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In the average of the night on Aug. 28, 2005, a brace of bittersweet slippers from the archetypal cine “The Wizard of Oz,” were baseborn from the Judy Garland Building in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

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Twelve years later, the Federal Bureau of Analysis conducted a bite operation–location undisclosed–that captured a brace of size-five women’s aerial heels covered in achromatic red sequins.

As is the case with abounding key backdrop for above motion pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s apparel administration created at atomic seven pairs of Dorothy’s bittersweet slippers during the advance of the movie’s filming. Alone four are accepted to abide today. Replicas of the iconic slippers are rampant, and FBI board were not abiding if the bedeviled shoes were the long-lost pair.

Objects conservator Dawn Wallace uses a Hirox agenda microscope to appraise one of the bittersweet slippers recovered by the FBI. Photo courtesy: Smithsonian Institution

So in July, the FBI headed to the basement of Smithsonian Institution’s National Building of American History to ask scientists to appraise the pilfered brace of pumps. Conveniently, the Smithsonian was wrapping up a two-year attention accomplishment of their slippers, which had been adjourned by a 2016 Kickstarter attack with added than 6,000 donors.

Conservators put the FBI’s slippers through a array of accurate tests. Their conclusion? These weren’t aloof any brace of heels.

Multiple pairs for assorted wears

The four accepted pairs of Dorothy’s slippers attending about identical, but they accept gone on aberrant journeys. In 1940, a 16-year-old Roberta Bauman won one brace in a cine trivia contest. Now in clandestine hands, the brace has not beheld about aback 2000.

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The actual leash went aback into accumulator on the MGM lot. Studio admiral did not anon accede them to be admired afterwards the cine wrapped. None were apparent afresh until 1970, aback Hollywood costumer Kent Warner retrieved a brace for a memorabilia auction.

Merla Banta, Fred Carr and Stephen Hinchliffe bought that brace and eventually donated them to the Smithsonian Institution in 1979. Lovingly alleged “America’s pair” by building staff, those shoes accept been on affectation about consistently anytime since.

The fate of the added two pairs has absorbed “Wizard of Oz” historians for years, said Ryan Lintelman, ball babysitter at the National Building of American History.

“The counterfeit adventure is that [Warner originally] begin upwards of six pairs of shoes, and again he brought out a brace and told the bodies acclimation the auction, ‘These are the bittersweet slippers,’” Lintelman said. “The blow of them array of aished into the abyss.”

In 2012, benefactors led by amateur Leonardo DeCaprio bought one of those final pairs at auction. Accepted by Oz admirers as the “witch’s shoes,” these bittersweet slippers are in bigger action than the others. Abounding experts accept this brace was acclimated in close-up shots — like on the Wicked Witch of the East’s anxiety afterwards she was ashamed by Dorothy’s tornado-spun house. The Academy Building of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles affairs to affectation them afterwards its architecture finishes in 2019.

Memorabilia beneficiary Michael Shaw bought the fourth accepted brace of bittersweet slippers from Warner in 1970 for $2,000, which were on affectation at the Judy Garland Building — until they were snatched after so abundant as a fingerprint larboard behind. Alone a audible applique remained.

Will the absolute bittersweet slippers amuse angle up?

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An accurate brace of bittersweet slippers from the “Wizard of Oz” are now account millions of dollars. But replicas are accepted due to the movie’s popularity, Lintelman said. Abounding hopeful owners about-face to Smithsonian conservators acquisitive their shoes bout the brace on affectation at the National Building of American History. Most of the time, the conservators can acquaint with aloof a photograph that the replicas are not authentic.

“We’ve had to breach some hearts over the years unfortunately,” Lintelman said of the fakes. There are admonition signs. Sequins on replica shoes are generally faceted rather than flat, for example. Or shoe aggregation logos ability be placed on t tags bought from eBay rather than arresting in leather.

Over a year and a half, Smithsonian’s attention aggregation of 15 experts airtight added than 300 photographs and diminutive images of the museum’s shoes. They additionally active nine analytic techniques — like polarized ablaze microscopy and scanning electron microscopy — to analyze their actual composition.

Objects conservator Dawn Wallace acclimated tweezers to move sequins on the museum’s brace of bittersweet slippers during the attention process. The metal instruments were covered in teflon band to anticipate abrading to the sequins’ surfaces. Video by: Smithsonian Institution

That abundance of abstracts accepted advantageous aback the FBI arrived, said Dawn Wallace, an altar conservator at the National Building of American History.

“Unlike the phasers in Star Trek, you can’t point an apparatus at annihilation and accept it acquaint you what it is,” she said. “You consistently accept to attending at the data, apperceive what you’re attractive for and again how that fits into your band-aid to actuate anything.”

Having spent added than 200 hours analytical and charwoman the museum’s brace of heels, Wallace is one of the few bodies in the apple able to analyze bittersweet slippers.

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The absolute pairs?

The FBI’s sequin-covered heels absolutely looked the allotment to Wallace and her aide Richard Barden, the museum’s canning casework manager, on aboriginal impression. Dividing the brace of shoes amid two microscopes, the two conservators bound accepted the constructions were similar.

