The Most Unforgettable and Legendary Gifts in History


Savannah, GA

From: General William T. Sherman
To: President Abraham Lincoln

Sometimes, you have to fight to get someone the perfect Christmas present --literally. The Union General William T. Sherman knew exactly what President Abraham Lincoln would want for Christmas -- the city of Savannah. So he led his army from Atlanta towards Savannah port in his famous March to the Sea, under the military plan to block the supply line and communications for the Confederate Army.

On Dec. 22, 1864, President Lincoln received news of the general's success through a short telegram: “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.” In receiving this gift, the great President responded by sending a telegram stating: “Many, many thanks for your Christmas gift.”

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The Great Seal of the U.S.

From: USSR

Most gifts are calibrated to reflect the relationship between the donor and the recipient, and are given to establish and reaffirm social ties -- but some may have ulterior motives. In 1945, the Vladimir Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union presented then-U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union William Averell Harriman with a meticulously hand-carved wooden plaque of the Great Seal of the U.S.

This could have potentially paved the way to a great friendship to come had it not been for the fact that the seal was bugged with a listening device, "The Great Seal Bug." To make things worse, the unsuspecting Ambassador hung the bugged seal in his office during his tenure and left it there for the period of 3 ambassadors that followed after him. It was finally discovered in 1952 by chance by a British radio operator. Had it not been for this incident, this espionage mission might have been successful indefinitely.

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Olive Tree

From: Athena
To: Citizens of the City Attica

There’s always that one person who gives the best gifts. In a gift-giving contest conducted by Zeus, there was a battle between Poseidon, the Greek God of the Sea and Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, to determine who would give the better gift. The winning gift would be the one that is most useful and precious to the people trying to build new city. The champion would have the new city named after them, as well as becoming the protector of the city.

Poseidon gifted the citizens with the sea, while Athena presented them the olive tree as their gift. The verdict was in, and Athena came on top with her wise and thoughtful gift of olive tree. In hindsight, we can agree that the olive tree was the perfect gift for the Greeks, as it is heavily embedded in their culture even today.

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Hanging Garden of Babylon

From: King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon
To: Queen Amytis of Media

Most people buy flowers as a present, they might throw in a box of chocolates if they’re feeling particularly generous, but one lucky lady received a whole garden as a gift. Known as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the Hanging Garden of Babylon was actually a gift from King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled from 605 B.C. to 562 B.C., to his Persian wife Amytis of Media.

The Queen began to feel homesick having been away from her native land for so long to be with her husband. To mitigate her longing for home, the king had the hanging garden made filled with various Median flowers and plants.It is now believed that the garden have been located about 340 miles north of Babylon in Nineve -- modern Iraq. Whether it is imaginary or real, in Babylon or Nineveh, nothing can seem to take away from how thoughtful and romantic the gift is.

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The Koh-i-Noor Diamond

From: India
To: The British Empire

The Koh-i-Noor diamond is legendary in many ways. At 793 carats, it held the record for being the biggest diamond to ever be found at one time before bring cut down to it’s current state of 105.6 carats. From its first historical mention in 1526, it has passed through many people, finally ending its journey in the hands of the British Empire.

Koh-i-Noor was to be surrendered to the Queen of England when India came under the British rule. To make things "fair," it was approved and signed seven year old Maharaja Duleep, the emperor’s youngest son. Soon after, it was cruelly arranged for the jewel to be presented to Queen Victoria by the young successor in 1850 in a gift giving ceremony. To this day, the British insists that this was a gift and therefore would not be returned.

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Peter the Great Statue

From: Russia To: America [Rejected]
From: Moscow To: St. Petersburg [Rejected]

The statue of Peter the Great was erected in the Moskva River in the historical center of Moscow in 1997. Since then, it has made it onto numerous lists as one of the ugliest statues and buildings in the world. The statue had been originally gifted to America by Russia to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the first voyage to the U.S. by Christopher Columbus.

Unfortunately, the gift was rejected for reasons unknown. After its first rejection, Russia took it back and recycled it by removing the head of Christopher Columbus to replace it with that of Peter the Great. Props on the recycling, but unfortunately, Christopher Columbus’s face wasn’t what made it ugly in the first place, therefore the problem remained unresolved.

The Muscovites gave it another try by offering the statue of Peter the Great to St. Petersburg -- the city founded by the man back in 1700’s. The offer was declined. The irony of this is that Peter the Great has found his home at Moscow, even though he has once tried to change the capital to St.Petersburg. The biggest irony is that there is a statue of Christopher Columbus’s journey to finding America displayed so victoriously in the capital of Russia.

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From: Prometheus
To: Mankind

Fire is one of the greatest discovery in human history. The first use of fire took place about a half million years ago, and we can thank Prometheus for it. According to this Greek mythology, Prometheus made humans out of clay and enriched their mind through skills and knowledge, taught to him by the goddess Athena. Fearful that humans were given too much power, Zeus started removing all the fire that was around in attempt to make humans less powerful and to hinder them from further progression and development.

Prometheus then hid the fire burning on a charcoal in a hallow stalk on Mount Olympus, in a plan to secretly deliver fire to mankind. This trick prevented Zeus from depriving humans of fire and gave them more power than intended. Zeus was not happy about this trick, and as a god who lives for harsh punishments, he was not ready to let this one slide, which brings us to our next gift.

