An 18th-century gunpowder container made from an oxen horn has been returned to the Detroit-area museum it was stolen from more than 60 years ago.
Recently recovered by the FBI, the Nowlin Powder Horn was turned over during a ceremony at the Dearborn Historical Museum on Tuesday. Authorities tracked the powder horn down in November to an estate auction in Pennsylvania.
The powder horn was made in 1757 in Charlestown, New Hampshire, for Lt. Abel Prindel during the French and Indian War, according to the Detroit Historical Society. Prindel's name, rank, the date of its making and a verse from a poem are engraved on the horn.
The horn was also used in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
The artifact later came into the possession of John Nowlin, an early settler of what is now Dearborn, just southwest of Detroit. “It ended up in Michigan in 1833 with the Nowlin family and was used for bear hunting,” explained Elana Rugh, executive director and CEO of the Detroit Historical Society, during the press conference.
The horn was purchased by the Detroit Historical Society for $75 in 1947 but was stolen 5 years later while on loan to the Dearborn Historical Museum.
Mystery still swirls around the circumstances of its theft in 1952.
"We don't have many clues as to who may have taken it at that time," said Dearborn police Cpl. Stanley Kulikowski. The most recent owner may not have been aware the powder horn was stolen. It was sold for about $13,000 at auction in 1991 to an unknown buyer
Even years after its theft, however, police in Dearborn continued to look into the case and in 2017, enlisted the help of the FBI.
Experts are thrilled by the return of the amazing artifact. “It’s our experience generally that things like this just don’t happen,” said Rugh, during the press conference. “When artifacts go missing, they are seldom, if ever, recovered and the fact that it was recovered intact, unharmed, and can go right back into public viewing for everyone to enjoy is especially incredible.”
“It dates back prior to the birth of this country, it’s very, very old,” said Andrew Kercher, assistant chief curator of the Dearborn Historical Museum. “For it to come back home is really exciting for us here in the museum community.”
The powder horn will be on short-term display through the spring at the Detroit Historical Museum.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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