The Perfect Gifts for History Buffs


Unique Gifts You Can Read, Drink, and Smell

Wondering what to get the history lover in your life – or yourself? Then I’ve got you covered, from winos to tea drinkers to bookworms, builders, and more.

Raise a Glass to Freedom!

These gorgeous whiskey glasses from UncommonGoods feature quotes and signatures of the Founding Fathers, and (like most of the founders themselves) they’re classy and practical.

And you don’t have to put whiskey in them – you could pour in some wine, like The Federalist, featuring portraits of Washington, Hamilton, and Franklin. I can attest that the zinfandel is quite tasty and the empty bottles make great vases for tall sprigs like snapdragons or pussy willows if you’re trying to compromise with your wife on “suitable decor” for your bathroom.

Speaking of Federalists, you could give a gift that would surely please John Adams – a hard cider kit so you can make your own Revolutionary-era hard cider.

Tea Time

Maybe alcohol isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe your cup of tea is actual tea. Then how about a set of teas from UncommonGoods identical to the varieties dumped into Boston Harbor during the Boston Tea Party?

You could steep your tea in what has to be the coolest tea mug I’ve ever seen.

From the Unemployed Philosophers Guild, this tea mug of Ben Franklin’s experiment with electricity has a special notch cut out so you can hang your tea label over the side and turn it into Ben’s kite.

Lego My Gift

If your history buff is a child at heart, then you can’t go wrong with these handmade Lego-based figures of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, William Shakespeare, and more from SweeneyBricks on Etsy.

And where better to put them than in their own Lego White House or its comparable, less expensive off-brand counterpart.

Book It!

Love To Kill A Mockingbird and true crime? Then Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep is a must. I heard about this book from Phoebe Judge’s fantastic podcast Criminal and I was immediately sold. Southern Living’s review puts it better than I can: “A compelling hybrid of a novel, at once a true-crime thriller, courtroom drama, and miniature biography of Harper Lee. If To Kill a Mockingbird was one of your favorite books growing up, you should add Furious Hours to your reading list today.”

Know someone who loves the family of John and Abigail Adams and religious history? Then I highly recommend Household Gods. The Religious Lives of the Adams Family, Sara Georgini’s engaging book about how multiple generations of the Adams family were shaped by religion.

If you’re looking for some classic, personal works of the founders in their own words, then The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence Between Thomas Jefferson and Abigail and John Adams is a treasure trove of history. Curl up in front of the fireplace and/or fireplace channel on your Roku and go back in time with John, Thomas, and Abigail.

Have someone in mind who loves sports just as much as they love presidential history? Then Jon Finkel’s Jocks In Chief: The Ultimate Countdown Ranking the Most Athletic Presidents, from the Fight Crazy to the Spectacularly Lazy should keep them busy for hours.

Perhaps you know a Civil War buff who loves holding history in their hands? If money is no object, I suggest the one-two punch of Ron Chernow’s excellent biography Grant *and* an original first or early edition of Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs.

Grant finished his autobiography while he was dying of throat cancer in 1885, and Mark Twain published it posthumously to enormous success, ensuring Grant’s family would be well provided for. It was published in 1885, and there are plenty of copies still available, some for as low as $100 – $200. A lot for a book, sure, but it’s a lovely investment if you’ve got the money and want to make sure you get in Grandpa’s will.

If you don’t want to dive into the world of antiquarian books, you can pick up a nice new annotated copy of Grant’s memoirs.

My absolute best recommendation for a history lover remains a gift certificate to a great used bookstore – it’s almost like letting someone lose in a museum and saying, “You can keep whatever fits in this bag!” Mental Floss has a great list of the best used bookstores in all 50 states.

Make Your Own Map Room

Show me a history lover who doesn’t love maps. This holiday season, deck the walls with a beautiful reproduction of one of Maps of the Past’s more than 6,000 historical maps dating back to the 16th century.

Choose from world maps, state maps, county maps, Revolutionary and Civil War maps, and panoramas – including this gorgeous panorama of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago that I’m in love with. If you know anyone as obsessed with Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America as I am, then this is the ultimate gift for $36.95.

A Very Personal Gift

Break down the geographic origins of your ancestors with an Ancestry DNA kit. Maybe you have relatives you never knew about? Maybe one of your relatives is a serial killer and the simple act of submitting your DNA could lead to their capture. It’s almost a crime not to give this as a gift.

Smell You Later

Are you looking for the perfect gift for the history buff who has a sense of humor and a sense of smell? JDandKateIndustries has a line of historical candles that fits the bill.

Love Abraham Lincoln? Then a Lincoln-scented candle is what you never knew you always needed.

As they say in their description: “We don’t actually know what Abraham Lincoln smelled like. We sort of assume that everyone in 19th Century America smelled like stale wool, coal smoke, and armpits, but we didn’t want the candle to smell like that. So instead, it smells how we imagine a frontier log cabin did: seasoned logs, woodsmoke, and a little mustiness.”

They also have candles in the scent of George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and a “duel pack” of Hamilton and Burr. That duel pack is great for any Hamilton the musical fans on your list – you can even write “I hope that you burn…these candles!” on the card. (They’ll get it.)

Happy shopping, and happy holidays! If you have any other great gift ideas to share, please leave them in the comments!

For more great gift ideas, check out last year’s holiday gift guide.

 


Just so you know, the author may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page in order to support his insatiable addiction to books and presidential action figures.
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