Long missing WWI gas mask returned to State Museum; Stolen from an exhibit at the Wyoming State Capitol building in 1920

Weapons first used in anger during the First World War include, chemical weapons and associated protective gear, armored tanks, aircraft and others.

WYOMING — A World War I gas mask, missing for nearly 100 years, has been returned to the Wyoming State Museum. It was found again by pure chance.

The mask, and hundreds other World War I trophies, were brought to the country by Sgt. Robert O. Pennewill after his tour in Europe. In 1919 the collection was purchased by William R. Coe, a famous entrepreneur and philanthropist with strong interest in Americana memorabilia and the American West. Coe in turn donated the Pennewill collection to the State of Wyoming believing it had a great educational value.

Unfortunately, many artifacts from this important collection were stolen from an exhibit at the Wyoming State Capitol in 1920 and their trail had been lost.

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Earlier this year the Wyoming State Museum was notified by a researcher about a mask being sold online that matched the description of the stolen item. The museum immediately contacted the seller, Presidential Pawn shop in Rapid City, S.D., and the mask was removed from auction.

Presidential Pawn purchased the mask from a customer, who acquired it at a gun show. Once it was confirmed that the mask was indeed a part of the Pennewill Collection, the shop graciously donated the mask back to the museum where it is currently on display.

The Wyoming State Museum is located at 2301 Central Avenue in Cheyenne. Hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.