In 1937, 27 years after Mark Twain’s death, a plaque was commissioned by the author’s daughter Clara to honor the memory of her father. On January 2, a man named Daniel M. Ruland stole the memento, only to be later caught and charged with misdemeanor theft. Now, police say they have the plate and it’s in good condition.
“When I came in Jan. 2 and was notified it was missing, it was a heck of a way to start the new year,” Woodlawn Cemetery Superintendent Bryce Cuyle said to the Star Gazette. “I was elated they had found it.”
Woodlawn Cemetery is located in Elmira, New York, where Mark Twain spent his summers and wrote his famous works. Cindy Hayden maintained the cemetery plot with Twain’s distant relative Irene Langdon, who was married to the deceased Jervis Langdon Jr., the great-grandson of the father of Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia Langdon.
Unfortunately, Irene passed away about the the time the face plate was taken.
“Irene passed away the same week it (plaque) was stolen. She was such a lovely, vibrant person. She was 92.”
Irene, who was in the hospital at the time, was never informed of the robbery.
Mark Twain was a pen name; the author’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He was a riverboat captain, where the call “Mark Twain” meant the river was safe for two fathoms (12 feet) beneath. His monument, where the plaque had been attached, was built 12 feet tall in remembrance of Clemens’ time on the river.
As for the plate’s alleged thief, Ruland, he faces charges of criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree and petit larceny, both misdemeanors. Police may make additional charges based on the appraised value of the plaque. According to the Los Angeles Time, police went to Ruland’s residence after receiving a tip. They made contact with the occupants of a vehicle leaving Ruland’s driveway, when they found the plaque located inside.
The 12-by-12-inch bronze likeness of the author was recovered in good condition according to police.
Capt. Joseph “Joe” Kane said Monday, “I didn’t see it beforehand. It may be bent slightly.”
Hayden believed the plaque would likely be damaged, if it was ever found at all, especially since it was attached to the granite monument with two steel bolts.
Another face plate depicting Clara’s husband and concert pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch attached to the Mark Twain memorial site was left completely untouched in the robbery.
Now, plans are underway to reattach the Mark Twain plaque, as well as hold services for Irene Langdon.
[Image via Star Gazette]