One of Kasauli’s priceless heritage items has gone missing and an online hunt has been launched by netizens to locate and notify potential overseas auction houses of the theft.
For years people walking down the Lower Mall road had taken to glancing casually and nonchalantly at the large ‘Stephens’ Inks’ thermometer hanging outside the Alasia Hotel to know the temperature. However, unnoticed by many, the thermometer was stolen a year and a half ago and its absence was realized by a Kasauli resident just days ago.
Ashwini Kumar, who remains in Chandigarh but has had a lifelong association with the hill station of Kasauli and its
heritage, has now launched an online quest to find out where the more than 100-year-old artifact may have landed after it was stolen. He suspects he might end up at an overseas auction house where he will fetch a handsome price. He posted a call on his “Kasauli Hills” Facebook page asking for the special thermometer to be spotted.
“In the past two months, I had observed that the large metal and glass thermometer was no longer displayed on the wall of the Alasia Hotel. However, I thought maybe it was gone for repairs or left to get a new paint job. A few days ago, I decided to speak to the hotel management about it and I was shocked to learn that it had been stolen several months ago,” says Ashwini.
Devendra Kumar, the manager of the Alasia Hotel, a property whose origins date back to the days of the British Raj, explains that the theft took place on the night of December 26, 2020. the hotel was often not in a fully functional state. CCTV cameras were not functional. The night the theft took place, there were guests at the hotel,” he said.
The hotel manager suspects the hand of some locals in the theft. “Guests have told me that the thermometer could fetch thousands of dollars at auction. It was in perfect working order and we handled it with great care lest it be damaged,” he says.
According to information shared online by Jason Clark Antiques, a UK-based antique instrument dealer, the Stephens ink sign that says “Stephens ink for all temperatures” has a Fahrenheit scale that reads from 0 at 140 and has a huge alcohol-filled thermometer running. by a central groove.
“Stephens inks were invented in 1832 by British physician Henry Stephens. In the early 20th century, Stephens’ inks were used on Scott’s ill-fated mission to the South Pole. It was also used to sign the Treaty of Versailles which officially ended hostilities in World War I,” explains Jason Clark Antiques on its website.
According to information available online, these signs are some of the most collectible of all tin advertising signs and these giant thermometers have also been featured in movies.
According to Ashwini, the thermometer was installed in 1920 in Kasauli when the Alasia Hotel building was operated as a bank. “The property was purchased by a Mr. Tidwell in 1938 and converted into a hotel in 1941. It is named after Mary Peal Alasia, an associate of Tidwell, who died in 1940 in Kasauli,” he says.
Stephens advertising thermometers have been spotted and photographed on buildings as far afield as Istanbul, Aleppo, Syria, a train station in Peru and the Settlers’ Museum in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Unfortunately, he will no longer be spotted and photographed in Kasauli unless the online hunt launched by Ashwini and his fellow Kasauli aficionados is successful.