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Suspect nabbed after theft from historic Rolls-Royce

The 1913 Rolls-Royce is maintained by the Owls Head Transportation Museum.
The 1913 Rolls-Royce is maintained by the Owls Head Transportation Museum.Owls Head Transportation Museum

Listen, dear readers, and you shall hear

Of theft from a Rolls-Royce Maine holds dear.

A historic radiator cap went missing last weekend from a century-old car once owned by the daughter of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, after a thief allegedly pried open the trailer that caretakers had used to bring the vehicle to Portland, Maine, for a celebration of the legendary poet.

The Owls Head Transportation Museum noticed the theft on Saturday morning. Thankfully, officials said, Portland police recovered the decorative item relatively quickly, when they found it on a 37-year-old man arrested during a house break-in.

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Neither the car nor the ornamental radiator cap, which bears Rolls-Royce’s storied Spirit of Ecstasy emblem, was damaged, according to Kevin Bedford, acting director of the museum, which is just south of Rockland, Maine.

“Considering they moved a bunch of heavy stuff out around the car, we were lucky that it wasn’t damaged in any way whatsoever — and very happy,” Bedford said in an interview.

The 1913 car once belonged to Alice Longfellow, and the museum had taken it to Portland for the Magical History Tour, a weekend celebration with events focusing on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Longfellow was born in Portland in 1807. His works include the historical epics “The Song of Hiawatha ” and “Paul Revere’s Ride.”

Bedford thanked the Maine Historical Society, which held the event, and the police. He said only a few minutes passed between his finding out about the theft and when investigators recovered the ornament.

He said the thief had taken other things from the trailer — “basically anything that wasn’t bolted down” — but had left most of the haul in the parking lot.

The car has been through a lot.

It even climbed Mount Washington before the mueseum had it. Alan Bemis, who owned the car after Alice Longfellow, used it to haul weather equipment up the mountain in the 1930s. It was damaged in the 1938 New England hurricane, then restored.

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The museum maintains the Rolls-Royce in working condition, and staff often drives it at events.

“It operates well,” Bedford said. “We theoretically could have driven it to Portland.”

Material from the Asssociated Press was used in this report. Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @andyrosen.