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Objects of Devotion


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PETER MANSEAU is a Smithsonian fellow who holds a doctorate from Georgetown University. He is the author of numerous books and writes frequently on religion and history for publications including The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Wall Street Journal.


The subtitle for this engrossing work is also the name of the first religion-oriented exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History. This landmark study of the role of religion in the early history of the U.S.-from the mid-17th century to the mid-19th century-demonstrates how deeply religion influenced America's founders and their descendants. Most readers will be unable to visit the exhibit itself, but they will find much to inspire them in this lushly illustrated volume. Readers will be surprised to find a letter from George Washington to the Hebrew congregations; others will be amazed to learn that Thomas Jefferson owned a copy of the Qur'an. Each of the articles is accompanied by a photo of the historical artifact that informs the chapter's subject. Individually, the exhibits describe aspects of the role religion played in our ancestors' lives; together they form a testament to the passion the nation's founders displayed for spirituality. This is a wonderful, inspiring collection. (May)

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