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A ‘hello' to arms: Stolen musket returned, joins collection at the Museum of the American Revolution

July 1, 2024 | In the Press

From NBC Philadelphia (https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/hello-to-arms-stolen-musket-returned-museum-american-revolution/3900490/)

"Hello my friend."

That's what Scott Stephenson, the president and CEO of Philadelphia's Museum of the American Revolution, whispered as a rare musket was brought into his view on Monday morning.

His remark was made during an event to celebrate the return of a Revolutionary War musket that was stolen nearly 60 years ago and will now be put on display for the public to see at the Museum of the American Revolution.

"I'm incredibly excited and honored to be receiving this firearm, which was stolen from our predecessor, the Valley Forge historical Society, in 1968," he said.

In fact, Stephenson said that he remembers, as a boy, reading about the American Revolution and seeing photos of this exact firearm in his youth.

As retold by Stephenson, the musket -- which he said was not the work of one manufacturer, but was instead an "amalgamation of parts" put together by a Revolutionary War soldier -- was stolen from the Valley Forge Historical Society in 1968.

"They were cobbling together what they can to get ready for this military conflict," Stephenson explained. "This was a very effective, modern military technology circa 1774."

The gun was stolen along with more than 30 other items from the Valley Forge Historical Society -- the predecessor of the Museum of the American Revolution -- and was sought for nearly 60 years, until a moment of serendipity brought it back into the hands of local officials.

"The assumption was that these things were long gone, never to be seen again," said Stephenson.

However, recently the FBI and local law enforcement officials released a list of items important to American history that were sought in cold case robberies.

That list made its way into the hands of Joel Bohy, an appraiser on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow for arms and military items.

He remembered seeing a firearm like one described in the list at an antique gun show just a few weeks before he saw the list of items that were still being sought.

"The first gun on the list turned out to be this gun," Bohy said.

Stephenson said that the owner seemed happy to return the item.

"The owner, who had purchased it in the 1960s, probably shortly after the theft, turned it over. He said 'oh my gosh, I had no idea'," Stephenson said. "So, it was just amazing how it all came together."

Chubb, an insurance group, paid a claim on the firearm after the burglary. And, once the weapon was recovered, the company gifted it to the museum.

For Upper Merion Township Police Department Detective Brendan Dougherty, the effort was the culmination of 15 years of work. He said that his office reopened the case on the 1968 thefts from the Valley Forge Historical Society back in 2009 and they have been trying to recover items lost in that case ever since.

"This was something stolen from Montgomery County. It was something stolen locally," Dougherty said. "So, it's really, really special that something stolen from Valley Forge 56 years ago is back at home for us all to look at."

And now, just in time for Independence Day, the firearm will be placed on display at the Museum of the American Revolution.

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