Through the Ages – Last-minute Gift Ideas

Christmas is rapidly approaching and you are in a panic to about what to get for that special someone. Rest assured that you are not alone.

General Sherman found himself there in 1864 when he had not had time to go shopping for his Commander-In-Chief. His solution was to wire Lincoln with the following: “I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the City of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25, 000 bales of cotton.” The President apparently appreciated his gift.

When Shah Jahan, the fifth Mughal emperor, felt stymied about a gift for his favorite wife, he started thinking creatively. The result was the Taj Mahal. There was the trifling drawback that he also intended it to serve as her tomb, but hey, there is nothing wrong with a dual- purpose gift.

Speaking of large gifts, Marie Christianson of Apple Valley, Minnesota woke up on Christmas morning in 1985 to find an 8-foot tall fiberglass elephant on her front lawn. It was payback from a neighbor who had received at the Christianson’s Christmas party two years earlier a wheelbarrow crushed by a garbage truck. There is a lesson there.

Large fake mammals are impressive, but there is no substitute for the real thing. King Manuel of Portugal certainly realized this, so in 1514 he gave a live white elephant to Pope Leo X. Alas, Hanno’s life was cut short when the Pope fed her gold 6 years later to ease her constipation. You could say that the Pope poisoned his prized poop-less pachyderm.

A brick is sometimes a good Christmas gift, provided it originates from a building that has a sentimental association.  Actress Lady Bancroft, for example, was gifted a brick from the wall of the Prince of Wale’s Theater together with a wood piece from the stage.  The gift was not without controversy because the Theater was still in use at the time and the gift-giver had forcibly removed both the brick and the wood from the building.

If you are into gifting to save the environment, then you might follow the lead of one resourceful scout group.  The Kentucky Boy Scout group gave then-president Gerald Ford an eagle made of beer can tabs.  He liked it so much that the eagle became a permanent fixture in his presidential library.

You have to wonder about the scout leader who thought it was a good idea to send his scouts out on a beer can tab drive at Christmas.

Sometimes people are confused about whether or not a gift is a gift.  In 2011 Jack Waring bought a $30,000 tractor and gave it to his fiancée Felicia for Christmas.  During their divorce three years later, Jack apparently had a moment of confusion and completely forgot the tractor had been a gift.  It took an appellate court to bring him back to his senses.

To be clear, a valid gift occurs when the giver intends for it to be a gift, the gift is delivered, and the recipient accepts it. Intent, delivery and acceptance. Done.

Hopefully this jog through history has given you some good gift ideas. Happy shopping!

Virginia Hammerle is president of the Hammerle Finley Law Firm, www.hammerle.com.  She has been Board Certified in Civil Trial by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization for 25 years.  Her practice includes litigation in all matters affecting seniors.  She can be reached at legaltalk@hammerle.com. This column is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice