In Washington D.C., December, 1964, Meyer Wertlieb decided that it was finally time to take a look in his garage. For the past fourteen years, Wertlieb had been renting the small garage to a man named James Hampton, who worked as a night janitor for the General Services Administration. It had been a month since Hampton last paid rent and Wertlieb had reached the end of his patience. When he went to investigate, he found that Hampton had died one month earlier at a VA hospital, stricken with stomach cancer. When Wertlieb opened up the garage, this is what he saw:
The massive, glorious sculpture was referred to as The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' General Assembly on a hand-written title card. It was an intensely personal religious expression. Over the course of fourteen years, Hampton had built it out of cardboard, burnt-out lightbulbs,tin-foil, broken furniture, and miscellaneous junk. He would dutifully work on the throne every midnight after returning from his janitorial job. All in all, the throne was comprised of one hundred eighty different pieces, most of which were labelled with quotes of the book of Revelations.
Accompanying the Throne was a one hundred twelve page journal, along with loose pieces of cardboard, on which Hampton had written St James: The Book of the 7 Dispensation. In the journal, Hampton referred to himself as "St. James" and "Director, Special Projects for the State of Eternity" and recorded various religious visions, along with his anticipation of the return of Christ and a desire to form a church. Some portions of the journal were written in a code of his own design, which has still yet to be deciphered.
The Throne of the Third Heaven was made public a few weeks later in an issue of the Washington Post. Hampton's relatives were especially stunned, never realizing that he was capable of such things. The Throne was donated to the Smithsonian American Art Museum six years later, where is it can still be seen today.
Would you like to know more?
-Check out this picture of the Throne
-Read this biography from the Smithsonian
-Read this article from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation