11 Gifts For the History Buff

iStock
iStock

From ancient recipes to storied war ships, these 11 gifts will make the past come alive for your favorite history buff this holiday season.

1. USS CONSTITUTION MODEL SHIP; $400

USS Constitution Model Ship, sold by The New York Times Store

The New York Times Store

Launched in 1797, the USS Constitution became famous when it defeated the British warship HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia during the War of 1812. This fatal battle earned the vessel the nickname of "Old Ironsides," as shots appeared to rebound off its hull. The USS Constitution is still intact to this day, and is considered the oldest U.S. warship still in commission. Fans of the boat can visit it in Boston, or keep this fully assembled 30-inch wooden model on their desks.

Find It: The New York Times Store

2. BECAUSE OF THEM WE CAN SIGNATURE BACKPACK; $50

Because Of Them We Can Signature Backpack
Because of Them We Can

Help your giftee pay homage to pioneering civil rights leaders with this backpack emblazoned with the first names of figures like Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, and more. It comes equipped with a laptop pouch, a mesh zip pocket, a key pouch, and a back notebook pocket.

Find It: Because of Them We Can

3. KING SOLOMON'S TABLE: A CULINARY EXPLORATION OF JEWISH COOKING FROM AROUND THE WORLD; $24

"King Solomon's Table" by Joan Nathan
Courtesy of Pantheon Books

King Solomon's Table by Joan Nathan provides more than 170 historic Jewish recipes from around the globe, ranging from classic Yemenite Chicken Soup to modern takes on dishes like shakshuka.

Find It: Amazon

4. MEAD MAKING KIT; $55

Mead Making Kit, sold by Uncommon Goods
Uncommon Goods

Your giftee's next soiree will rival the drinking halls of Medieval Europe with this make-your-own mead kit. It includes instructions, ingredients, and basic equipment that can be reused to make multiple batches.

Find It: Uncommon Goods

5. NEW YORK TIMES SPECIAL DAY BOOK; $130

Special Day Book, sold by The New York Times Store

The New York Times Store

This personalized book by the New York Times lets purchasers remember an important day in their lives by reading what the world was like during that time. It contains New York Times headlines, photographs, advertisements, and articles from any date from 1851 onwards.

Find It: The New York Times

6. DEAD FEMINISTS: HISTORIC HEROINES IN LIVING COLOR; $17

"Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color" by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring
Courtesy of Sasquatch Books

History also includes plenty of "hers." Dead Feminists by Chandler O'Leary and Jessica Spring profiles 27 influential female figures whose actions changed the world, like Eleanor Roosevelt, Rachel Carson, and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Find It: Amazon

7. PRESIDENTIAL SOAP COLLECTION; $22

This Caswell-Massey soap collection allows bathers to suds up like American leaders. It includes George Washington's Number Six soap, Eisenhower's almond cold cream hand soap, and Jockey Club men's bath soap, rumored to have been a favorite of John F. Kennedy.

Find It: Amazon

8. DON'T GIVE UP THE SHIP RING; $170


Digby & Iona

War of 1812 buffs can wear history on their hands with this signet ring by Brooklyn jewelry studio Digby & Iona. It's engraved with the slogan "DON'T GIVE UP THE SHIP," which Captain James Lawrence of the United States frigate Chesapeake allegedly uttered with his dying breath during a bloody 1813 sea skirmish against the British frigate Shannon.

Find It: Digby & Iona

9. HISTORY OF ART T-SHIRT; $28

History of Art T-Shirt, sold by the MoMA Design Store
MoMA Design Store

This pre-shrunk T-shirt's design uses smiley faces to simplify hundreds of years of art history into a chronological timeline. Each smiley is designed in the style of various famous artists, many of whose works are featured in the MoMA's collections.

Find It: MoMA Design Store

10. AMERICAN SEAFOOD: HERITAGE, CULTURE & COOKERY FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA; $25

"American Seafood: Heritage, Culture & Cookery from Sea to Shining Sea" by Barton Seaver
Courtesy of Amazon

Your favorite history buff can explore the history of North American commercial seafood by cooking their way through Barton Seaver’s American Seafood. It lists the main characteristics of various types of fish, along with how to prep each one, while also providing an overview of their culinary legacy.

