The copper weather vane that has topped the cupola of Faneuil Hall since 1742 was once stolen in 1974.
When the theft was discovered in January of 1974, it made national headlines. Police first speculated that the criminal may have used a helicopter to steal the weather vane and believed the thief intended to sell it on the black market.
According to an article in The Telegraph newspaper, the police detective in charge of the case, Paul Revere Carroll, a direct descendant of Paul Revere, got a phone call a few days after the theft from Robert Fandel, chief attorney for Plymouth county, who said he could provide Carroll with a piece of the weather vane:
“Carroll met Fandel and other officials that afternoon in Boston’s Park Square. Fandel was carrying a paper bag, containing the weather vane’s spire…He then led police to the rest of the weather vane hidden by rags in the corner of the [Faneuil] tower.”
It was later discovered that the weather vane was stolen by a man who had been arrested shortly after in Abington on a drug charge.
Police learned that the man was a former steeplejack who had previously worked on Faneuil Hall in 1967. Although they didn’t know his exact motives, they speculated that he stole and hid the weather vane to possibly ransom it off. He confessed his crime in an attempt to get plea bargain in his drug case.
The weather vane had been damaged during the theft but it was finally repaired and regilded before it was returned to its perch on top of Faneuil Hall in July of 1974. Workers placed a locking device on the weather vane to prevent future thefts.
Strangely, this was not the first time the weather vane left its perch.
It was briefly knocked down during an earthquake in 1755, then knocked down again in 1889 during a flag lowering on Evacuation Day.
It has also been removed several times for cleaning and repairs. The most recent repair was between the years 1990 and 1992, when the public got a rare up-close look at the weather vane in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts while it was being regilded.
The weather vane, inspired by the grasshopper weather vane on top of the London Royal Exchange, was designed by Shem Downe, an apprentice of Paul Revere, and weighs 38 pounds, measures 52 inches long, has glass eyes, a copper interior and gilded exterior.
Boston Sites & Insights; Susan Wilson; 2003
New York Times; Grasshopper Weather Vane on Faneuil Hall is Stolen; January 6 1974: http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F50C12FF3B59147A93C4A9178AD85F408785F9&scp=1&sq=faneuil%20hall%20weathervane&st=cse
New York Times: Stolen Weather Vane Found at Faneuil Hall; January 11 1974: http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F60E1EF93C5B1A7493C3A8178AD85F408785F9&scp=2&sq=faneuil%20hall%20weathervane&st=cse
The Telegraph; Mystery Covers Recovery of Historic Weathervane; Jan 11 1974: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2209&dat=19740111&id=9p4rAAAAIBAJ&sjid=T_wFAAAAIBAJ&pg=4080,1345819
The Telegraph, Grasshopper Weathervane Returns; July 24, 1974: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2209&dat=19740724&id=Y6ErAAAAIBAJ&sjid=e_wFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5566,3755080