$1,000 reward offered for stolen 1795 Spanish cannon

On the night of November 2, a Spanish bronze cannon from 1795 was stolen from a suburban Detroit business and its owner is offering a $1,000 reward for any information leading to its recovery. Matt Switlik, cannon collector and expert on historic field artillery, had brought the cannon to the Edston Plastic Company in Romulus, Michigan, to have a plastic replica made for a museum to use as a donation container.

The thieves were looking for a far more pedestrian haul of easily sold power tools and scrap metal. They made off with 20 of the former and several 200-pound boxes of aluminum. The cannon was hidden in the back under some racks and a coffin blanket. The thieves stumbled on it entirely by accident when they rolled out a coil of wire.

The cannon was cast in Seville in 1795. The crest of King Charles IV of Spain is engraved on it, as is the date, a serial number of 3610 and markings indicating it was made from copper from Mexico and from the Rio Tinto government mines in southwestern Spain. The 2.6 inch caliber weapon is 42 inches long, weighs 225 pounds.

Matt Switlik purchased it as part of a matched pair in 1974 from Inez Bandholtz, the widow of Maj. Gen. Harry Hill Bandholtz who acquired the cannons in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War and brought them back to Michigan when he retired from the Army after World War I.

The cannon is far too identifiable to be sold to collectors, so if the thieves do anything, they’ll try to sell it for scrap. The $1000 reward is double what they would get for the scrap value of the copper alone.

Switlik, a historian who collects cannons, paid $1,000 for it nearly four decades ago and now values it at about $12,000. He’s getting word out that his cannon was stolen to collectors across the country and sent an e-mail to 600 people Tuesday.

“As a stolen piece, it’s not worth anything,” said Forrest Taylor, owner of www.cannonsonline.com based in Maryland. Taylor buys, sells and reproduces cannons and said collectors will know Switlik’s cannon was stolen if they come across it.

Taylor also said he believes that the cannon’s actual value may be closer to $20,000.[…]

“I’d sure like my cannon back,” Switlik said. “The other one is lonesome.”

The Romulus police are investigating leads from the crime scene and looking for surveillance video any neighboring business might have. Anyone with information about the cannon should contact the Romulus Police Department at (734) 941-8400.