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Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic
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Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  118 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Near the close of the Civil War, as General Sherman blazed his path to the sea, an unknown infantryman rifled through the North Carolina state house.The soldier was hunting for simple Confederate mementos—maps, flags, official correspondence—but he wound up discovering something far more valuable. He headed home to Ohio with one of the touchstones of our republic: one of t ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published July 2nd 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published July 2nd 2009)
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Lost Rights is an enjoyable read. When the Declaration of Independence was first proposed to the original 13 states North Carolina objected stating that it didn’t go far enough to protect personal freedoms. This led to the Bill of Rights which secured those freedoms. It was adopted and one of three government clerks wrote out a copy for each state and a 14th copy for the Federal government. During the Civil War one of Sherman’s soldiers stole North Carolina’s copy and took it back home to Ohio. ...more
Nathan Willard
Lost Rights tracks the purchase and trading of North Carolina's copy of the Bill of Rights. The story is vaguely interesting as a look into the world of antiques, documents, and books, but so little happens, so slowly, that it turns out not to be such an engaging read. Interesting items are raised and discarded (presumably due to limited access; I, for one, would have liked some insight into the threats made to North Carolina early on in the shopping of the manuscript), and the unreliable narrat ...more
Scott Burrell
Nice journalistic treatment of an interesting story (particularly to me as I am pretty certain that I am the anonymous lawyer referred to on page 59).
Joy Wilson
This was a fascinating story of how an original bill of rights was stolen during the Civil War and eventually found its way home 130+ years later. The book opened my eyes to all the intrigue and egos found in the world of antiquities. I enjoyed how the author went from piece to piece of the puzzle without betraying how it all fit until the end; however, I can see where others might find that technique frustrating. Howard also did a fine job of interweaving other interesting stories of lost piece ...more
Lillian Carl
This is a non-fiction thriller based on the discovery and sale of one of the original copies of the Bill of Rights, the first amendments to the Constitution. A Union soldier stole a copy from North Carolina's archives at the end of the Civil War, then sold it to a man whose family kept it for generations until they decided quite recently to sell it. Which is when the fun began.

The book goes into way too much detail about the antiques and historical document trade and the larger-than-life person
J Tea
This book is a nice quick read that gives a good intro to the shadow world of document obsession. Dealing in antiquities of all types is fraught with danger and a crushing sense of loss and tragedy at times. The thrill of the hunt for rare treasure, and the desire to own a peice of history, can be tempting beyond belief. There are some great books about this such as "A Gentle Madness" and "The Fourth Part Of The World", and I found this one to be a joy to read if a bit lacking in depth. I will s ...more
David R.
Howard spins a wonderful tale of intrigue and deception as one of the original Bills of Rights is looted from its home state (NC) and many years later becomes the subject of an antiques play by one of the biggest names in the business. Along the way Howard interjects additional historic conversations and springs the final trap with an amazing sense of suspense. The book is a fun jaunt for crime and antiques buffs alike, but raises interesting questions about the nature of our historical treasure ...more
Cheryl Gatling
It was an original copy of the bill of rights, one of fourteen copies, written by hand on parchment, signed by the original members of congress. What if you actually had that in your hands? You might feel awe at the history, as did some people in this book who lined up just to touch one corner with a finger, just so they could say they did. But your mind also might start racing about what you could get for it. What would it be worth? Four million? Forty million? Unless it was worth nothing becau ...more
C.C. Thomas
The introduction to this book was so captivating, so masterful, so story-like, it's hard to believe such a tale actually happened! Who says great adventures only happen in the movies? I find the best ones are the ones from real life and this proves my point.

This is the story of one of the fourteen original Bill of Rights. There was one made for each of the thirteen colonies and one for the federal government. The one for North Carolina was apparently stolen during the sacking of Raleigh at the e
Kevin McAllister
This book reminded me of that old saying "Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive" I've read tons of books throughout the years but in Lost Rights David Howard introduced some of the most despicable and deceitful characters I've ever come across. And the frighting lesson to be learned from this book is that these characters weren't fictional. They were supposedly upstanding politicians and business men, who displayed sickening amounts of greed, and with nothing more than ...more
Kind of like an episode of History Detectives. An enjoyable look into the sometimes dirty dealings going on in the back rooms of dealers in rare documents. The general public doesn't know much about what happens when stolen documents come to light and why they aren't simply returned to their rightful owners. I found the undercover detective work and the research to discover where the document had been stolen from to be interesting but one chapter was completely repetitive and should have been ed ...more
Anne London
This is not my normal style of book to read or I may have given it "5 stars". I do feel it was extremely well researched and written.

