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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/21/garden/2...amp;oref=slogin

In a Father's Clutter, Historical Oddities

Including Oswald's letters to his mother and USMC target practice score book, a TSBD brick and a swath of leather from Kennedy's limo? Another example of ARRB missing items that should have been deposited in the JFK Assassination Records Collection at NARA. BK

New York Times

August 21, 2008

By KASSIE BRACKEN and ERIK OLSENENGLEWOOD, N.J.

KNEELING on the dining room floor, Evan Lattimer sliced open a cardboard box and braced herself for what might be inside: a lock of human hair, a half-smoked cigar, an arcane torture device, perhaps? Her face broke into a smile as she peeled away the bubble wrap: a dinosaur egg.

"You just never knew with Dad," she said.

When her father, John Lattimer, died in May of 2007 at the age of 92, Ms. Lattimer knew her inheritance would include more than the family tea set. Dr. Lattimer, a prominent urologist at Columbia University, was also a renowned collector of relics, many of which might be considered quirky or even macabre.

Over the course of seven decades he amassed more than 3,000 objects that ranged in age from a few years to tens of millions of years. "He was like a classic Renaissance collector," said Tony Perrottet, a writer specializing in historical mysteries who spent time with Dr. Lattimer before his death. "Anything and everything could turn up in the collection, from Charles Lindbergh's goggles to a bearskin coat that belonged to Custer."

Several of the relics had a certain notoriety, like the bloodstained collar that Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was shot, or the severed penis that may or may not have belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. For decades, though, much of the collection has been sitting in boxes and disorganized piles in the 30-room Lattimer home in this suburb of Manhattan.

Now his daughter is undertaking a task that even a Smithsonian curator might find daunting: researching and cataloging every item, in a kind of extreme version of the trial many people go through upon inheriting the contents of a parent's household. It is an effort that has occupied her for the past year, and a labor of love, albeit a strained one.

"I sleep about three to five hours a night," said Ms. Lattimer, 59, who is preparing to auction off part of the collection this fall. "This is all I do."

"Our lives have been so much about his things," she added, speaking of herself and her two brothers. The artifacts were much more than a hobby for their father, she said. "They were part of him."

By way of example, she recalled several history lessons inspired by artifacts like Lee Harvey Oswald's letters. When the siblings were adolescents in the 1960s, she said, "he'd put us at the correct distance and angle" to fire a rifle at a cadaver from the barn roof, to demonstrate the lone gunman theory, she said. "He'd say, 'Well, there's your target, see how you do,' and we could do it when we were kids!"

Her brothers, Douglas Gary, 57, and Jon, 55, who both live in Hawaii and are doctors, have distanced themselves from the attention the collection has attracted. (Neither returned calls asking for comment.) Cataloging it has fallen to Ms. Lattimer, an artist who relocated from the Midwest three years ago when her father became ill, and who has stayed to care for her 91-year-old mother, Jamie.

"If it were up to me, I'd keep the collection intact," she said. But each item, no matter whether it is priceless to her, has a declared value to the I.R.S., and, according to her lawyer, is subject to an inheritance tax of about 53 percent. The family, she said, has entrusted her to choose what to keep and what to sell.

A large group of eager collectors awaits her decisions. "Even before he died they were hovering," she said. Within a week of her father's death, she received an unsolicited call from someone offering $120,000 for a cyanide canister associated with the Nazi leader Hermann Göring.

More recently, another caller offered $100,000 for the ostensible Napoleonic phallus. The offer stunned one of her brothers, who had suggested she throw it away.

"We had absolutely no concept of how much things might be worth," she said. "How do you rate something that's one of a kind?"

