Should This Really Be for Sale?

By Ralph Hipp

KU is buzzing with the news last week that David and Suzanne Booth got the group (and the money) together to buy James Naismith's two-page typed and handwritten list of the 13 original rules for basketball.  They were on the line making the winning bid of $4.3 million dollars to secure the rules for some venue in Lawrence.  It could be located in a special, brand new museum.  The papers may be weather sealed and placed with the statue of the founder of hoops looking at Phog Allen.  One place the Lawrence Journal-World reports it may NOT be located is in the Booth Family Hall of Athletics.  Stay tuned on where we can all see this treasure.

While this news is very exciting, I was frankly a little troubled by seeing two of the other items sold at the Sotheby's auction last Friday.  A copy of President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, bought by Bobby Kennedy for several thousand dollars long ago, sold for $3.7 million in the bidding last week.  And the only American flag that was not captured or lost in General George Custer's Last Stand at Little Bighorn was available for bidding, too.  The flag was purchased by a private artifacts collector, an American, who paid $2.2 million dollars for the priceless relic.

Other than the interest in reading the story, I also read a little farther down to the bloggers comments.  How is it possible that a copy of the Emancipation Proclamation was first of all, bought by Robert Kennedy, and was put up for bid to be resold to someone else?  Many of the bloggers found it insulting that a true piece of basic American history which changed the course of events.. could have a pricetag put on it, and be found in someone's collection. 

I did read a second story about the Custer flag, which has been the property of Detroit's Institute of Arts and kept in storage for most of the last century.  Museum curators paid $54 for the tattered and bloodstained flag back in 1895.  The two million plus they collected for the flag will be used to improve the Institute's collections of Native American art.  So that sounds like a very beneficial auction move for them.  I join basketball fans in rejoicing over the sale of the Naismith papers.  Those were the property of the Naismith family, and will allow the rules to be kept at Kansas University, where most of us would agree they belong in perpetuity.

Share your thoughts like those original bloggers on my main complaint about the circulation to the highest bidder of Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.  That copy should have also been on display from the Library of Congress or in the Smithsonian.. for all that time the other people had the Custer flag and the basketball rules stored away.     Ralph


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