Plaster-covered time capsule originally buried by Patriots Sam Adams and Paul Revere
If you had the chance to communicate with future Earthlings, but all you could give them had to be contained within a small box, what would you choose to put in it? You may be familiar with the concept of a “time capsule” (a container similar to a geocache), which Webster’s Dictionary defines as “a container holding historical records or objects representative of current culture that is deposited (as in a cornerstone) for preservation until discovery by some future age.” Historians in Boston, Massachusetts, the “cradle of the American Revolution,” have recently unearthed and opened just such a capsule. The contents of the cigar-box-sized brass container were first buried in 1795 in the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House by then-governor Samuel Adams, famous Son of Liberty and master brewer; Paul Revere, silversmith and Midnight Rider; and William Scollay, a Bay State land developer.
Excitement surrounded the unveiling of the time capsule, even though experts had a pretty good idea already of what it would contain: silver and copper coins, a copper medal inscribed with an image of George Washington, newspapers and other documents, and a rectangular silver plate probably made and engraved by Revere. One coin dated to 1652, and the documents included a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records. The original time capsule with a cowhide cover had previously been discovered, during emergency repairs to the capitol in 1855. At that time its contents were catalogued, and it was reburied for posterity, in a brass box measuring 5.5 x 7.5 x 1.5 inches and weighing 10 pounds.
A water leak near the cornerstone in the summer of 2014 necessitated an excavation in December. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) curator Pam Hatchfield painstakingly extracted the plaster-encased box. Weeks later, after scanning it with X-rays, museum officials opened the box and carefully removed the contents. The coins and other materials from the time capsule will be on display at the MFA for a brief period. Museum officials, in announcing that the time capsule will be reburied in the cornerstone, said they are pondering whether to include artifacts from present-day Boston/American culture. Suggestions?
Image credit: © Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
- Massachusetts State House Time Capsule Opened at Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Read the official report of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston on the Revolutionary-era time capsule.
(Source: mfa.com, January 7, 2015)
- 1795 Time Capsule Opened, Centuries after Revere and Adams Buried It
This article recounts the time capsule project; includes videos showing the items revealed.
(Source: CNN, January 7, 2015)
- Time Capsule Buried by Paul Revere and Sam Adams Discovered in Boston
This article announces the unearthing of the time capsule in the Massachusetts State House in December 2014
(Source: History,com, December 12, 2014)