Missouri History Museum employees were left scratching their heads on Monday when a routine sweep revealed that two of the old-ass racism crowns in its collection have gone missing.
The two Veiled Prophet Ball tiaras, dating back to 1894 and 1896, have been part of the museum's collection since the '60s and were put on display in 2005 as part of the "Seeking St. Louis" exhibit on the second floor, Fox 2 reports.
According to a statement from the museum, employees regularly check the galleries for missing items.
"Our resource protection and collections teams are working with the St. Louis police department," the statement reads in part. "All evidence including security footage has been turned over to law enforcement."
Museum spokeswoman Leigh Walters tells the Post-Dispatch
that a theft from the museum is very unusual — the last time anything was stolen, she says, was seventeen years ago. "This is not typical," Walters says.
The Veiled Prophet Ball first rolled out in 1878, only thirteen years after slavery was abolished in the United States. It was founded by a former Confederate soldier in response to the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, in which an unusual number of African Americans participated. The ball was formed as a secret society of prominent St. Louis men, who took to dressing up in outfits that look pretty much exactly like those worn by Klan members
At their annual ball, each year's chosen Veiled Prophet — a secretive post — would award tiaras to the most racist women they could find (probably). Those silver and gold, gem-covered crowns would then become family heirlooms, presumably until some mortified member of said family came upon them and decided to donate them to a museum.
By the '60s the Veiled Prophet Ball, Parade and Fair — institutionalized as tradition in St. Louis — became the subjects of civil rights protests (likely not coincidentally, this is also when the tiaras came into the History Museum's possession). The most dramatic event in the ball's history, perhaps, came in 1972, when activist Gena Scott rappelled down a cable into the Kiel Auditorium, where the ball was being held, and unmasked that year's Veiled Prophet, who turned out to be Monsanto executive vice president Tom K. Smith. Scott's car was reportedly bombed near her apartment shortly afterward.
The Veiled Prophet Organization didn't admit its first black members until 1979. The Veiled Prophet Fair was renamed Fair St. Louis in 1992. The Veiled Prophet Ball continues to be held to this day.
Missouri History Museum officials ask that anyone with knowledge as to the whereabouts of their old-ass racism crowns contact the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
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