For 63 years, Brent B. Ashworth has been collecting documents, letters and artifacts of American History. His friend Ronald L. Fox has done the same.
The two are teaming up to bring a portion of these pieces together in conjunction with the Cries of Freedom and America’s Freedom Festival.
The display will be available for viewing from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 4-6 at the SCERA Center for the Arts at 745 S. State Street in Orem. Entrance is free.
Ashworth said those who come to the museum will see the handwriting and signatures of some of America’s greatest and most recognized names. From the Founding Fathers — including, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson — to modern heroes like baseball great Babe Ruth; Neil Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon, and Boxing great Mohammed Ali, the collection brings a wide variety of Americana.
There are artifacts that go with those names, like Washington’s wallet or Ali’s boxing gloves. All will be on display.
There are some great stories behind these pieces and that is where Ashworth and Fox come in.
“Stories are what make things wonderful,” Fox said. “There are some great stories like about the seal of the president.”
Fox is referring to the very first presidential seal that he acquired with a letter featuring the wax seal. It will be on display. The seal, featuring 30 stars of each state, was designed by President Millard Fillmore around 1850 but got lost. By 1863 President Abraham Lincoln ordered a new seal.
“It hadn’t left the White House, it got misplaced,” Ashworth said. “It was found during a transition of power most likely between the James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur administrations.”
Another artifact came from the first minting in the United States. In 1792 the U.S. government starting minting coins, and the silver for the first minting came from a large collection of Martha Washington’s silver set, according to Ashworth.
They minted about 1,200 of the small coin.
“It was called a half disme, which was changed to dime before it became a nickel,” Ashworth said. “It was a five cent piece with what appears to be Martha’s portrait.”
The coin will be on display along with a letter from Dolly Madison and invitations to the dedications of the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and the Washington Monument.
Also on display will be a tribute collection celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. There are photos, autographs and a small U.S. flag that traveled with the crew to the moon.
The duo’s collection also includes artifacts from the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Ashworth said his first autograph was on a letter from Heber J. Grant, an early prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The letter was in a box he found in his grandmother’s attic.
June 27 was the 175 anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum Smith. Ashworth will have on display the handwritten receipts for their coffins and other LDS Church items.
Both Ashworth and Fox are notable figures on their own right. Outside of their acquiring profound pieces of history, these two men have made worldwide connections that have allowed them to expand their illustrious hobby.
Ashworth received a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Utah in 1975. He served as an assistant Carbon County attorney and practiced law with the firm of Frandsen and Keller. He was vice president and general counsel for Nature’s Sunshine Products in Spanish Fork and for Neways International in Springville.
He has assisted the Glenn Beck organization, LDS Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University libraries and special collections. He has assisted the Utah State Archives and has donated many books and other items in his collection to the LDS Church and for display at the Crandall Historical Printing Museum.
Fox owns Fox’s Words and Images in Salt Lake City — a company that deals in rare documents, books and photographs.
Since 1972, Fox has provided volunteer assistance to the White House Advance office and U.S. State Department, Protocol Office assisting Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush and Donald Trump. He has assisted with the planning and follow-through of numerous visits of foreign heads of state.
In 2000, Fox was elected as a member of the Electoral College. In 2002 he produced and directed the State of Utah’s Welcoming Ceremonies for President George W. Bush and Laura Bush.