The Nation: Death of a Collector

Throughout most of his 53 years and various careers, Jesse Burgess Thomas of Washington, D.C., had been a compulsive collector. As a member of the Merchant Marine, an editor for a Tokyo newspaper (Japanese was among his six languages), a naval historian and a part-time cab driver, he had amassed a staggering collection of both valuables and junk—hand-tinted Japanese slides, 30 broken umbrellas, first-day issues of stamps, old cottage cheese containers, nautical charts and Oriental altar pieces. In addition, Thomas had acquired an annoying habit: not paying his rent.

His landlord gave him several warnings and then took him to court....

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