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Laura Seitz, Deseret News
A blunderbuss pistol is on display at the "American History Exhibition" at Zion's Mercantile at The Shops at Riverwoods in Provo on Thursday, June 18, 2015. The exhibit is open Friday and Saturday, June 19 and 20, and is open to the public and free of charge.

PROVO — Not many people know about the letter Thomas Edison wrote to his wife, begging her to come back home after she left him.

Or that Benjamin Franklin liked to tease his sister.

The "American History Exhibition" on Friday and Saturday at Zions Mercantile, 4801 N. University Ave., will take history a step beyond classroom lectures for free.

"Our goal is to make history accessible to children and adults for them to see things that they have only heard about in textbooks," said Reid N. Moon, the organizer of the exhibition. "Where else in Utah can you go and see original George Washington letters?"

Collectors Moon and Brent F. Ashworth spent decades and traveled all over the world to acquire the collection, which spans more than 400 years of American history.

Items include a British redcoat uniform from the War of 1812, a baseball signed by Babe Ruth, a gun once used by Butch Cassidy, William Bradford's bible and John Wayne's boots.

But the exhibition will also include the darker side of history, including a segregation sign.

"It's important to preserve our history," Ashworth said. "There's that saying that 'those that fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.'"

Together, the artifacts are worth more than $20 million, Moon said.

Ashworth and Moon did not always combine their work for exhibitions, but they've worked together gathering and selling artifacts. Their work in Provo is recent.

"I just moved here yesterday," Moon said. "I've been commuting from Dallas so I'm a new Provo resident, but Brent's been here for many years. So this is a collection of two people who live here in Provo."

But this exhibition is only part of the historic artifacts the two collectors own.

Ashworth and Moon also have author J.R.R. Tolkien's Bible, complete with Tolkien's comments on the Greek translation.

"My wife said, 'I really want to go check it out,'" exhibition participant Nate Olsen said. "She came in, I was watching the kids, and I get a call from her: 'You have to come in here. They have original copies of the Book of Mormon. They have King George's Bible. You have to come in here.'"

Moon said he alternates between lectures and museums, organizing at least 10 events every year.

"It will be a treasure hunt for people just to see what is here," Moon said.

klarsen@deseretnews.com