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Can you help solve the Lynn Library portrait mystery?

This article was published 5 year(s) and 5 month(s) ago.

Library Portrait #1

One of six portrait paintings the Lynn Public Library is hoping to identify with the help of the public.

(Photo by Spenser Hasak)

Library Portrait #2

One of six portrait paintings the Lynn Public Library is hoping to identify with the help of the public.

(Photo by Spenser Hasak)

Library Portrait #3

One of six portrait paintings the Lynn Public Library is hoping to identify with the help of the public.

(Photo by Spenser Hasak)

Library Portrait #4

One of six portrait paintings the Lynn Public Library is hoping to identify with the help of the public.

(Photo by Spenser Hasak)

Library Portrait #5

One of six portrait paintings the Lynn Public Library is hoping to identify with the help of the public.

(Photo by Spenser Hasak)

Library Portrait #6

One of six portrait paintings the Lynn Public Library is hoping to identify with the help of the public.

(Photo by Spenser Hasak)

LYNN — Theresa Hurley needs help solving a mystery.

The city’s chief librarian discovered a handful of 19th century portraits of prominent city residents in the Lynn Public Library’s attic. But she’s not sure who they are.

Among the most stunning finds is a white-haired man clutching a piece of paper in a fancy gold gilded frame. He could be Sidney Pratt, the first library donor who contributed $10,000, an astounding amount in the 1800s, Parsons Cook, a preacher from the First Congregational Church, library trustee Judge Rollin E. Harmon, Superintendent of Schools Orsanus Bushnell Bruce, who served from 1879-1901, or someone else.

“We just don’t know,” said Hurley. “We need help figuring out who he is.”

Theresa Hurley

That’s not the only riddle. Hurley uncovered five other paintings, including one woman, in the dusty, dimly lit attic, that need to be identified. They all need a good cleaning, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Hurley isn’t sure, but the picture of the woman could be the wife of the man who resembles Abraham Lincoln — both are in oval frames.

She would like to hang the paintings on the walls of the 117-year-old library once the identities have been determined.  

“We have an old inventory of the portraits, but we have not been able to match the names with the portraits,” she said. “If anyone recognizes these people, please call us.”

The artwork dates to the earliest days of the library. In 1862, the library was located at the corner of Market and Tremont streets. Six years later, it moved to the second floor of the old City Hall. By 1876, the collection numbered more than 27,000 volumes, and ground was broken on North Common Street in 1898.

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