Especially something whose authenticity is in question, as is the case with that particular relic. Ms. Lattimer said she believes its provenance is "ironclad," traceable to the surgeon who performed Napoleon's autopsy. According to Mr. Perrottet, who spent more than a year researching the relic's history (a chapter of his new book, "Napoleon's Privates," is devoted to it), it is "possible" that the phallus was removed during the autopsy, but there is no absolute proof. (Dr. Lattimer, he said, bought the item at a Paris auction for $3,000 in 1977 to remove it from public scrutiny; as a urologist, he had taken offense at the salacious attention it was attracting. Dr. Lattimer had the item X-rayed, Mr. Perrottet said, and determined that it was a human penis, but the French government has not agreed to provide a sample of Napoleon's DNA for comparison.)

The better-known items in the collection, like a sword that belonged to Ethan Allen now on display at the Fort Ticonderoga Museum, have been authenticated, Ms. Lattimer said. But although Dr. Lattimer would usually strive to ensure provenance, she added, that was sometimes less important to him than simply owning an object. As a result, some items in the collection lack the rigorous vetting that might ensure lofty valuations at auction or, for that matter, enable Ms. Lattimer to understand what she has.

As she moved through the estate's many piles, she said, she was often perplexed. Was the tear-shape metal object on the third floor a piece of junk, or was it historically significant?

"It might be Orville Wright's," she said, speculating that it was a model for a part of a biplane wing. "Dad had a few Wright brothers things, but we don't know. There's no documentation to go with it."

Even more frustrating, she might find a note with no object attached to it: "There'd be a file folder and it said, 'Lent out to man on Long Island with deep voice.' Who is that? Where should I go to find that?" she asked.

Ms. Lattimer reached over a stack of Kennedy-era newspapers and a small box containing a cigar that once belonged to W. C. Fields, toward a pair of black metal boots. "I have no idea what these are for," she said. "I think maybe they were used during the Middle Ages to torture someone. You'd put their feet in them and then place them close to the fire."

She learned one important lesson early on: just because an article looks like junk doesn't mean it is. Bothered by the sight of three connected chairs with a broken leg, she took action. "I put them out on the street and went back into the house," she said. Twenty minutes later, once they were gone, it struck her that they might have been seats from the Ford's Theater in Washington.

Dr. Lattimer's collecting initially centered on his childhood passions, according to his daughter: aviation, ships and Native American culture. His earliest acquisitions were pilot helmets, arrowheads and relics from the U.S.S. Constitution, a ship he'd built a model of as a boy.

As his career flourished and he found himself interested in moments of historical importance, however, he began to collect objects associated with them.

After World War II, when he was in his early 30s, he served as a medical officer at the Nuremberg war tribunals, treating several Nazis who were held as prisoners, including Göring. Two hours before his scheduled execution, Göring killed himself with cyanide. Years later, the canister containing the poison became part of the Lattimer collection, along with other Göring memorabilia, including a pair of boxer shorts.

A decade later, he became chairman of Columbia University's urology department, a post he held in 1972, when the Kennedy family asked Dr. Lattimer to examine X-rays, photographs and other materials from John F. Kennedy's autopsy. His conclusion that Oswald was the sole shooter was front-page news, and his research stimulated a burst of collecting that included the acquisition of a brick from the Texas School Book Depository, a swatch of leather from Kennedy's car in Dallas and Lee Harvey Oswald's letters to his mother and Marine Corps target-practice score book.

Ms. Lattimer believes her father began to see some of the objects associated with these events as a means of solving the mysteries surrounding them. Lurking in the mundane details of everyday things, he believed, might be overlooked clues that could shed light on a pressing question. "Certainly with the Kennedy things he was questing after truth," Ms. Lattimer said. "He really wanted to know how that happened."

Dr. Lattimer was known to avoid self-reflection, but some who knew him speculate that there was something more behind his drive to collect. "He was an only child of two only children and grew up in a very isolated, lonely place," said Mr. Perrottet. "It's often said that the collecting passion is an unwillingness to let go of the past. For him, I think it was an attempt to hold onto his past. He had a long, rich past, and he wasn't immune to the solitariness of human existence."

