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No place like home, slippers recovered

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Dawn Wallace, a conservator for the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, analyzes one of the recovered slippers at the Smithsonian’s Conservation Lab in Washington, D.C. (Smithsonian photo)

 from the FBI:

A pair of ruby slippers featured in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz and stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, in 2005, was seized in a sting operation conducted in Minneapolis earlier this summer.
While the FBI has identified suspects and has executed multiple search warrants in Minnesota and Florida in connection with the investigation, investigators are seeking the public’s help to identify all parties associated with the initial theft and the more recent scheme to defraud and extort the Markel Corporation, the owner of the slippers.

The ruby slippers are one of several pairs used in the production of the movie classic. Only four pairs of the shoes used in the film are known to remain and are widely viewed as among the most recognizable memorabilia in American film history. Current estimates value the slippers in the millions of dollars should they be sold at auction.

The recovered slippers, known as the “traveling pair,” were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in the overnight hours of August 27-28, 2005. Despite an investigation by local authorities, which included countless interviews, numerous theories, and even searches of abandoned iron ore pits, the slippers were never located and no arrests were made. The investigation remained a priority for the Grand Rapids Police Department, who requested FBI assistance in 2017 when the extortion plot against the Markel Corporation surfaced. Agents from the Minneapolis Division worked closely with the FBI’s Art Crime Team throughout the investigation, which is ongoing.

After the recovery in July, the FBI transported the slippers to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., where conservators were able to conduct an in-depth examination and analysis, including evidence of wear and details unique to their use in the 1939 film. Examination of the recovered shoes showed that their construction, materials, and wear are consistent with the pair in the museum’s collection, which were donated to the museum by an anonymous donor in 1979.

“At the heart of nearly every art crime, we see greed woven into the fabric of the scheme—greed to take it, and greed to profit from its return,” said Sanborn. “Dorothy’s slippers are a treasured piece of Americana, and we are hoping members of the public can help us better fill in the details that will finish the script of this mystery so we can hold accountable all those who were behind the scheme.”

“When the slippers were snatched in the early morning burglary, the thieves not only took the slippers, they took a piece of history that will be forever connected to Grand Rapids and one of our city’s most famous children,” said Grand Rapids Police Chief Scott Johnson. “We were confident this day would eventually come, and we are grateful to the FBI and all those who worked to bring this piece of cinematic treasure out of the shadows and into the light. After all,” he said, quoting a famous line from The Wizard of Oz, ‘There’s no place like home.’”

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Minnesota fort

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The United States flag flies over Historic Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, Minn. At left is the fort's Round Tower. (c) J.S. Reinitz 2014

The United States flag flies over Historic Fort Snelling in Minneapolis, Minn. At left is the fort’s Round Tower. (c) J.S. Reinitz 2014

Perched on a bluff over the intersection of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, Fort Snelling is an outpost that long outlived its original purpose.

In the 1820s, long before Minnesota was a state, the fur trade was the cornerstone of commerce in the new world. The fort was built to protect the industry.

Not more than a few decades later, the fur bubble had burst, and Fort Snelling took up other roles. It oversaw the uprooting and relocation of Native American tribes in the area and acted as an induction station for the U.S. Army during every major conflict through World War II.

It was decommissioned in 1946 and designated a historic landmark in 1960.

Today, the fort’s historic buildings have been restored as a museum that’s manned by a small army of reenactment soldiers. They even have a cannon.

Photo: For Czale

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For sale sign on a Czechoslovakia mural. The phone number has been obscured preclude unwanted calls. (c) J.S. Reinitz

For sale sign on a Czechoslovakia mural. The phone number has been obscured preclude unwanted calls. (c) J.S. Reinitz

Mural with a map for former Czechoslovakia. (c) J.S. Reinitz

Mural with a map for former Czechoslovakia. (c) J.S. Reinitz

As turmoil continues to spread in Ukraine, we found it interesting that a former Eastern Bloc country that dissolved in 1992 is being offered for sale by a Minnesota real estate firm.  The sign (which has the phone number redacted) didn’t mention the price, but we assume the listing includes the following selling points:

— Zoned Commercial, residential and agricultural.

— 1,366,041,600 square feet. Will subdivide on request.

— Nice view of the Carpathian Mountains.

— Access to the Danube River.

Book on caves

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For Fathers Day, my kids got me a book that I’ve had my eye on for awhile — Iowa Underground: A Guide to the State’s Subterranean Treasures. I first encountered it a number of years ago on Google books, and then it appeared on the shelves of a local big-box bookstore.

Written by Greg Brick, a Minnesota geology professor, the tome highlights several caves on public lands, complete with history, gear recommendations and directions. It has a few of my favorite haunts, a lot of locations I knew about but have yet to explore and even a few new caverns.

In the spirit of Fathers Day, I plan to use the book to inspire my kids to go off on adventures.

Published by Trail Books, 223 pages. (6.17.12)