There was so much detail that it was almost too much for me--but I skimmed over some of it and, overall, enjoyed it. (funny thing--I sometimes would go back to reread something I'd skimmed over!)

The most amazing thing to me was how little attention to care/safeguarding that was given to our nation's important documents...and how many have survived this poor treatme
This book is a well-written and thoroughly enjoyable tale of recovering North Carolina's lost copy of the Bill of Rights, stolen during the Civil War. The romp is great for fans of American history, art heists, antique dealers, and ancient artifacts. Howard peppers the tale with engaging descriptions of the case of characters, amusing (but not distracting) side stories, and fascinating (though not overwhelming) details about wheeling and dealing in the art world. I was both charmed and educated.
Excellent book - tells the true story of North Carolina's missing Bill of Rights. Stolen during the Civil War, sold to the Shotwell family in Indiana, and put up for sale by a well-known antiques dealer, it was recovered by an FBI sting operation. A bit tedious at times, but great history and interesting players/caretakers throughout the life of the document until its return. It's a true life crime mystery solved with elements of history and modern day sleuthing.
I had a hard time getting to the end of this one so can't really give this one a good recommendation. The subject was interesting. Its the true story of a lost then found original Bill of Rights that was stolen from the state of North Carolina by Union troops at the end of the Civil War. It started off well, but got too bogged down into legal details (for me). Happy ending or sad ending is kind of in the eye of the beholder on this one.
If you like history, you'll like this book. In the 1980's an original Bill of Rights surfaced in Ohio. It had been stolen from North Carolina during the Civil War and kept in the family for many years. The family wants to sell it. But the provenance (new word - meaning legal ownership) is complicated and unsure. The many characters involved in its sale and rescue, even ultimately the FBI, make for an interesting tale. Very very detailed.
Lost Rights is the story of one of the original fourteen copies of this country's Bill of Rights. Howard traces its journey for 138 years. It was fascinating to me to read about the history, about authentication of the document, about the legality of ownership, about the amount of money people are willing to pay for such a piece of history, and about antique dealers and compromise. This was a great read.
I loved this book. An antiques dealer gets involved with selling a stolen copy of the Bill of Rights. It touches on many of my favorite themes: the art/antiques market, people getting in over their heads, American history, research, libraries, stolen goods, forgeries and fakes. I would recommend it to anyone who has ever sat through an episode of Antiques Roadshow.
Whether or not the garment fits every reader, Howard reaches into the past, pulls the threads of a historic tapestry and weaves a functional story. I appreciated and enjoyed his ability to delineate the grey areas between business, friendship, law, the strength of a person's word and each individual's capacity to create and destroy ourselves with ambition.
I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. Not only an interesting look into the story of North Carolina's copy of the Bill of Rights, but also an examination into the shady world of antique and document collectors.
Kind of what you'd expect from a nonfiction archives-related thriller - interesting and occasionally even exciting, but also a little prone to bogging down in detail.
Surprisingly good! Lost Rights is a solid journalistic novel about a fairly obscure topic, that Howard tells in an engaging and exciting manner.
Adam Hill
A fun book recounting the adventures of an original copy of the Bill of Rights stolen from Atlanta by one of Sherman's troops. I really enjoyed it.
Such an interesting premise.
Detail is good, overwhelming minutiae is not.
Reading was quite and exhausting experience and I had such high hopes.
Really enjoyed this book. Have a few issues with stuff discussed in the book, but that's not the author's fault. Worth checking out.
This book's title should have been, "The Life of Wayne Pratt". That would have been a more accurate title of this book.
I normally enjoy books like this, but this one was way too wordy. It felt like it took me forever to read this.
So far I'm really enjoying this book. Easy to follow and read for nonfiction.
I didn't get through this one. Too much extra information.
Tina Roper
Very interesting! I'd definitely recommend this!!
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About this author
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A native of Andover, Connecticut, David Howard graduated with a journalism degree from Marietta College in Ohio and spent several years as a newspaper reporter in Connecticut. In 1996, he became a freelancer. He moved to New York City in 1999. After writing Outside Magazine's Urban Adventure: New York City he landed a job as an editor at Backpacker magazine. There he was
More about David Howard...
Outside Magazine's Urban Adventure: New York City

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