“Within the aboriginal hour, we were appealing assertive that yes, these are constant with the shoes that we have,” Wallace said.

Both sets were covering pumps bogus by Innes Shoe Company. Both had been absolute red and overlaid with red cobweb covered in hand-stitched sequins. Anniversary set additionally had red acrylic on the basal and pieces of orange-red acquainted alert to their soles — a prop design, the conservators believe, was acclimated to conceal complete during ball sequences.

Gwenaelle Kavich, a Smithsonian attention scientist, aing the investigation. During the Kickstarter-funded effort, she was amenable for allegory abounding of the fibers, fabrics and plastics anchored in the shoes. Her apparatus of best was a handheld X-ray fluorescence apparatus that looks like a space-age blowdryer.

“If you bethink in aerial academy chemistry, all atoms accept electron shells — one has two electrons, the aing has six and so on,” Wallace explained. “The X-ray excites the electrons and they get bounced off. Added electrons move in and that activity accustomed off is accurate for every element.”

The sequins on all four shoes independent a band of argent to accord them their shine. Modern sequins use aluminum.

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The aggregation knows at what activity this happens for anniversary element, so they can analyze chemicals like copper, zinc or brass.

Like the Smithsonian’s bittersweet slippers, the FBI’s recovered brace had assumption in the prongs that captivated bottle chaplet to the shoes’ bows. Red acrylic on both pairs independent cadmium, a cancer-causing aspect acclimated in the 1930’s to accommodate a red tone, which has aback been taken out of production. The sequins on all four shoes independent a band of argent to accord them their shine. Modern sequins use aluminum.

Wallace and Kavich additionally acclimated Fourier Transform Bittersweet Spectroscopy — a address that makes a structural fingerprint from an bittersweet browse — to actuate the FBI’s slippers acclimated a affection cilia to attach sequins constant with the museum’s pair.

Wallace’s eureka moment came aback she spotted red acrylic on some chaplet on the FBI’s slippers. The Smithsonian’s brace of shoes action a accumulating of red bottle chaplet — but a few are absolutely bright chaplet corrective red to match. It was a accepted address costumers acclimated on cine sets at the time.

The Smithsonian’s bittersweet slippers and the brace recovered by the FBI both had abstruse adjustment jobs to chaplet on their bows. Bright bottle chaplet covered in red acrylic (circled actuality on one of the museum’s slippers) had replaced the aboriginal red bottle beads. Photo courtesy: Smithsonian Institution

“When attractive at the brace that the FBI brought over, I begin a bean on their larboard shoe that was additionally bright and it was corrective red. It’s a actual altered feature. It’s never been published. It’s never been publicized,” Wallace said. “It’s one of those things to area I array of stood up beeline but still approved to break professionally cool.”

Sister slippers

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Another ailing accepted fact: The Smithsonian’s bittersweet slippers are not identical shoes. Their sizes alter — 5C and 5BC — and experts accept the shoes appear from two abstracted sets of aerial heels. The bows backpack hardly allegory shapes, the heel grips are audible shapes and the insoles are fabricated from altered types of leather. The appropriate shoe is inscribed with “#1 Judy Garland”, while “#6 Judy Garland” marks the left. Those labels helped clue the alone pairs on set. The Academy’s pair, for example, are both labeled #7 Judy Garland.

The scientists anon accepted that the FBI’s slippers were alternate shoes of the Smithsonian’s — reuniting the aboriginal pairs for the aboriginal time aback 1970. Even hexagonal, faceted chaplet alone apparent on the Smithsonian’s larboard shoe akin chaplet on the FBI’s appropriate shoe.

The Smithsonian’s bittersweet slippers are altered pair. Two analogous pairs of shoes can be created by swapping the larboard Smithsonian slipper with the larboard slipper of the FBI’s brace and carnality versa. Photo courtesy: Smithsonian Institution

Wallace is now believed to be one of four bodies who accept alone advised three of the four accepted pairs of bittersweet slippers.

“It was a absolutely agitative and actual aerial adrenaline for a day and a half,” Wallace said. “Working in the building field, it was about a little bit of an Indiana Jones moment alive that we could advice in the accretion of these iconic items aback to the public.”

While the Smithsonian Institution does not clearly accredit objects, their assay provided abundant affirmation for the FBI. On Sept. 4, the bureau’s Minneapolis Division appear the accretion of the bittersweet slippers baseborn from the Judy Garland building in 2005.

“From the outset, our top antecedence was the safe accretion of the slippers,” Special Agent Christopher Dudley, who led the investigation, said in a columnist release. “We are still alive to ensure that we accept articular all parties complex in both the antecedent annexation and the added contempo extortion attack for their return.”

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The recovered brace of bittersweet slippers charcoal in FBI aegis awaiting the advancing investigation.

But for the Smithsonian’s bittersweet slippers, there’s no abode like home. The brace went aback on affectation at the National Building of American History Friday in their own custom-made, environmentally controlled affectation case.

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