He acquired items through auctions, dealers and, later, directly from their original owners. Ms. Lattimer recalls her father receiving calls from his war pals' widows, offering him their World War II mementos. Once his collection became well known, some of his patients began contributing to it. "Actresses would come to his office with something of theirs in a paper grocery bag and say, 'Hey, doc, you want this?' " his daughter said. One such patient, Greta Garbo, gave Dr. Lattimer her driver's license, among other things.

In November, some of the Lincoln-related objects will be put on the block in a Gettysburg, Pa., sale being run by Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas. The event is generating excitement among collectors and historians.

"In the Lincoln world we don't see great collections come through very often," said Daniel Weinberg, a dealer in Lincoln artifacts and the owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, who has a personal interest in several of the items. "The prices for the good pieces will be fairly strong."

The proceeds will go toward estate taxes, Ms. Lattimer said, and will allow her to hold on to a few of the items that offer some lasting connection to her father.

"I'm inclined to keep Lincoln's shaving mirror," she said, referring to a small mirror that hangs on the wall. "Dad used to show it around during Christmas. It's odd that I'd keep it because I'm not keeping the inkwell that wrote the Emancipation Proclamation."

Most of the items destined for auctions — there will be others, still unscheduled, after the Lincoln one — have been sorted and shipped. But Ms. Lattimer is still sifting through relics that the auction houses weren't interested in. Though family and friends have encouraged her to hire helpers, she has resisted; she feels uniquely qualified for the job. "I'll come across a cuff link, and I will remember seeing a matching cuff link years ago in a different room," she explained.

Ultimately, Ms. Lattimer said, she finds a sense of peace in cataloging her family's strange legacy. "I'm glad that he never had to do this," she said, her voice cracking slightly. "But it's been so intriguing that it loses its aura of sadness, you know... it becomes more a collaboration with him."

Edited by William Kelly
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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/21/garden/2...amp;oref=slogin

In a Father's Clutter, Historical Oddities

Including Oswald's letters to his mother and USMC target practice score book, a TSBD brick and a swath of leather from Kennedy's limo? Another example of ARRB missing items that should have been deposited in the JFK Assassination Records Collection at NARA. BK

New York Times

August 21, 2008

By KASSIE BRACKEN and ERIK OLSENENGLEWOOD, N.J.

KNEELING on the dining room floor, Evan Lattimer sliced open a cardboard box and braced herself for what might be inside: a lock of human hair, a half-smoked cigar, an arcane torture device, perhaps? Her face broke into a smile as she peeled away the bubble wrap: a dinosaur egg.

"You just never knew with Dad," she said.

When her father, John Lattimer, died in May of 2007 at the age of 92, Ms. Lattimer knew her inheritance would include more than the family tea set. Dr. Lattimer, a prominent urologist at Columbia University, was also a renowned collector of relics, many of which might be considered quirky or even macabre.

Over the course of seven decades he amassed more than 3,000 objects that ranged in age from a few years to tens of millions of years. "He was like a classic Renaissance collector," said Tony Perrottet, a writer specializing in historical mysteries who spent time with Dr. Lattimer before his death. "Anything and everything could turn up in the collection, from Charles Lindbergh's goggles to a bearskin coat that belonged to Custer."

Several of the relics had a certain notoriety, like the bloodstained collar that Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was shot, or the severed penis that may or may not have belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. For decades, though, much of the collection has been sitting in boxes and disorganized piles in the 30-room Lattimer home in this suburb of Manhattan.

Now his daughter is undertaking a task that even a Smithsonian curator might find daunting: researching and cataloging every item, in a kind of extreme version of the trial many people go through upon inheriting the contents of a parent's household. It is an effort that has occupied her for the past year, and a labor of love, albeit a strained one.

"I sleep about three to five hours a night," said Ms. Lattimer, 59, who is preparing to auction off part of the collection this fall. "This is all I do."

"Our lives have been so much about his things," she added, speaking of herself and her two brothers. The artifacts were much more than a hobby for their father, she said. "They were part of him."