Find It: Amazon

11. PERSONALIZED PRINT OF A FAMILY HEIRLOOM; $450

A personalized print of a family heirloom typewriter by The Heirloomist
The Heirloomist

Thanks to still life photographer Shana Novak, nobody has to squabble over Grandpa's heirlooms. The New York-based shutterbug runs a business called The Heirloomist, which celebrates family history by photographing treasured relics and transforming them into large-scale works of art. Prints can be matted and framed, or delivered sans decorative casing.

Find It: The Heirloomist

These Grass Straws Are an Eco-Friendly Alternative to Plastic

Kickstarter
Kickstarter

We know plastic straws have created an incredibly serious environmental issue, and while many alternatives have been introduced, there are definitely some drawbacks to each of them. Paper straws, for example, tend to dissolve faster than you can finish your beverage. Some companies have tried to get around the issues paper and plastic straws present by introducing a special lid to sip cold beverages through. But they’re still made out of, well, plastic.

A Kickstarter campaign is offering a solution by producing sturdy grass straws that work perfectly in hot or cold drinks and decompose in just 15 days. With $3606 raised, the startup La Couleur Monochrome is still working toward a $27,877 goal, but you can back this project until January 31. For as little as $6, you can receive 100 straws in a reusable, eco-friendly zip-up bag, and the more expensive tiers offer bigger rewards.

The straws are made from hollow-stemmed grass that is grown and hand-harvested in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. After the grass is harvested, it is cut into 20-centimeter pieces and disinfected through a boiling process, rather than with harsh chemicals. Buyers have the option of selecting either dried-out straws, which can last for up to one year when stored at room temperature, or fresh straws, which can remain in the fridge for up to six weeks. According to the startup, both straws are suited for hot and cold drinks, but when using the fresh straws, you’ll get “a slight scent of fresh cut grass without changing the drink's taste.”

Grass straws
Kickstarter

If you’re worried about the environmental impact of harvesting the field, there’s no need. According to the campaign, the grass regenerates itself within a year. Currently, the startup is producing 1 million straws a month, but they hope to up it to 10 million by July 2020. Also beginning in July, the company plans to only send out orders once a month to create a more sustainable shipping program.

With so many large-scale changes that need to happen to help the environment, starting with a simple straw may seem inconsequential, but it’s not. Estimates have put the number of straws littering the world's coastlines at anywhere from 437 million to 8.3 billion.

If you want to visualize how much plastic humans have produced, it's equivalent to 25,000 Empire State Buildings or 80 million blue whales. And of all that plastic, only 9 percent has been recycled. At this pace, some have predicted that the amount of plastic in the ocean may outweigh the ocean's fish by 2050.

Cutting out straws is a great way to start reducing single-use products in your everyday life, and you can head here to find out more about the Kickstarter.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

Attention Movie Geeks: Cinephile Is the Card Game You Need Right Now

Cinephile/Amazon
Cinephile/Amazon

If you’ve got decades worth of movie trivia up in your head but nowhere to show it off, Cinephile: A Card Game just may be your perfect outlet. Created by writer, art director, and movie expert Cory Everett, with illustrations by Steve Isaacs, this game aims to test the mettle of any film aficionado with five different play types that are designed for different skill and difficulty levels.

For players looking for a more casual experience, Cinephile offers a game variety called Filmography, where you simply have to name more movies that a given actor has appeared in than your opponent. For those who really want to test their knowledge of the silver screen, there’s the most challenging game type, Six Degrees, which plays like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, with the player who finds the fewest number of degrees between two actors getting the win.

When you choose actors for Six Degrees, you’ll do so using the beautifully illustrated cards that come with the game, featuring Hollywood A-listers past and present in some of their most memorable roles. You’ve got no-brainers like Uma Thurman in Kill Bill (2003) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall (1990) alongside cult favorites like Bill Murray from 2004's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and Jeff Goldblum in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). Of course, being a game designed for the true film buff, you’ll also get some deeper cuts like Helen Mirren from 1990’s The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover and Sean Connery in 1974's Zardoz. There are 150 cards in all, with expansion packs on the way.

Cinephile is a labor of love for Everett and Isaacs, who originally got this project off the ground via Kickstarter, where they raised more than $20,000. Now it’s being published on a wider scale by Clarkson Potter, a Penguin Random House group. You can get your copy from Amazon now for $20.

Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we choose all products independently and only get commission on items you buy and don't return, so we're only happy if you're happy. Thanks for helping us pay the bills!

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