Faneuil Hall Weather Vane Stolen in 1974

The copper weather vane that has topped the cupola of Faneuil Hall since 1742 was once stolen in 1974.

When the theft was discovered on January 4, 1974, after the superintendent went to the roof to raise the flag and discovered the weather vane was missing, 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 Fandell, chief attorney for Plymouth county, who said he could provide Carroll with a piece of the weather vane:

“Carroll met Fandell and other officials that afternoon in Boston’s Park Square. Fandell 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 named Frank W. Price, who had been arrested shortly after in Abington on a drug charge, and that Fandell was Price’s attorney.

Police learned that Price 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.

Price confessed his crime in an attempt to get plea bargain in his drug case and made the arrangements to return the weather vane through his attorney.

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.

Firemen washing the weather vane, illustration, circa 1895
Firemen washing the weather vane, illustration, circa 1895

Strangely, this was not the first time the weather vane left its perch.

It was briefly knocked down during an earthquake on November 28, 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 80 pounds, measures four feet in length, has glass eyes, a copper interior and gilded exterior.

Wilson, Susan. Boston Sites & Insights. Beacon Press, 2003
“Grasshopper Weather Vane on Faneuil Hall is Stolen.” New York Times, 6  Jan. 1974,
“Stolen Weather Vane Found at Faneuil Hall.” New York Times, 11 Jan. 1974,
“Mystery Covers Recovery of Historic Weathervane.” The Telegraph, 11 Jan. 1974,
“Grasshopper Weathervane Returns.” The Telegraph, 24  July. 1974,,3755080

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance journalist and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

2 thoughts on “Faneuil Hall Weather Vane Stolen in 1974

  1. Debra (Price) Edwards

    My father was the steeplejack that stole the weather vane. I do see one probable error in the article though. He did take it down and gold leafed it but I believe it was before ’67. We lived in Rockland at the time and I was still in early elementary school. In ’67 I would have been 11 years old. Anyway I will check out the articles you have for that information. I do have the one from NY.

  2. Debra (Price) Edwards

    Got me thinking about this stuff. I did find an article I kept from February 1993. The bottom of the page says it’s from “Where” Boston/Cambridge. The article says it was regilded in ’66. Not a big difference. I’m going of what my mother said about that time and putting pieces together. Thanks for the article. His sister, my Aunt just passed away so this stuff has resurfaced for me.

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