Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford is grateful to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) for allowing him to display the first Illinois treasurer’s money storage box and pan scales at the Vandalia Statehouse. Earlier this year, one of Rutherford’s staffers conducted research that helped IHPA identify this box and place it with the pan scales. Prior to that, the past history of this box in the Springfield Old State Capitol’s treasurer’s office was unknown. “Even though it is believed this particular money storage box and pan scales were only used at the first Illinois Capitol in Kaskaskia, I think it’s important to showcase it in Vandalia-- the home to the second, third and fourth Illinois State Capitol,” said Rutherford. “It’s amazing to see how far the state’s money storage has advanced through the years.”
According to the1947-1948 Illinois Blue Book, “In 1818 this cherry box was the safety vault for the deposit of all cash, bonds and securities of the State of Illinois. This storage box contained a pair of pan scales for weighing gold dust, as well as a lever scale for weighing gold coins of the period, so that the Treasurer could be sure that clever frontiersmen had not shaved gold off the unmilled edges with their hunting knives.” Research indicates that only two Illinois treasurers used this money storage box and pan scales at the Kaskaskia Capitol. The first Illinois Treasurer was John Thomas (D-St. Clair County), appointed to office by the Illinois General Assembly on October 9, 1818. Thomas had previously served as Treasurer of the Illinois Territorial Government. Treasurer Thomas died in July 1819 and R.K. McLaughlin (D-Fayette County) was appointed as his replacement in August 1819. The State Capitol was relocated to Vandalia in 1820.
Illinois Historic Preservation Agency Curator Linda Norbut Suits does not believe the cherry wood money storage box and pan scales were used at any of the Vandalia Statehouses. IHPA officials believe a tin strong box was used in the treasurer’s office in and around the Vandalia Statehouses. Historians do believe, however, that the cherry wood box and tin strong box were used similarly. The treasurer’s office used these storage boxes to hold money and fines collected by people who owed money to the state. “We believe the treasurer’s office would use the box to store money and papers the treasurer wanted to lock up,” said Suits. “Then the treasurer’s office would then take that money to the designated state bank where the money, bonds and securities were safely held.”
The original treasurer’s money storage box and pan scales are now permanently on display at the Old State Capitol in Springfield. The set is on display at the Vandalia Statehouse for one day, July 20, 2011, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.