Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Portraits in New Jersey Legal History

The Newark Star-Ledger's on-line edition reports on the restoration of the portraits at the Hunterdon County Courthouse in Flemington, scene for "The Trial of the Century" (that is, the trial of Bruno Hauptmann for the kidnapping of the Linberghs' infant son). The story commences:
Decade after decade, three men kept watch over the Hunterdon County Courthouse in Flemington — their stern faces paying silent witness to the courtroom’s many dramas.

One after another, their painted portraits took turns watching the legal history of the area unfold. From petty crimes to the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s son, dubbed the “Trial of the Century,” they saw it all.

But the portraits of a former judge and two attorneys [one of whom, Thomas Potts Johnson (1761-1838) is pictured here] were left behind when court operations moved down the street to the new Hunterdon County Justice Center in 1996. Restoration work began on the old courthouse shortly thereafter, and the three historic pictures, left hanging on the walls, were damaged in the process. They might have slipped into the forgotten past, were it not for one local lawyer and his passion for history.