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Pandora’s box

From: Zeus
To: Epimetheus and Pandora

Zeus was bitter about the whole fire incident. As the first step to his revenge, Zeus created Pandora as a bride to Epimetheus, Prometheus’s brother. As a wedding present, Zeus gifted the newlywed couple with a box and advised Pandora to never open it.

Pandora gave into the temptation and opened the forbidden box, which held all the evils of the world to harm mankind -- such as old age, labor, sickness, insanity, vice and passion. The story goes on to say that the last thing that came out before the box was closed was hope -- the one thing that keeps mankind going despite all the evils in the world.

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Gustav Klimt's Paintings

From: Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer
To: Heirs

Many artworks were looted by the Nazis during WWII. Recently, many of these stolen artworks are now finding their ways back to their rightful owners. The Bloch-Bauers owned a small collection of Gustav Klimt’s artworks, including the famous portraits of Adele Bloch-Bauer commissioned by her husband Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. With Hitler’s rising power in Austria, Ferdinand decided to flee his from his country, leaving behind everything he owns. Before his death 8 years later, he gifted all of his possessions to his heirs.

Eventually, they were sold on Christie's on record breaking price tags. The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I was sold for $135 million, which was the record high amount for a single painting to ever be sold, while the four other paintings in their collection amounted to $192.7 million in total. In monetary terms this represented the largest single return of Nazi-looted art in Austria.

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Statue of Liberty

From: France
To: America

Statue of Liberty is a popular symbol of the United States, which was actually a gift to America from France. Although the project was gifted as a 100th anniversary gift of the Declaration of Independence, it was actually ordered by the French politician Edouard Rene de Laboulaye,  in recognition of the French-American alliance during the American Revolution.

This was done as a gesture of friendship between the two countries. Standing over 150-feet high, this might be one of the tallest gift to be ever given. It wasn’t cheap either, as the statue cost the French more than a half a million dollars.

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Neuschwanstein Castle

From: King Ludwig II of Bavaria
To: Richard Wagner

Neuschwanstein Castle, located in the Alps in Bavaria, might not be a familiar name but it’s definitely a familiar image to many people, as it was the castle that gave Walt Disney the inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. The story behind how this castle was built is very much like a fairy tale itself. King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who wished “to remain an eternal enigma to myself and to others," was a devoted patron to the composer Richard Wagner, who is most famous for his associations with Nazism and works such as Ride of the Valkyries.

The King commissioned the castle to be built as a homage to Wagner as a "temple of friendship." This gift was dedicated to the artist so that he may create work in peace, inspired by the beauty around him.

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Trojan Horse

From: The Greek warriors
To: The Trojans

The Greek myth of the Trojan horse is famously referenced to in the Odyssey by Homer. According to the legend, the Greeks successfully used military strategy and the art of gifting to trick the Trojans to end the Trojan War, which took place around 11th to 12th B. C.

According to the legend, after a 10 year siege by the Trojans, the Greeks gifted the Trojans with a huge wooden horse. This gift was a symbolic one as surrendering ones horse was a sign of accepting defeat. The unsuspecting Trojans fell for the trap and took the wooden horse back into Troy. Little did they know that the horse was filled with a whole army of about 40 Greek warriors. In the middle of the night, they jumped out to destroy the enemy and the city of Troy.

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Van Gogh’s Ear

From: Vincent Van Gogh
To: Rachel the prostitute

Vincent Van Gogh is very famous for his painting and his distinctive style, but he also infamous for being mentally unstable -- enough to cut off his own ear. It has been widely believed that Van Gogh cut off the lower part of his own left ear lobe with a razor in a fit of madness. The story goes that he gifted a his severed ear wrapped it in newspaper to a prostitute name Rachel. He then asked her to keep it for him. This gift, although quite odd, became one of the most infamous in history.

Another theory suggests that his ear was severed by Paul Gauguin, a skilled fencer, in a heated debate over art and Rachel. It turns out that Van Gogh might not have been as crazy as everyone once thought, but rather, he was great at keeping secrets. Maybe the real gift here is the gift of silence gifted by Van Gogh to Paul Gauguin.

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Merci Train

From: The Citizens of France and Italy
To: The Citizens of America

Back in 1947, the U.S. gave Europe about $15 billion dollars in recovery aid under the Marshall Plan. This amount values at being about $258 billion back in 1948. In response to the aid, the French expressed their gratitude by sending over the Merci Train as an expression of their friendship with America, the country that helped them rebuild their country after WWII.

The French Gratitude Train arrived in New York city and was composed of 49 railroad box cars filled with gifts like furniture, dolls, statues, and etc. What made this gift so significant is that it was composed of donations from over six million French and Italian citizens. Each of the 48 American states received a cart, with one being shared between Hawaii and Washington D.C., and most are still on public display.

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Taj Mahal

From: Emperor Shah Jahan
To: Queen Mumtaz Mahal

In the case of Taj Mahal, no one will ever argue it’s romantic aspect. In fact, this gift tops the list on every gift category there is. It was one of the most expensive, amazing, legendary, and even romantic.

The Taj Mahal was built under the order of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 and was completed in 1653. Having been inseparable companions since their marriage in 1612, the emperor was grief-stricken when his third wife -- Queen Mumtaz Mahal -- died while giving birth to their 14th child.

It is widely believed that, while on her death bed, the Queen had asked the King to build a mausoleum that was more beautiful than anything the world has seen, as a symbol of their love.

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