March 14, 2023
Fifty historical artifacts from Pennsylvania and the wider eastern U.S. were returned to their institutions on Monday decades after being stolen.
During the repatriation ceremony, which was held at the Museum of the American Revolution, the FBI’s Art Crime Team and law enforcement partners unveiled the items — mostly firearms, some dating as far back as the French and Indian War — which had been taken in the 1970s. The artifacts belonged to 17 museums and historical societies across five states.
“Today’s repatriation has been a long time coming, with the FBI and our law enforcement partners working together toward this day for years,” said Jacqueline Maguire, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Division. “These are artifacts that helped write our national story, with some even predating the country’s birth, and their long absence from public view — hidden away where no one could see or learn from them — was a loss both to society and the historic record.”
Among the artifacts repatriated were an 1847 Mississippi rifle stolen from a Mississippi museum, a World War II battlefield pickup pistol stolen from the U.S. Army War College Museum, a Colt Whitneyville Walker revolver stolen from the Connecticut State Library, an Omar Bradley presentation pistol stolen from the U.S. Army War College Museum and a French and Indian War-era powder horn stolen from a Massachusetts museum.
There were also a number of 18th century English and Scottish pistols stolen from the Valley Forge Historical Society Museum and 19th century Pennsylvania rifles from various Pennsylvania museums.
The mission to recover the artifacts began back in 2009 when Upper Merion Township detectives and the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office reopened a cold case investigation, NBC10 reported. Authorities wanted to follow up on the thefts of valuable items from the Valley Forge Historical Society Museum and other museums.
After a confidential source turned over several antique firearms believed to have been stolen from museums in Pennsylvania, investigators were eventually led to the Newark, Delaware home of antique dealer Michael Corbett, where stolen antique firearms and other artifacts were discovered.
Corbett was indicted in December 2021 by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for possession of the stolen firearms and other items taken from museums in the '70s.
In August 2022, Corbett pleaded guilty to the possession of stolen items transported across states. Under his plea agreement, he turned over additional stolen firearms he had acquired to the government.
The Museum of the American Revolution has previously held two other repatriation ceremonies to return stolen artifacts, in 2021 and 2019. The artifacts in both ceremonies were also mostly firearms, including a Revolutionary War-era rifle.