stealing history

On the Main Line they are stealing history now.  Specifically in my former home community of Lower Merion.

Lower Merion seems to have increasing issues with crime.  Maybe that is why insurance premiums often drop when you now leave this municipality?  Read this article and be disgusted.  More commentary below.

Posted: Sun, Aug. 26, 2012, 3:01 AM

Ex-household staffer sought in $3M Bryn Mawr art theft

By Jonathan Lai and Bonnie L. Cook Inquirer Staff Writers

For a brief period this summer, Andrea Lawton worked on the housekeeping staff of their home, according to a Bryn Mawr couple. Now, say Lower Merion police, she is suspected of cleaning them out of a rare bust of Benjamin Franklin said to be worth more than $3 million.

Lawton, 46, of Philadelphia, learned her employers’ routine during her month working at their residence on the 600 block of Black Rock Road, according to homeowner George A. D’Angelo.

Police responded to a call by the household staff, which reported the burglary about 12:30 p.m. Friday, while he and his wife, Brenda, were not home, D’Angelo said. But the porcelain bust and a small, framed portrait were already gone, he said.

The bust is 28 inches tall and weighs 25 pounds, including its brass supporting structure, D’Angelo said. Made by Jean-Antoine Houdon in 1778, while Franklin was visiting Paris, the bust is one of four in existence, he said….The three other busts are at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and the Louvre in Paris, according to D’Angelo. The Louvre version is made of terra cotta; the two others are marble.

When the marble bust was donated to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it was valued at about $3 million, said D’Angelo, who believes the stolen work is worth at least as much.

It is unique, he said, because Franklin’s expression seems to vary from different angles. The work is part of a collection of historical objects his family has collected, D’Angelo said.

Lawton and another woman were seen leaving the house Friday by a staff member, D’Angelo said. But because both had been recent employees there, their presence did not raise suspicion, he said….D’Angelo said he was considering offering a reward as an incentive for the safe recovery of the historic Franklin bust.

“I just hope it’s returned,” he said. “It’s our history – American history.”

I am posting this because this is one of these things that just pisses me off.  The stories of housekeepers and house cleaners or anyone who basically take domestic jobs to rip people off is just the lowest of the low.

There is honor in any job, as long as it is well-done.  That includes being part of someone’s domestic staff.  Domestic staff has unusually close access to people and whether they are gardener, nanny, housekeeper, cook, nursing aide or someone who helps one of the aforementioned, one would think they would do the job with some sort of honor and ethics.  After all they chose to do the job.

But to steal from nice people?  Ugh.  I know all too well what it is like, it happened to my mother shortly after my father passed away.  There was a lady who was helping clean her home, who had been in and out of the homes of many my mother knew.  Your basic cleaning lady.  She had been around long enough to steal my mother’s trust, and then her valuables.  This woman stole most of the jewelry my late father ever gave my mother, silk scarves, underwear with the tags still on it, and oh yes a dog collar because it had a silver tag.  Flash forward a couple of years and another woman my mother knew was also cleaned out.  Nothing was ever recovered.  And face it, when you steal from a widow, it doesn’t get much lower, does it?

Truthfully, the news has too many of these stories.  There was one in May covered by The Times Herald.  Let’s not forget the story of domestic theft from 2009 that had Main Line and West Chester connections, right?

Remember this:Prosecutor: Housekeeper’s story is lying, stealing By Carl Hessler Jr. Wednesday, October 06, 2010

NORRISTOWN — A former East Goshen housekeeper earned the trust of her wealthy Main Line clients and then stole their jewelry and valuable sports memorabilia out from under them, according to prosecutors.

“Kimberley Williams is a story of stealing and of lying,” Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Bradford Richman argued to a jury as Williams’ theft trial got under way Tuesday. “She ingratiated herself … so that these families grew to trust her.”

But Williams, through her lawyer Douglas Breidenbach Jr., implied to the jury that Williams’ estranged husband, a Marple Township police officer, had the opportunity to enter the homes from which the items went missing and had “great motive” to frame Williams for the thefts….Williams, 46, formerly of Margo Lane, is charged with theft by unlawful taking or disposition and receiving stolen property in connection with alleged incidents that occurred in Montgomery and Delaware counties between January 2007 and December 2008 at the homes of five people who hired her as a housekeeper.

