original chicago fire artifact c. 1871 certificate from the chicago board of public works announcing the sale of the court house bell

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UR #:: UR-23236-15

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Product Description

original artifact from the aftermath of the chicago fire 1871 chicago board of public works certificate officializing the sale of the badly damaged court house bell. the nearly intact paper certificate contains a central illustration of bell and monogram, and is notarized with a city stamp and signatures from members of the board of public works. hand-written with fountain pen, the certificate reads, "this is to certify that at a public auction on the 16th day of december 1871 all of the metal of the court house bell in possession of the city, was sold to thomas b. bryan of fidelity safe depository". thomas bryan in turn wrote, "this will certify that except the portion reserved by me for an alarm bell for this institution, all the metal of the chicago court house bell purchased by me at the auction ordered by the board of public works has this day been sold and delivered to you. your statements concerning it may be relied upon as being fully as genuine as the metal is known to be to". the building that held the bell was chicago's fourth city hall, constructed in 1853 by chicago's first architect, john m. osdel. it was the city's first combined court house and city hall, and housed virtually all city and county offices , from the jail in its basement to the mayor’s quarters, the debtors’ prison, the city council, the board of public works, and the courtrooms on the upper floors. it was originally two stories and an above-ground basement. with the raising of the surrounding grade in the mid-1850s, the city added five feet of fill to court house square, partly burying the basement. it soon added a third floor and the cupola, with a spiral staircase leading to an observatory balcony 120 feet high, which served as a fire watchman’s walk. the two-story classically inspired cupola-crowned edifice stood in the center of the block bounded by randolph, clark, washington and la salle streets - the sight of all future court houses. it was the bell that hung high up in the cupola that sounded the alarm of the fire, until the building itself was consumed. on october 9th at 2:20am, when city hall was ablaze, the heavily ornamented and domed rooftop cupola collapsed, sending the massive bronze bell crashing down into the rubble. an image of a man posing inside the mangled bell resting on the floor surrounded by limestone foundation walls that once supported city hall was made into a period stereoview card. it has been said that witnesses reported hearing the "crash" from a mile away. shortly after the fire was contained and rebuilding commenced, the city retrieved the badly damaged bell and placed it in storage for a few months before auctioning it off to thomas b. bryan of the fidelity repository. bryan reserved a small portion of the bell to fashion into an alarm for his own firm, then sold the rest to h. s. everhart & company. h. s. everhart in turn, melted the remainder of the bell down, and recast it into several commemorative souvenirs, with the most popular (at the time) being small replicas of the original bell. each of these small bells were accompanied by certificates of authenticity, signed by the members of the chicago board of public works. additional souvenirs included miniature fire helmets and the "fire medals." the building's architect, van osdel was born in baltimore in 1811 and moved to chicago in 1836 at the behest of the enterprising william ogden, who became the first mayor the following year, when chicago was incorporated as a city. van osdel and william w. boyington, who arrived in 1853, were the leading pre-fire architects of both commercial enterprises and private homes.