Cindy P. Gaylord, head of the Historical Commission in Westfield, Massachusetts, was astounded when she was approached to take back a sword stolen from the statue of a Revolutionary War general, 40 years ago.
In an interview with the Springfield Republican, she said that a man had contacted her office at City Hall saying that he had stolen the sword from the statue of General William Shepard in 1980 and now wanted to return it.
Gaylord agreed to the man remaining anonymous if he returned the stolen sword, and she planned for the man and his wife to deliver the blade to her at her home.
Gaylord said that the man was remorseful and felt terrible that he had done this to a fellow veteran.
He also asked that the story be published to warn others that foolish things done in your youth could come back to haunt you in later years.
Gaylord said that the veteran, a large bear of a man, told her that he had stolen the sword while a student at Westfield State University. He had a part-time job in a bar in Westfield, and after a night of drinking with a group of friends, they decided it was a good idea to steal the sword. He said that he had wrenched the sword off the statue with his own strength. The next morning the young men realized what they had done but had no idea how to give return the sword, and not have to face the consequences of their actions.
When the young man had stolen the sword, an anonymous donor paid for a replacement, and a local sculptor sculpted it. The sword was then replaced on the statue.
The returned sword will be preserved in the town’s museum.
The bronze statue of General Shepherd was erected in 1919. He was born in the area sometime in the 1730s and fought in several wars, including the Revolutionary War.
Not the only statue vandalized.
Joan of Arc
This is not the only sword stolen from a statue. In 1978 the statue of Joan of Arc, which stands in Washington’s Meridian Hill Park, was vandalized and her sword broken off. The National Parks Service says that the sword was stolen. This sword was replaced in 2011.
Joan of Arc suffered a similar fate in 2016 when her sword was stolen yet again.
In 2018, the Chinese Government was incensed when an American tourist stole the thumb off one of the Terracotta Army’s terracotta statues. The 2,000-year-old statue was one of ten figures on loan to the Franklin Institute when a visitor wandered into the Terracotta Warriors exhibit, which was closed at the time, and snapped off the thumb. He placed it in his pocket and walked out with it.
When the theft was noticed, it was reported to the FBI, who traced the perpetrator and recovered the missing digit.
Lions of the Chicago Art Institute
The most recent case of a piece missing from a statue occurred in Chicago in 2020. The iconic lion statues that stand guard outside the Chicago Art Institute in Michigan Avenue had been fitted with masks to remind people to wear protective masks to avoid contracting the coronavirus.
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The same day that the masks were fitted, one of them was stolen. Now the masks have been replaced using more robust cables that are not so easy to cut.