>MeFi). The ducks were probably sold for scrap; many Danes are just sick of the Little Mermaid ever since the Disney movie. But statues can be kidnapped out of a misguided sense of love. For years, students at Amherst tried to steal (and display to rival classes without having it stolen in turn) Sabrina, a statue of a nymph. No less a law-abiding type than Justice Harlan Stone took part in the kidnapping. (The Harvard Lampoon‘s ibis statue has been the target of similar crimes.) Fortunately, Mr. Potatohead has been found abandoned in a field. One can only hope that he had adventures while he was gone.

In 1950, a man named George Lerner invented a toy. His brainstorm was a set of comical pin-backed noses, mouths, and hairpieces. Given a set of the pushpins, Lerner reasoned, children could amuse themselves for hours with only a starchy vegetable into which to jam the things. Two years later, Lerner and a small Rhode Island toy company bought back the rights to the toy from the cereal company then manufacturing it as a premium. Later, the toy company realized that actual potatoes got kind of gross after you let kids play with them for a couple days and switched to plastic; four decades later, Mr. Potatohead is still going strong. Mr. Potatohead was the first major success for the Hassenfeld Brothers (his grin is part of the company’s logo); today Hasbro is America’s second largest toy company, the corporate parent of Milton Bradley, TSR, and Tonka. The Pawtucket-based company is also one of the largest in Rhode Island, and when the state decided that it would commission some themed public art, Mr. Potatohead was a natural choice. Rhode Island was following in the path of cities large (Chicago’s cows) and small (Bloomington’s corn) and everywhere in-between in trying to attract some tourist attention with a series of identically shaped, differently decorated statues placed throughout the city. Statues of Rich Uncle Moneybags painted a festive gold or Serpentor wearing a rain slicker probably seemed like a bad idea, so the project’s planners chose the unthreatening and iconinc Mr. Potatohead. Except for some complaints that the statues were ugly (and one accusation about a supposedly racist, darkskinned Potatohead), the program went smoothly enough. The program ran throughout 2000; eventually, most of the six-foot-high statues were donated to a charity auction. Last week, one of the statues was stolen. People do all kinds of terrible things to public statues; three beloved Muscovite ducks were stolen in 1999, and last month someone dynamited Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid (link via MeFi). The ducks were probably sold for scrap; many Danes are just sick of the Little Mermaid ever since the Disney movie. But statues can be kidnapped out of a misguided sense of love. For years, students at Amherst tried to steal (and display to rival classes without having it stolen in turn) Sabrina, a statue of a nymph. No less a law-abiding type than Justice Harlan Stone took part in the kidnapping. (The Harvard Lampoon‘s ibis statue has been the target of similar crimes.) Fortunately, Mr. Potatohead has been found abandoned in a field. One can only hope that he had adventures while he was gone.