The Traveling Toad 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.

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….

…That is until one started partaking in nocturnal travels.

Des Moines Register article from August 18th, 1957

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.

Des Moines Tribune article from March 8th, 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.

The Des Moines Register article from March 9th, 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.

Quad City Times article from November 1st, 1966

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.

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.

1967 article from unknown paper

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!’

About salisbury4025
Salisbury House was built in the 1920s by cosmetics magnate Carl Weeks and his wife Edith. The home was modeled after the King's House in Salisbury, England, and contains authentic 16th century English oak woodwork, English flintwork and rafters that date back to the time of Shakespeare. Called a "national treasure," Salisbury house is graced with the family's original collection of original artworks, tapestries and antique furnishings.

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