Nation: The Purloined Plaques

The impulse to deface public monuments is older than Kilroy. Lately, however, some Americans seem to be seized by a new urge to take a piece of history home with them. In Boston, about 20 plaques have disappeared from some of the nation's oldest historical landmarks—among them Benjamin Franklin's birthplace on Milk Street.

In Baltimore, there was even more melancholy vandalism. Upon a recent midnight dreary, someone entered the Westminster Presbyterian Church graveyard and pried an 18-in. circular bronze medallion sculpture of Edgar Allan Poe's head from the shaft marking his grave. Stéphane Mallarmé was being too optimistic when he wrote The...

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