NORWICH, Conn. (AP) – Norwich officials are renewing the search for whoever stole a large portrait of Abraham Lincoln from the entrance of Norwich City Hall about 15 years ago.

The picture has been missing since 1994, when someone cut it from its large Victorian frame and left with it in the middle of the night.

Norwich officials are considering offering a $1,500 reward for information about the theft, saying the painting is worth more than $10,000 and has immense civic value.

The renewed push for answers comes as the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth approaches on Feb. 12.

Norwich aldermen are scheduled to vote Monday on a resolution that offers the reward and touts the city’s affection for Lincoln, who visited the city 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.

“The theft of the painting was really a crime against the present and future citizens of Norwich. That’s what’s so reprehensible about it,” Plummer said.

Norwich Police Sgt. Patrick Daley was a patrolman at the time of the Lincoln portrait theft. The case was assigned to the detective division, but police came up empty with every lead they followed.

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.

Part of the difficulty, authorities say, is that they could not find old pictures of the portrait. Now, however, police and city officials say the investigation may get a big boost because they recently learned that historian 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.

“The picture was so striking that I figured I better take a picture of the picture,” Hosley said of his trip to City Hall. “It was an extraordinary picture frame. It was the most impressive object of that type. It just leapt out at me.”

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.

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.


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