Chicago Antiques Guide

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Medal - Chicago Fire Relic - Courthouse Bell

Posted Thursday, March 30 by Brian

I have a 2 inch round disc made from the Chicago Courthouse Bell. On one side it has a picture of Fort Dearborn on it with flames and an Angel flying above. Underneath it says, "Chicago Oct 8 9 1871." Underneath that it says, "Fort Dearborn Chicago 1812" On the other side is a picture of what I believe to be a phoenix rising out of flames with the words, "Made from Chicago Courthouse Bell" "SEMPER RESURGENS" I believe this is copper. I received this from my Grandfather. What is it and is it worth anything? I've had this for at least 35 years and do not know anything about it. If you could give me some insight I would greatly appreciate it.
Thank you,

Your piece is a medal designed by William Barber and made using metal from the bell that hung in the Chicago Courthouse, until the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the building. Only 500 of these medals were struck in the summer of 1872.

The angel is flying over Chicago in flames, not Fort Dearborn. The Fort Dearborn reference is to the first structure built on the site of Chicago. Your photo isn't clear enough for me to be sure, but it could in fact be showing the Courthouse itself. Compare your medal to the photos below.

The only price reference I found for the same piece was at an auction held in Conjunction with the Baltimore Coin & Currency Convention at the Baltimore Convention Center, December 9-11, 2005. That piece was graded Extremely Fine to Almost Uncirculated.

Joe Levine of Presidential Coin and Antique Company, who conducted the auction, said the medal sold for $170.00 + 15% Buyer's Fee. Again from the photo it is hard to be certain, but it appears yours has several significant rim dents, although the patina looks pretty good. If I am correct, yours would not likely bring quite as much.

In addition to the medals, souvenir bells were also made in several sizes, by H.S. Everhart & Company.

Oh, and of course, Chicago did rise from the ashes like the legendary Phoenix.
Courthouse before Fire.jpgCourthouse after Fire.jpg

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