By way of example, she recalled several history lessons inspired by artifacts like Lee Harvey Oswald's letters. When the siblings were adolescents in the 1960s, she said, "he'd put us at the correct distance and angle" to fire a rifle at a cadaver from the barn roof, to demonstrate the lone gunman theory, she said. "He'd say, 'Well, there's your target, see how you do,' and we could do it when we were kids!"

Her brothers, Douglas Gary, 57, and Jon, 55, who both live in Hawaii and are doctors, have distanced themselves from the attention the collection has attracted. (Neither returned calls asking for comment.) Cataloging it has fallen to Ms. Lattimer, an artist who relocated from the Midwest three years ago when her father became ill, and who has stayed to care for her 91-year-old mother, Jamie.

"If it were up to me, I'd keep the collection intact," she said. But each item, no matter whether it is priceless to her, has a declared value to the I.R.S., and, according to her lawyer, is subject to an inheritance tax of about 53 percent. The family, she said, has entrusted her to choose what to keep and what to sell.

A large group of eager collectors awaits her decisions. "Even before he died they were hovering," she said. Within a week of her father's death, she received an unsolicited call from someone offering $120,000 for a cyanide canister associated with the Nazi leader Hermann Göring.

More recently, another caller offered $100,000 for the ostensible Napoleonic phallus. The offer stunned one of her brothers, who had suggested she throw it away.

"We had absolutely no concept of how much things might be worth," she said. "How do you rate something that's one of a kind?"

Especially something whose authenticity is in question, as is the case with that particular relic. Ms. Lattimer said she believes its provenance is "ironclad," traceable to the surgeon who performed Napoleon's autopsy. According to Mr. Perrottet, who spent more than a year researching the relic's history (a chapter of his new book, "Napoleon's Privates," is devoted to it), it is "possible" that the phallus was removed during the autopsy, but there is no absolute proof. (Dr. Lattimer, he said, bought the item at a Paris auction for $3,000 in 1977 to remove it from public scrutiny; as a urologist, he had taken offense at the salacious attention it was attracting. Dr. Lattimer had the item X-rayed, Mr. Perrottet said, and determined that it was a human penis, but the French government has not agreed to provide a sample of Napoleon's DNA for comparison.)

The better-known items in the collection, like a sword that belonged to Ethan Allen now on display at the Fort Ticonderoga Museum, have been authenticated, Ms. Lattimer said. But although Dr. Lattimer would usually strive to ensure provenance, she added, that was sometimes less important to him than simply owning an object. As a result, some items in the collection lack the rigorous vetting that might ensure lofty valuations at auction or, for that matter, enable Ms. Lattimer to understand what she has.

As she moved through the estate's many piles, she said, she was often perplexed. Was the tear-shape metal object on the third floor a piece of junk, or was it historically significant?

"It might be Orville Wright's," she said, speculating that it was a model for a part of a biplane wing. "Dad had a few Wright brothers things, but we don't know. There's no documentation to go with it."

Even more frustrating, she might find a note with no object attached to it: "There'd be a file folder and it said, 'Lent out to man on Long Island with deep voice.' Who is that? Where should I go to find that?" she asked.

Ms. Lattimer reached over a stack of Kennedy-era newspapers and a small box containing a cigar that once belonged to W. C. Fields, toward a pair of black metal boots. "I have no idea what these are for," she said. "I think maybe they were used during the Middle Ages to torture someone. You'd put their feet in them and then place them close to the fire."

She learned one important lesson early on: just because an article looks like junk doesn't mean it is. Bothered by the sight of three connected chairs with a broken leg, she took action. "I put them out on the street and went back into the house," she said. Twenty minutes later, once they were gone, it struck her that they might have been seats from the Ford's Theater in Washington.

Dr. Lattimer's collecting initially centered on his childhood passions, according to his daughter: aviation, ships and Native American culture. His earliest acquisitions were pilot helmets, arrowheads and relics from the U.S.S. Constitution, a ship he'd built a model of as a boy.

