectroscopy, it was identified as ivory black, a variety of amorphous carbon. This charcoal, obtained by anaerobic calcination of animal bones, corresponds to that deposited by the surgeon Pigray on the surface of the cadaver to absorb decomposition fluids and putrefactive gases; the precise upper limit of the cervical deposit may be explained by the head being protected by strips of cloth so that it was not blackened during the process.

Now that the head has been conclusively identified, it will be reburied at Saint-Denis in a ceremony next year. I wish I could be there. I’m sure it will be lovely and moving and Henry IV was totally my favorite king.

Reconstruction from the skull Henri IV


Leaning Tower of Pisa cleaned and stabilized

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

The Leaning Tower of Pisa in 1992 (left) and today (right)The 8-year restoration of the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa is finally complete. The medieval bell tower is now stabilized and clean for the first time in centuries. It needed a lot of work, thanks to tourists and their endless need to mark their presence, plus their pawing the walls to climb the wonky staircases, pollution, pigeon guano and corrosive sea salt. When the tower was built Pisa was on the coast. Then its port silted over and today the city is 7 miles from the sea, but salt is still blown by the wind and rain and the lean has made efficient drainage impossible.

Restorer cleans a figure with a syringe and gauzeRestorers cleaned every single stone in the structure with chisels, lasers and syringes. Yes, syringes. When you realize 10 people had 24,424 blocks of stone to clean with syringes, all of a sudden 8 years and 3 months doesn’t seem like all that long a time. The lean also made restoration extremely physically challenging since restorers had to work at an angle all day and sometimes at night too. They even invented a new kind of scaffolding to get it done.

The building’s circular structure and the unstable surrounding terrain meant traditional scaffolding for the restoration was not an option, so engineers designed a unique aluminium framework that compensated for the tower’s lean.

“We get a team of mountaineers in to move the scaffolding from floor to floor,” said head engineer Giuseppe Carluccio, from BCD Progetti in Rome.

“They’re fantastic, these kids are passionate about climbing, know how to use their ropes, but most importantly, aren’t afraid of heights!” he said.

The mountaineers moved the scaffolding gradually up the tower to the last floor and will return one more time to take it down for good.

The last scaffolding layer is due to be taken down early next year.

The stabilization part of the project was finished in 2008. Engineers removed 70 metric tons of earth from underneath the taller northern side of the tower, stopping its movement for the first time since 1178. It is now 19″ straighter, and leans at a 3.99 degree angle instead of the 5.5 degree angle it was leaning at before it was closed to tourism for 11 years in 1990.

Construction on the tower began in 1173. By the time the 3rd story was built in 1178, the tower was beginning to sink due to a flimsy 3-feet-deep foundation set in soggy subsoil. A series of wars stopped construction at that time and no further work was done on the tower for another 100 years, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because if they had kept going chances are the tower would have collapsed. The century of rest gave the subsoil time to compact and stabilize itself enough to support 4 more floors and a belfry. When construction resumed in 1272, engineers compensated for the lean by building one side of each floor taller than the other.

So to recap: it leans, most of the floors are taller on one side than on the other, it’s covered in pigeon crap and human effluvia, and the arches leave it entirely open to the elements, from driving salty rain to beating summer sun. Those restorers deserve a medal.


Chinese archaeologists find 2,400-year-old soup

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Archaeologists excavating a tomb near the ancient capital of Xian have discovered what they think are the remains of bone soup sealed in a bronze tripod vessel. The bones and liquid have turned green from the oxidation of the bronze, but amazingly the liquid is still actually liquid. It hasn’t dried or evaporated. It appears the soup was cooked in the bronze tripod pot, then sealed and placed in the tomb. Although other ancient foodstuffs have been discovered, this the first time bone soup has been found in Chinese archaeological history.

The remains still have to be tested to prove conclusively that they were once bone soup. Chemical analysis will also help determine the ingredients of the soup. The finds haven’t been radiocarbon dated yet so they’ll do that in the lab just to confirm, but the artifacts and style of the tomb in which they were found dates it to 2,400 years ago during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).

Another small bronze pot was found which also contains an odorless liquid that archaeologists think was probably wine. A third vessel, a lacquer-ware container, was found in the tomb but it was decayed. Burying the dead with food and drink they would need in the afterlife was a customary practice in ancient China.

A tomb adjacent to this one, in fact, held the same combination of pots: a bronze tripod, a bronze pot and a piece of lacquer-ware, but all three of them were broken. They might have held similar victuals at one point, though, since the left ribs of a cow were found next to the broken vessels.

We don’t know who the tomb belongs to, but perhaps someone of some wealth and status. The tomb is less than a thousand feet away from the Qin king’s mausoleum, so the proximity suggests that the occupants of these tombs would have been high-ranking officials or maybe even members of the extended royal family.

Archaeologist Liu Daiyun picks up a piece of bone from bronze tripod vessel Liu Daiyun examines a bone Liu Daiyun examines liquid thought to be wine


Basketball rules break sports memorabilia record

Sunday, December 12th, 2010

James Naismith's Founding Rules of BasketballThe original rules of basketball, invented, typed and annotated by YMCA PE teacher Dr. James Naismith in 1891, sold at Sotheby’s New York on Friday for $4,338,500 including the buyer’s premium, a record price for sports memorabilia. (That was the same auction where the Little Bighorn flag sold for half the sum and Robert Kennedy’s copy of the Emancipation Proclamation sold for $3.7 million.)

The winning bidders were David and Suzanne Booth. David is a Kansas University alumn who has donated large sums to his alma mater and whose family funded the Booth Family Hall of Athletics at KU. As a boy he and his family lived at 1931 Naismith Drive in Lawrence.

First KU basketball team, 1899, Naismith back row rightJames Naismith founded KU’s basketball program in 1898 and was Athletic Director at the university for 40 years. He wasn’t a great coach, as fate would have it — he was the only coach in the school’s history to retire with a losing record — but he did coach Forrest “Phog” Allen who would one day follow in his mentor’s footsteps as KU head coach and would not only win a lot more, but would go on to found the National Association of Basketball Coaches and become known as the Father of Basketball Coaching. Both men are in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, the city where Naismith invented the game.

Given Kansas University’s connection to the dawn of the sport, Naismith’s decades of contributions to the school program and Phog Allen’s prominent role in the development of basketball, Booth felt strongly that the original rules should get pride of place at KU.

“We’re very excited about it,” David Booth said from his office in Austin, Texas. “I think they need to figure out an appropriate venue for them. I don’t know what that is. Maybe in a (new) museum. Maybe with the statue of Naismith looking back at Phog (Allen). I think it’s a little bigger than the Booth Family Hall of Athletics. This is serious stuff.” […]

Booth said he spoke with KU basketball coach Bill Self on Thursday and again Friday, after making the winning bid.

“He’s fired-up,” Booth said. “He looks forward to creating the right venue for them and we’ll work with them. He’s fabulous. He was a factor in us doing this, just his enthusiasm and the way he’s made me feel over the years. He’s amazing how he can make people feel great.”

Also a factor in Booth’s decision to bid aggressively was Phog’s grandson, Mark Allen, who researched the rules to be sure they were authentic and who helped persuade Suzanne Booth that they were worth the inevitably huge expenditure.

The seller Ian Naismith, James’ grandson, will give the proceeds (about $3.8 million after expenses) of the sale to the Naismith International Basketball Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes sportsmanship, integrity and fair play and provides services to underprivileged children.





December 2010


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