Williams is accused of making more than $50,000 by selling jewelry, sports memorabilia and other items she allegedly stole from the homes. Williams, who most recently resided in Summerville, S.C., faces a possible maximum sentence of 35 to 70 years in prison if she’s convicted of all the charges.

 

So anyway, this stealing of history is a new all time low as far as I am concerned.  And stealing something so famous as one of the busts Jean-Antoine Houdon did of founding father Benjamin Franklin while he was not only alive, but in Paris in the 18th century?

Now I have to wonder, as this (at least to me) seems somewhat a very specific thing to steal, was this housekeeping staffer turned  thief sent in specifically by someone else to steal this?   After all what are the chances of an every day person no matter who they are recognizing this as a priceless artifact? How would someone sell this other than on a very specific black market?  Did this suspect only take the job to case the house?

There are only four other versions of this bust by Houdon – one in terra-cotta, two in marble.  If I did my research correctly, one of the marble busts last came up at auction in 1996.  Follow this link to check out the one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.  My research indicates there are ones that are of the Houdon school, probably students of his at the time that come up.  In your mind’s eye you can almost see Benjamin Franklin sitting for this sculpture.

Well hopefully Lower Merion cops will be information sharing with other police departments and even law enforcement on a Federal level who deal with art theft to bring this piece of history home.  Read more on Houdon here.

And I have to wonder, are there any other art thefts that have not been reported to the media?

For more on Benjamin Franklin click HERE.  The Biography Channel did a piece on him over the past couple of years (click HERE).  The best biography/documentary I have seen on Franklin and his life was done by The History Channel.

This whole thing is so White Collar I can’t stand it.  Here’s hoping they find Ben Franklin before some fool who doesn’t know Wal Mart for Art breaks him.

 

stealing from the dead

I caught this report from NBC10’s Rosemary Connors the other day: Someone Steals From Veterans’ Graves: Police seek the public’s help to locate missing bronze flag holders

 

….West Goshen Township Police want to know who stole dozens of bronze flag holders from about 60 graves at Saint Agnes Cemetery on Pottstown Pike.

The flag holders, which often mention the war that the veteran served in, were possibly stolen so that the bronze could be scrapped.

Authorities were first alerted to the thefts on Monday after  several military families noticed that the flag holders were missing and the flags were simply placed into the ground next to their loved one’s grave, police said Thursday.

Police tell NBC10’s Rosemary Connors that the markers are worth about $3,000.

 

Graveyards and these markers are all too common easy pickings for thieves looking to trade in scrap metal or even graveyard memorabilia for lack of a better term.

This happens all too often and it is not only a desecration of someone’s final resting place, I just find it despicable to steal from the dead, let alone those who served our country through various conflicts and wars.

I know people who volunteer their time to not only see that these graveyards all over are tidied up, but I know a couple of remarkable women who have even had lost graves marked and recognized.

Please note the photos accompanying this post are not from West Goshen.  They are from other at risk cemeteries in South Eastern PA.

It goes without saying that if you know who is pilfering from St. Agnes Cemetery on Pottstown Pike you should contact authorities, or encourage them to turn themselves in.   But the other reality is many of these markers are now gone, and if you can help the cemetery replace them, that would be really awesome.

Also note that all over Chester, Montgomery, and Delaware Counties there are abandoned graveyards.  Churches closing, development, and life have caused this.  It behooves a community to save and preserve these final resting places.  People always portray churchyards and cemeteries as macabre places.  They are in fact, more often than not, places of great history and worthy of respect and care.

Here is the Daily Local on the thefts:

WEST GOSHEN — About 60 bronze memorial flag holders were stolen from grave sites at an area cemetery earlier this week, according to the West Goshen Police Department.
Police said the flag holders, typically placed at the graves of military veterans, were stolen from the St. Agnes Cemetery in the 1000 block of Pottstown Pike.

“This is very disturbing,” said Peter J. Buono, commander of the American Legion Post 134 in West Chester. “These people should pay. Every extent of the law should come down on them.”

 

Buono described the thefts as shameful, adding that the flag memorials at the grave sites of veterans are the last honor given to American service members and should be treated with respect….. Cemetery employees told police that family members began to report the missing items on June 25 when some noticed that the bronze holders were removed and the flags were placed in the ground……  Anyone with information regarding the theft is asked to call the West Goshen Police Department at 610-696-7400.