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In the Good Old Days Antiques Corner This Week in History
This Week in History

A Jewelry Heist, an Assassination Attempt, and an Unsinkable Musical

-- On Oct. 29, 1964: A jewel heist occurred at the American Museum of National History in New York City. Allan Kuhn and Jack Murphy broke into the museum and stole several jewels while Roger Clark acted as lookout. An alarm protecting the jewels had a dead battery on the night of the theft. The Star of India, Midnight Star, DeLong Star Ruby and the Eagle Diamond were among the stolen jewels. Kuhn, Murphy and Clark were arrested two days after the break-in. Kuhn would lead authorities to Miami where nine of the stolen gems were recovered, including the sapphire Star of India and the black star sapphire Midnight Star. The DeLong Star Ruby was not recovered at that time but was recovered in 1965 after it was ransomed for $25,000. The Eagle Diamond was never recovered and was believed to have been cut into smaller stones. Kuhn, Murphy and Clark were sentenced on April 16, 1965, to three years in prison.

-- On Nov. 1, 1950: Two men attempted to assassinate President Truman at Blair House. Truman was living there while the White House was undergoing an extensive renovation. Griselio Torresola and Oscar Collazo approached Blair House and opened fire. Collazo wounded Officer Donald Birdzell but was stopped on the entrance steps when he was shot by Secret Service agent Vincent Mroz. Meanwhile, Torresola continued shooting and shot Officer Leslie Coffelt several times. Officer Joseph Downs was also shot while protecting the president, but both Downs and Birdzell survived. Torresola was shot and killed instantly by Coffelt though he was severely wounded by multiple gunshots and would himself die a few hours later. President Truman was unharmed during the attack and continued with his scheduled appointments that day. On the gate at Blair House is a plaque to commemorate Leslie Coffelt for his "loyalty, bravery and heroism beyond the call of duty."

-- On Nov. 3, 1960: The musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown opened on Broadway. The musical is a fictional account loosely based on the life of a survivor of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. Tammy Grimes won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Molly Brown in the Broadway production. In the musical, Molly meets Johnny "Leadville" Brown who sells a silver mine and makes a lot of money. The couple gets married and uses their money to attend high-class social events. Molly socializes in Europe while Johnny is back in Colorado. When Molly gets bored with Europe, she sails home aboard the Titanic but is able to survive the disaster. The Unsinkable Molly Brown was later made into a 1964 film starring Debbie Reynolds. Both the musical and film were very loosely based on the real-life socialite Margaret Tobin Brown. Brown was a Titanic survivor who helped others evacuate the sinking ship before she boarded a lifeboat. She was believed to have tried to get the lifeboat to return and look for survivors. Brown was also known for raising funds for the second- and third-class passengers who survived the disaster.

-- Compiled by M. Moeller

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