As his career flourished and he found himself interested in moments of historical importance, however, he began to collect objects associated with them.

After World War II, when he was in his early 30s, he served as a medical officer at the Nuremberg war tribunals, treating several Nazis who were held as prisoners, including Göring. Two hours before his scheduled execution, Göring killed himself with cyanide. Years later, the canister containing the poison became part of the Lattimer collection, along with other Göring memorabilia, including a pair of boxer shorts.

A decade later, he became chairman of Columbia University's urology department, a post he held in 1972, when the Kennedy family asked Dr. Lattimer to examine X-rays, photographs and other materials from John F. Kennedy's autopsy. His conclusion that Oswald was the sole shooter was front-page news, and his research stimulated a burst of collecting that included the acquisition of a brick from the Texas School Book Depository, a swatch of leather from Kennedy's car in Dallas and Lee Harvey Oswald's letters to his mother and Marine Corps target-practice score book.

Ms. Lattimer believes her father began to see some of the objects associated with these events as a means of solving the mysteries surrounding them. Lurking in the mundane details of everyday things, he believed, might be overlooked clues that could shed light on a pressing question. "Certainly with the Kennedy things he was questing after truth," Ms. Lattimer said. "He really wanted to know how that happened."

Dr. Lattimer was known to avoid self-reflection, but some who knew him speculate that there was something more behind his drive to collect. "He was an only child of two only children and grew up in a very isolated, lonely place," said Mr. Perrottet. "It's often said that the collecting passion is an unwillingness to let go of the past. For him, I think it was an attempt to hold onto his past. He had a long, rich past, and he wasn't immune to the solitariness of human existence."

He acquired items through auctions, dealers and, later, directly from their original owners. Ms. Lattimer recalls her father receiving calls from his war pals' widows, offering him their World War II mementos. Once his collection became well known, some of his patients began contributing to it. "Actresses would come to his office with something of theirs in a paper grocery bag and say, 'Hey, doc, you want this?' " his daughter said. One such patient, Greta Garbo, gave Dr. Lattimer her driver's license, among other things.

In November, some of the Lincoln-related objects will be put on the block in a Gettysburg, Pa., sale being run by Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas. The event is generating excitement among collectors and historians.

"In the Lincoln world we don't see great collections come through very often," said Daniel Weinberg, a dealer in Lincoln artifacts and the owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, who has a personal interest in several of the items. "The prices for the good pieces will be fairly strong."

The proceeds will go toward estate taxes, Ms. Lattimer said, and will allow her to hold on to a few of the items that offer some lasting connection to her father.

"I'm inclined to keep Lincoln's shaving mirror," she said, referring to a small mirror that hangs on the wall. "Dad used to show it around during Christmas. It's odd that I'd keep it because I'm not keeping the inkwell that wrote the Emancipation Proclamation."

Most of the items destined for auctions — there will be others, still unscheduled, after the Lincoln one — have been sorted and shipped. But Ms. Lattimer is still sifting through relics that the auction houses weren't interested in. Though family and friends have encouraged her to hire helpers, she has resisted; she feels uniquely qualified for the job. "I'll come across a cuff link, and I will remember seeing a matching cuff link years ago in a different room," she explained.

Ultimately, Ms. Lattimer said, she finds a sense of peace in cataloging her family's strange legacy. "I'm glad that he never had to do this," she said, her voice cracking slightly. "But it's been so intriguing that it loses its aura of sadness, you know... it becomes more a collaboration with him."

Bill,

What an interesting collection of stuff. I myself could have done without hearing about Napoleon Bonerparts....but....yanno.

I have always collected small things from history. The sight from an mg-42 machine gun, authentic WW2 patches etc. But is sounds like he had an amazing collection....although I would not want to file and sort it!

Thanks for posting that Bill

Mike

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http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/21/garden/2...amp;oref=slogin

In a Father's Clutter, Historical Oddities

Including Oswald's letters to his mother and USMC target practice score book, a TSBD brick and a swath of leather from Kennedy's limo? Another example of ARRB missing items that should have been deposited in the JFK Assassination Records Collection at NARA. BK

New York Times

August 21, 2008

By KASSIE BRACKEN and ERIK OLSENENGLEWOOD, N.J.

