What To Do With Historical or Potentially Valuable Items

Our downsizing continues, but it isn’t easy.

I’ve been going through my father’s humidor — in olden times, men smoked cigars and had humidors to keep them fresh.

At some point, someone, no doubt my mother, stuffed this little treasure chest full of family history items and slipped it into our basement. The problem is that some of these items have historical or even monetary value, forcing me to decide how to dispose of them responsibly.

From the RMS Samaria, 1936

From the RMS Samaria, 1936

What to do with the scrapbook of my father’s business trip to Europe in 1936? There are passenger lists and menus from the Queen Mary and the Samaria — all quite lovely — and photographs of various meetings and events that might have been important in the history  of chemical engineering, his profession.

Menu from the last dinner of the crossing

Menu from the last dinner of the crossing

Then there’s the gold watch given him at his retirement. He never liked it, and didn’t wear it — but is it valuable?

Most interesting are Civil War documents related to Josiah Bean, a distant relative by marriage. My father’s Aunt Ina Bean must have left them, and somehow they found their way to the humidor. I have Josiah’s promotion to Captain, signed by President Andrew Johnson, and other promotion documents signed by Massachusetts Governor John Andrews. Letters to a friend from Bean reveal that he was an officer in the 55th Massachusetts Regiment of Volunteers — an heroic African-American regiment that spearheaded the capture of Charleston.

From Josiah Bean's promotion to Captain

From Josiah Bean’s promotion to Captain

These items should not be mouldering away in a humidor. (Actually, the Civil War items aren’t mouldering — the quality of the paper used in those days was quite good.)

The easiest thing for me to do would be to slip the humidor into one of my daughters’ basements, where it could mature for another few decades — but that would be wrong.

I’m thinking that we should save the watch for the auctioneer. Donna and I are agreed that at some point, we’re going to have to turn to an auction house for some of the larger items we have, but we could also include smaller items we come across that might have value.

The scrapbook? Perhaps the historical society in my father’s hometown, Easthampton, Massachusetts, might be interested. Our local society in the Finger Lakes, the Yates County History Center, takes such items.

The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, might want the Bean material. I’ve just contacted them — I’ll let you know what they say.

As they say in Kenya (we have many items from our time there too): haba na haba, hujaza kibaba. Little by little, the measure is filled.

Do you have a humidor in your life? Let us know how you dealt with it




1 thought on “What To Do With Historical or Potentially Valuable Items

  1. Joan Mistretta

    I don’t have the history that you have, but I have a few items that might be significant one way or another. I’m afraid that I’m doing what you say is “wrong” (not sure why it is so wrong) – leaving them for my daughter to deal with. I’ll admit something…I’m really hoping that I die before I have to move to a smaller place. Just for this reason. The worst is books. I have a LOT of built-in book cases. They are full and they bother me. Even if I could think of how to get rid of them I can’t sit with empty shelves, that would be depressing. Sigh. 🙂



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