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The Traveling Toads of Salisbury House

Two of the first things one encounters when entering the Great Hall of Salisbury House is the pair of 18th-century bronze, Japanese toad statues. These oversized garden creatures are guest favorites and have children and adults alike, exclaiming excitement when they see them.

The Des Moines Register article from March 9th, 1966

It is unknown when or through whom Carl Week purchased the toads, they are believed to have entered the Salisbury House collection between 1925 and 1929. Traveling from Asia to America, the Weeks installed the toads outside Salisbury House leading up to the South terrace. The toads stood guard outside for several decades….

Des Moines Tribune article from March 8th, 1966

…That is until one started partaking in nocturnal travels.

In 1954, Carl and Edith Weeks sold Salisbury House and the collection to the Iowa State Education Association. Much remained the same for several years, that was until 1966.

On March 8th of 1966, unknown persons stole the toad to the left of the terrace steps from Salisbury House. The Des Moines Tribune reported on the theft.

Quad City Times article from November 1st, 1966

March 9th, Jessie Schaeffer found the toad abandoned in his residential driveway. Schaeffer turned the traveling statuary over to local police, who saw it safely back to Salisbury House. No information was available at the time as to why of who took the toad.

Iowa City Press Citizen article from October 31st, 1966

Pranksters stole the same toad on Monday, October 31, just seven months after the first theft. The toad was located later the same day on the steps of the Iowa capitol building.

This time the event was reported to be the work of teens making mischief on Halloween. Once again, the toad was returned to Salisbury House and installed on its outdoor pedestal in the South garden.

1967 article from unknown paper
Des Moines Tribune article from October 31st, 1967

After being taken twice in 1966, thieves again took the Salisbury House toad from the terrace on October 31st, 1967. As this was the third abduction in two years, the Iowa State Education Association moved both toads indoors.

As this was the third abduction in two years, the Iowa State Education Association moved both toads indoors. While the toad’s traveling days are over, its many journeys around Des Moines continue to delight. Make sure to stop by soon to see the ‘Traveling Toad of Salisbury House!’

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