Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford Helps Reunite


First Illinois Treasurer’s Money Box and Scales


 SPRINGFIELD – April 27, 2011—The first Illinois treasurer’s money storage box and pan scales that were used to weigh gold dust in the early 1800s are together again after decades of separation, and are now on display at the Old State Capitol in Springfield.  The reunion came after Treasurer Dan Rutherford assigned a staff member to find more historical information on the Illinois Treasurer’s Office.


 Pictured: (L-R) Old State Capitol Site Manager Justin Blandford, Illinois State Treasurer Dan Rutherford, Randolph County Archives and Museum Curator Emily Lyons.  Rutherford holds the first Illinois treasurer’s pan scales above the money storage box used in 1818.

Photo: Dave Blanchette of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

 “I was surprised to hear that there was not an abundance of history on the treasurer’s office at our fingertips,” said Rutherford.  “So, I asked my Deputy Press Secretary Catie Sheehan to gather what she could.  I’m glad this work paid off.  Now people can see the first Illinois treasurer’s money storage box with the scales and get an idea of how far this state has come.” 


The research shows that the storage box and scales used by the first Illinois treasurers, John Thomas and R.K. McLaughlin, from 1818 to 1820 were last known to be together at the Illinois State Library in Springfield around 1948.  The treasurer’s office tried to track down the money box with no initial success; many of those contacted concerning its whereabouts believed it had gotten lost over time. 


A couple weeks later, Sheehan was taking pictures of the Illinois Treasurer’s Office at the Old State Capitol, the seat of Illinois government from 1839 to 1876, and spotted what appeared to be the first Treasurer’s money storage box.  A comparison of the box at the Old State Capitol with a photo of the original money box from the 1947 – 1948 Illinois Blue Book confirmed the box’s identity.  More importantly, the 63-year-old photo confirmed another key piece of history – the Treasurer’s box and its pan scales, which for decades had been displayed separately at the Old State Capitol, belonged together.


“The discovery by Treasurer Rutherford’s staff has helped us reunite two elements of an artifact that have been separated for the better part of a century,” said Old State Capitol Site Manager Justin Blandford.  “The find reinforces the significance of the artifact and has helped us display the box and scales in their proper context.”


According to the 1947-1948 Illinois Blue Book, the cherry wood box was first used by Treasurer Thomas as the safety vault for the deposit of all cash, bonds and securities of the State of Illinois.  At the time, the 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 make sure that frontiersmen had not “shaved gold off the unmilled edges (of coins) with their hunting knives.”

 Curator of the Randolph County Museum and Archives Emily Lyons believes the two Illinois treasurers who worked in the State Capitol when it was in Kaskaskia would have used this box from 1818-1820.  “Records indicate that this cherry wood box would have been used by the treasurer’s office on a daily basis to collect money and fines owed to the state.  At this time, most of the money coming in was for purchase of land.  The cost of land at the time was $2 per acre,” said Lyons.  “When Illinois became a state in 1818, all the unclaimed land was owned by the state government.  The state received revenue by placing a tax on lands purchased.”  Lyons believes the treasurer’s office would use this box to hold money and important documents that would then be taken to the Bank of Cairo in Kaskaskia on a daily basis for safe keeping.     


“To get an idea of the financial growth of Illinois, it’s interesting to compare the receipts of the treasurer’s office during the first biennium in Illinois history to recent years,” said Treasurer Rutherford.  “According to the 1947-1948 Illinois Blue Book, receipts from the first two years of statehood were $53,362, or slightly more than $2,000 per month.  Compare that to FY2009-FY2010—our receipts totaled around $248 billion, or about $10.3 billion per month.”


The first Illinois treasurer’s money box and scales will be on display at the Illinois Treasurer’s Office on the first floor of the Old State Capitol, which is open for free public tours. 

Pictured:Treasurer Dan Rutherford holds the scales above the first Illinois treasurer’s money storage box.

Photo: Dave Blanchette of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.