ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. – An important artifact believed to have been lost for a century has been found.

Following World War I, the War Department bought Scott Field and converted it into a lighter-than-air (dirigibles, blimps, air balloons) station in 1921. As such, the field needed hangars for long-term housing of aircraft and maintenance.

Construction began on the Scott Field Airship Hangar (Bldg. 75) in 1922 but the groundbreaking itself happened in 1921. A golden shovel was used in the ceremony. Shortly thereafter, the shovel vanished from the Wing Headquarters and it slipped into memory.

The hangar itself was completed in January 1923 and became the second-largest hangar in the United States behind only Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey, the site of the Hindenburg disaster.

Just a few weeks ago, the golden shovel was discovered in a small antique shop in Bourbon, Missouri. Scott Air Force Base was notified of the shovel’s whereabouts and the shovel was purchased so it could be returned to the base.

At the moment, the shovel is being added to the collection and catalogue of the National Museum of the United States Air Force near Dayton, Ohio. From there, it will be on permanent loan to Scott Air Force Base.

A spokesperson for SAFB said the plan is to construct a wall-mounted case so the shovel can be safely displayed at the base and its story told.