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A rare treasure from South America

Rochester residents were treated to the site of the Crown of the Andes in 1955.

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Security was on hand as the Crown of the Andes was being transferred from a Northwest Airlines flight to a Railway Express Agency truck in November 1955.
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The Northwest Airlines DC-4 landed at Lobb Field at 1:21 p.m. Nov. 11, 1955. On board, along with the typical passengers, was one of the world’s rare treasures, the Crown of the Andes.

The masterpiece was created as a gift of thanks to the Virgin Mary statue in the cathedral at Popayan, Colombia, after a deadly plague bypassed the town in the 1590s. Sculpted from 20-carat Incan gold and inlaid with 453 emeralds with a combined weight of 1,521 carats, the crown weighed 5.3 pounds.

Armed guards escorted the crown from the airport to the Rochester Police Department. Normally the crown was guarded in a bank vault, but the banks were closed for Veterans Day, so it was secured in the department’s safe next to the cheap wallets and rusty pocket knives of jail inmates.

The next day, Rochester citizens were invited to Dayton’s third floor for a free viewing of the Crown of the Andes.

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The Crown of the Andes is being inspected as it is unboxed at Dayton's department store.
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"Lens on History” is a weekly photo feature by Lee Hilgendorf, a volunteer at the History Center of Olmsted County.

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