SPRINGFIELD -- The morning before a flurry of bills passed through the Illinois Legislature with a session deadline quickly approaching, a U.S. Senator and top state lawmakers paused momentarily to place a nearly 150-year-old silver pitcher in a side corridor at the state Capitol.
It was a homecoming of sorts for the historic relic molded from melted silver coins and given to state Sen. John B. Cohrs in 1867. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin along with House Speaker Michael Madigan, Senate President John Cullerton and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin on Friday unveiled the pitcher missing from Illinois since the years following the Civil War.
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Springfield leaders presented the token of appreciation to Cohrs after he successfully lobbied to keep a new Capitol building in the city. The old Capitol building, which was built in 1837 and still stands in downtown Springfield, was too small for the growing state and lawmakers needed to select a new location. Cohrs fought off attempts by other cities, including Chicago, to move the state's capital.
"We're here today talking about an instance where there was talk about moving the Capitol. The Speaker and I were just working a bill to move the capital to Chicago, as a matter of fact," Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat, joked at the ceremony. "Maybe we'll reconsider."
It's only by chance that the pitcher, with a decorative inscription of Cohrs' name, returned home. Recently, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida told Durbin that his neighbor in Washington had the valuable silver pitcher in his apartment. Curtis Bell, whose father owned a jewelry shop, traced the pitcher's origins to Illinois and gave it to Durbin for free.
"Even though it's here in a corner, I hope it's a corner that's well-traveled and well-visited. I hope that when you see it, you'll understand it's an important part of history," Durbin said. "I'm glad it's coming back home."