Desperately Seeking Lincoln

Norwich could offer reward for pilfered painting of Abraham Lincoln

Who stole Abraham Lincoln from Norwich City Hall 15 years ago?

Someone pilfered the large portrait from the entrance of City Hall in 1994, cutting it from its large Victorian frame in the middle of the night.

The 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth is on Feb. 12 and Norwich officials are thinking about offering a $1,500 reward for information about the theft. The painting is worth more than $10,000 and has immense civic value, they said.

Whether Norwich does offer cash for info on the art theft will be decided Monday, when Norwich aldermen vote on a resolution.

Lincoln visited Norwich in March 1860 to help campaign for a Connecticut governor's re-election bid.

The painting is believed to have been made by John Denison Crocker, who lived in Norwich most of his life.

"It's important to get it back," Norwich Historian Dale Plummer said. "It's an important work of art by an important local artist. At the same time it celebrates and commemorates the city's association with Lincoln.

Detectives were assigned the case when Lincoln’s likeness went missing, but police came up empty with every lead they followed.

Norwich Police Sgt. Patrick Daley was a patrolman at the time of the Lincoln portrait theft.
But about six months ago, Daley approached Norwich police officer Steven Lamantini.

"He came to me and said, 'Let's start working again on the Lincoln caper,"' Lamantini said.

One challenge investigators found was that they could not find old pictures of the portrait.

A historian has come to the rescue. William Hosley had a copy and had digitized it, along with many others in his collection.

Hosley, director of the New Haven Museum, said he had taken scores of pictures from various trips to historical sites across Connecticut over the years and recently came across the Lincoln photo. He e-mailed it to Plummer.

One thing that was so amazing about the portrait is the frame, Hosley said. The thief was "dumb" to take the picture but not the frame, because the frame would be worth even more money than the portrait, he said.

The painting likely was done about 20 years after Lincoln died and was based on other images of the president, while items such as a desk and writing pen were added for effect.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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