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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

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  150 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
April, 1865. Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomattox, John Wilkes Booth fires a pistol ball into Lincoln's head, and General Sherman's army marches into the vanquished and shuttered city of Raleigh. Sometime amid that tumultuous stretch of days, an unknown infantryman rifles through the North Carolina Statehouse, hunting for Confederate mementos--but what he finds is no
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published July 2nd 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published July 2nd 2009)
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Jun 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 20, 2011 rated it liked it
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
May 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Scott Burrell
Sep 16, 2011 rated it liked it
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).
Linda Marcet
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and was fascinated by the topic. Despite a demonstration of excellent research and the inclusion of material based on interviews with the main characters involved in the story, I felt that the flow of the book was a bit choppy with too much back and forth in the timeline. Still, though, Mr. Howard is to be credited with writing on a very interesting topic, and I look forward to reading other books he has written/writes.
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
Aug 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had no idea there were 13 copies of the Bill of Rights. And I had no idea that each of the 13 states at the time got one. This is the story of a copy that falls into a private citizen's hands...actually a soldier steals it and then a family buys it for $5. They keep it in plain sight for decades until an antique furnture broker gets wind of it. And he is a star of the Antiques Roadshow television program. The rest is a story about he and his cast of characters trying to sell it. The only probl ...more
Dec 27, 2016 rated it liked it
I thought this book would read more like a mystery novel based on the subtitle and the backpage description. There is good information in the book, but it jumped around the topics too much for me which hurt the flow for my enjoyment. Also, it seemed to almost be a biography about Wayne Pratt for large portions of the book, which I also wasn't expected based on the description. Finally, I felt a few things weren't followed up and left me hanging. Most notably was a a paragraph in Chapter 22 that ...more
Joy Wilson
May 23, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Kevin McAllister
Jul 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
J Tea
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Oct 15, 2012 rated it liked it
As is often the case when I read books by authors who write mostly for magazines, at times this seemed like an overly drawn out feature story for a periodical. Some of the side stories struck me as adding more length than nuance or new information. Even worse, some of those side stories (the career of the undercover FBI agent who has helped recover many stolen treasures) are more interesting than the main story! All that being said, this is a pretty quick read and has appeal to those interested ...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
Mar 02, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Mar 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
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
Nov 01, 2010 rated it liked it
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.
Aug 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
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.
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Time to find "Lost Rights"

A great historical whodunnit, but also a whostoleit, whosoldit, and whoownsit? Fascinating characters in pursuit of the seminal document of the American idea, with greed commingling with patriotism, and history in battle with today. A lovely, thought-provoking read. Perfect gift for a 4th of July celebration.
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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.
May 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Sara Smith
Jan 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
The description of this book made me think of the National Treasure movies so I thought it would be an interesting read and it was. Some of the side notes are a bit dull, but the majority of the book focuses on Wayne Pratt and his adventure in trying to buy a sell an original Bill of Rights.
Jul 08, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
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.
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was ok
I didn't get through this one. Too much extra information.
Jun 30, 2010 rated it it was ok
This book's title should have been, "The Life of Wayne Pratt". That would have been a more accurate title of this book.
Surprisingly good! Lost Rights is a solid journalistic novel about a fairly obscure topic, that Howard tells in an engaging and exciting manner.
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David Howard is an author and magazine editor who has worked as part of teams have won four National Magazine Awards. He has been the executive editor of Bicycling, Popular Mechanics, and Organic Life, and has also worked at Backpacker and Prevention. He has written for many publications, including the New York Times, Travel + Leisure, Men's Journal, Outside, and National Geographic Traveler.

His f
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