KNEELING on the dining room floor, Evan Lattimer sliced open a cardboard box and braced herself for what might be inside: a lock of human hair, a half-smoked cigar, an arcane torture device, perhaps? Her face broke into a smile as she peeled away the bubble wrap: a dinosaur egg.

"You just never knew with Dad," she said.

When her father, John Lattimer, died in May of 2007 at the age of 92, Ms. Lattimer knew her inheritance would include more than the family tea set. Dr. Lattimer, a prominent urologist at Columbia University, was also a renowned collector of relics, many of which might be considered quirky or even macabre.

Over the course of seven decades he amassed more than 3,000 objects that ranged in age from a few years to tens of millions of years. "He was like a classic Renaissance collector," said Tony Perrottet, a writer specializing in historical mysteries who spent time with Dr. Lattimer before his death. "Anything and everything could turn up in the collection, from Charles Lindbergh's goggles to a bearskin coat that belonged to Custer."

Several of the relics had a certain notoriety, like the bloodstained collar that Abraham Lincoln wore the night he was shot, or the severed penis that may or may not have belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte. For decades, though, much of the collection has been sitting in boxes and disorganized piles in the 30-room Lattimer home in this suburb of Manhattan.

Now his daughter is undertaking a task that even a Smithsonian curator might find daunting: researching and cataloging every item, in a kind of extreme version of the trial many people go through upon inheriting the contents of a parent's household. It is an effort that has occupied her for the past year, and a labor of love, albeit a strained one.

"I sleep about three to five hours a night," said Ms. Lattimer, 59, who is preparing to auction off part of the collection this fall. "This is all I do."

"Our lives have been so much about his things," she added, speaking of herself and her two brothers. The artifacts were much more than a hobby for their father, she said. "They were part of him."

By way of example, she recalled several history lessons inspired by artifacts like Lee Harvey Oswald's letters. When the siblings were adolescents in the 1960s, she said, "he'd put us at the correct distance and angle" to fire a rifle at a cadaver from the barn roof, to demonstrate the lone gunman theory, she said. "He'd say, 'Well, there's your target, see how you do,' and we could do it when we were kids!"

Her brothers, Douglas Gary, 57, and Jon, 55, who both live in Hawaii and are doctors, have distanced themselves from the attention the collection has attracted. (Neither returned calls asking for comment.) Cataloging it has fallen to Ms. Lattimer, an artist who relocated from the Midwest three years ago when her father became ill, and who has stayed to care for her 91-year-old mother, Jamie.

"If it were up to me, I'd keep the collection intact," she said. But each item, no matter whether it is priceless to her, has a declared value to the I.R.S., and, according to her lawyer, is subject to an inheritance tax of about 53 percent. The family, she said, has entrusted her to choose what to keep and what to sell.

A large group of eager collectors awaits her decisions. "Even before he died they were hovering," she said. Within a week of her father's death, she received an unsolicited call from someone offering $120,000 for a cyanide canister associated with the Nazi leader Hermann Göring.

More recently, another caller offered $100,000 for the ostensible Napoleonic phallus. The offer stunned one of her brothers, who had suggested she throw it away.

"We had absolutely no concept of how much things might be worth," she said. "How do you rate something that's one of a kind?"

Especially something whose authenticity is in question, as is the case with that particular relic. Ms. Lattimer said she believes its provenance is "ironclad," traceable to the surgeon who performed Napoleon's autopsy. According to Mr. Perrottet, who spent more than a year researching the relic's history (a chapter of his new book, "Napoleon's Privates," is devoted to it), it is "possible" that the phallus was removed during the autopsy, but there is no absolute proof. (Dr. Lattimer, he said, bought the item at a Paris auction for $3,000 in 1977 to remove it from public scrutiny; as a urologist, he had taken offense at the salacious attention it was attracting. Dr. Lattimer had the item X-rayed, Mr. Perrottet said, and determined that it was a human penis, but the French government has not agreed to provide a sample of Napoleon's DNA for comparison.)

