Powder horn stolen from museum in 1952 returned

DEARBORN, Mich (AP) – An oxen gunpowder container made in 1757 and stolen more than 60 years ago from a Detroit-area museum has been returned.

The FBI turned the Nowlin Powder Horn over on Tuesday during a ceremony at the Dearborn Historical Museum. Authorities tracked the powder horn down in November to an estate auction in Pennsylvania.

It’s not known who originally took the artefact in 1952 and the most recent owner may not have been aware it was stolen.

It was sold for about USD13,000 at auction in 1991 to an unknown buyer.

“We got it off the auction block before it went up for auction again,” said Jake Archer, special agent with the FBI’s Art Crime Team in Philadelphia.

FBI special agent Jake Archer of the FBI Art Crime team holds a powder horn during a news conference at the Dearborn Historical Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. – AP

The powder horn was made in Charlestown, New Hampshire, for Lieutenant 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.

It later came into the possession of John Nowlin, an early settler of what is now Dearborn, just southwest of Detroit. The Nowlin family travelled in 1833 to Detroit from their homestead in New York.

The horn was handed down through generations of the Nowlin family and sold in 1947 for USD75 to the Detroit Historical Museum.

The Detroit Historical Society operates that museum and loaned it to the Dearborn museum for inclusion in an exhibit called “Saga of a Settler.”

“We don’t have many clues as to who may have taken it at that time,” said Dearborn police Corporal Stanley Kulikowski.

Even years after its theft, police in Dearborn continued to look into the case and in 2017 enlisted the help of the FBI.