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Man Arrested for Stealing Plaque From Mark Twain's Grave

Flickr Creative Commons
The likeness of Mark Twain (top) will be returned to the monument where he is buried. The plaque on the bottom is of the author's son-in-law.
"There has been vandalism in the cemetery over the years, but there has never been any at the Twain site, which is a revered site."
Jim Hare

Officials in Elmira, New York have arrested a man they say stole a plaque of Mark Twain's likeness from the famous author's gravesite. Daniel Ruland, 32, is accused of stealing the 17-by-170inch plaque from the granite monument at the Woodlawn Cemetery.

Elmira historian Diane Janowski told the Star Gazette the plaque was made and installed by local artist Emfred Anderson in 1937. "I guess we were lucky no one touched it for so long," she told the newspaper.

The plaque was reported stolen on January 2, and it was recovered over the weekend. Police were tipped off on Friday night and recovered the item from a vehicle leaving Ruland's residence.

Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, wrote his most famous works including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court were written in Hartford, Connecticut. 

Clemens is buried in Elmira, which is where his wife Olivia Langdon was from. Plans were in the works for a replacement plaque in the event that the original could not be found.

On the organization's Facebook page, the Friends of Woodlawn Cemetery expressed their gratitude to the officials who recovered the plaque. One member of that organization, Jim Hare previously told the Star Gazette that he didn't think it was random vandalism. "There has been vandalism in the cemetery over the years, but there has never been any at the Twain site, which is a revered site," said Hare. "Desecration of any grave is a horrible thing for people to do.

Ruland was sent to Chemung County Jail on $600 bond. He did not make comments to local media as he left Elmira City Court Tuesday afternoon.

Twain will be celebrated in Hartford next week, when Hal Halbrook returns to the white suit to perform "Mark Twain Tonight" at the Bushnell.

Holbrook spoke to WNPR's Colin McEnroe earlier this month:

The actor will perform his one-man act on his 90th birthday with proceeds going to the Mark Twain House.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.

Tucker Ives is WNPR's morning news producer.

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