The better-known items in the collection, like a sword that belonged to Ethan Allen now on display at the Fort Ticonderoga Museum, have been authenticated, Ms. Lattimer said. But although Dr. Lattimer would usually strive to ensure provenance, she added, that was sometimes less important to him than simply owning an object. As a result, some items in the collection lack the rigorous vetting that might ensure lofty valuations at auction or, for that matter, enable Ms. Lattimer to understand what she has.

As she moved through the estate's many piles, she said, she was often perplexed. Was the tear-shape metal object on the third floor a piece of junk, or was it historically significant?

"It might be Orville Wright's," she said, speculating that it was a model for a part of a biplane wing. "Dad had a few Wright brothers things, but we don't know. There's no documentation to go with it."

Even more frustrating, she might find a note with no object attached to it: "There'd be a file folder and it said, 'Lent out to man on Long Island with deep voice.' Who is that? Where should I go to find that?" she asked.

Ms. Lattimer reached over a stack of Kennedy-era newspapers and a small box containing a cigar that once belonged to W. C. Fields, toward a pair of black metal boots. "I have no idea what these are for," she said. "I think maybe they were used during the Middle Ages to torture someone. You'd put their feet in them and then place them close to the fire."

She learned one important lesson early on: just because an article looks like junk doesn't mean it is. Bothered by the sight of three connected chairs with a broken leg, she took action. "I put them out on the street and went back into the house," she said. Twenty minutes later, once they were gone, it struck her that they might have been seats from the Ford's Theater in Washington.

Dr. Lattimer's collecting initially centered on his childhood passions, according to his daughter: aviation, ships and Native American culture. His earliest acquisitions were pilot helmets, arrowheads and relics from the U.S.S. Constitution, a ship he'd built a model of as a boy.

As his career flourished and he found himself interested in moments of historical importance, however, he began to collect objects associated with them.

After World War II, when he was in his early 30s, he served as a medical officer at the Nuremberg war tribunals, treating several Nazis who were held as prisoners, including Göring. Two hours before his scheduled execution, Göring killed himself with cyanide. Years later, the canister containing the poison became part of the Lattimer collection, along with other Göring memorabilia, including a pair of boxer shorts.

A decade later, he became chairman of Columbia University's urology department, a post he held in 1972, when the Kennedy family asked Dr. Lattimer to examine X-rays, photographs and other materials from John F. Kennedy's autopsy. His conclusion that Oswald was the sole shooter was front-page news, and his research stimulated a burst of collecting that included the acquisition of a brick from the Texas School Book Depository, a swatch of leather from Kennedy's car in Dallas and Lee Harvey Oswald's letters to his mother and Marine Corps target-practice score book.

Ms. Lattimer believes her father began to see some of the objects associated with these events as a means of solving the mysteries surrounding them. Lurking in the mundane details of everyday things, he believed, might be overlooked clues that could shed light on a pressing question. "Certainly with the Kennedy things he was questing after truth," Ms. Lattimer said. "He really wanted to know how that happened."

Dr. Lattimer was known to avoid self-reflection, but some who knew him speculate that there was something more behind his drive to collect. "He was an only child of two only children and grew up in a very isolated, lonely place," said Mr. Perrottet. "It's often said that the collecting passion is an unwillingness to let go of the past. For him, I think it was an attempt to hold onto his past. He had a long, rich past, and he wasn't immune to the solitariness of human existence."

He acquired items through auctions, dealers and, later, directly from their original owners. Ms. Lattimer recalls her father receiving calls from his war pals' widows, offering him their World War II mementos. Once his collection became well known, some of his patients began contributing to it. "Actresses would come to his office with something of theirs in a paper grocery bag and say, 'Hey, doc, you want this?' " his daughter said. One such patient, Greta Garbo, gave Dr. Lattimer her driver's license, among other things.

