Historic penknife lifted from Bishop White House in Philadelphia

    A penknife that belonged to the first bishop of the Episcopal Church of America has been stolen. The artifact was taken from the historic home of Bishop William White in Old City Philadelphia in January.

    Because the house on Walnut Street is part of the National Park Service, the theft is being treated as a federal crime.

    The ivory-handled pocketknife is only about four inches long, making it easily — well, pocketed.

    Investigators have figured out it was stolen on Jan. 7, probably during a guided tour. There is no evidence of a break-in, nor is anything else missing.

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    The knife had been displayed out in the open.

    “It’s a balance you have to play between providing an excellent visitor service — people can see these items lying out where the bishop would have used it,” said Jane Cowley of Independence National Historic Park. “Putting things in locked display cases gives a very different experience, even though it may provide different advantages in terms of security.”

    The Most Rev. William White was named bishop in 1789. He was the only Episcopal cleric in Pennsylvania who backed the American Revolution. Most Anglican religious leaders were loyal to the King.

    Pending the investigation, authorities will not disclose the worth of the missing penknife.

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