Life preserver worn by Major John Wesley Powell during exploration of the Green and Colorado Rivers, 1869
The donation of this life preserver in 1908 came about when Powell's friends sought to settle a debate over whether the valiant major had actually worn one on the expedition. By way of an answer, William R. Hawkins, one of the last surviving members of the exploring party, presented this life preserver to the Smithsonian. The inscription reads: "I can't talk or I would tell you some queer things. I have been under the water many times and saved one Brave Man's life more times than one."