In November, some of the Lincoln-related objects will be put on the block in a Gettysburg, Pa., sale being run by Heritage Auction Galleries of Dallas. The event is generating excitement among collectors and historians.

"In the Lincoln world we don't see great collections come through very often," said Daniel Weinberg, a dealer in Lincoln artifacts and the owner of the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop in Chicago, who has a personal interest in several of the items. "The prices for the good pieces will be fairly strong."

The proceeds will go toward estate taxes, Ms. Lattimer said, and will allow her to hold on to a few of the items that offer some lasting connection to her father.

"I'm inclined to keep Lincoln's shaving mirror," she said, referring to a small mirror that hangs on the wall. "Dad used to show it around during Christmas. It's odd that I'd keep it because I'm not keeping the inkwell that wrote the Emancipation Proclamation."

Most of the items destined for auctions — there will be others, still unscheduled, after the Lincoln one — have been sorted and shipped. But Ms. Lattimer is still sifting through relics that the auction houses weren't interested in. Though family and friends have encouraged her to hire helpers, she has resisted; she feels uniquely qualified for the job. "I'll come across a cuff link, and I will remember seeing a matching cuff link years ago in a different room," she explained.

Ultimately, Ms. Lattimer said, she finds a sense of peace in cataloging her family's strange legacy. "I'm glad that he never had to do this," she said, her voice cracking slightly. "But it's been so intriguing that it loses its aura of sadness, you know... it becomes more a collaboration with him."

Bill,

What an interesting collection of stuff. I myself could have done without hearing about Napoleon Bonerparts....but....yanno.

I have always collected small things from history. The sight from an mg-42 machine gun, authentic WW2 patches etc. But is sounds like he had an amazing collection....although I would not want to file and sort it!

Thanks for posting that Bill

Mike

Yea, Mike,

and now it's in the hands of a women who puts original Ford's Theater seats out with the trash.

And the ARRB was suppose to locate and collect all JFK assassination records?

BK

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Bill,

Yes I must say that business with the seats about made me nauseous. I do find the "location of all the documents" a bit curious myself. As for the Napoleon "relic" I hope having it in her hands is just an expression.....I would rather hope she left it in the Jar! :lol:

I would like to know what remains of the WW2 memorabilia.

Mike

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Bill,

Yes I must say that business with the seats about made me nauseous. I do find the "location of all the documents" a bit curious myself. As for the Napoleon "relic" I hope having it in her hands is just an expression.....I would rather hope she left it in the Jar! :lol:

I would like to know what remains of the WW2 memorabilia?

Mike

Here's a Time Mag story pinning Oswald, which mentions that Marguerite sold two pages from his Marine rifle-score book, which must be what is referenced in the article about Lattimer's effects, as this story also mentions Lattimer's kid being able to do the dirty deed. Also note the Time article saying that the sling was apparently used to steady the rifle while firing.

http://64.233.169.104/search?q=cache:m8fd-...cd=23&gl=us

Time:

When he was a Marine, Oswald had qualified as a marksman and, though that is the corps' lowest of three rifleman's ratings, it makes him a good shot by civilian standards. Oswald's mother Marguerite sold two pages from his Marine rifle-score book; they show him making 48 and 49 points out of a possible 50 in rapid fire at 200 yards from a sitting position, without a scope.

Some Army experts checking out Oswald's rifle were able to hit simulated human targets at the assumed motorcade distance in the same time that was available to Oswald. After considerable practice to manage the rifle's stiff bolt action, even Lattimer's son Gary, only 14 at the time, was able to place three shots within a head target at 263 ft. within twelve seconds. Marina Oswald testified that she had heard Oswald practicing the rifle's bolt action outside their Dallas home in 1963. From the Book Depository building, Oswald also had the benefit of resting his gun on a book carton and steadying his grip with an arm sling.

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