More than 200 years ago in Boston, a prominent silversmith, a political philosopher, and a local real estate developer conspired to leave trinkets for future generations. Placing a capsule of keepsakes inside the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House, the three men left the items to be uncovered at a later date.
The men were Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, and William Scollay, three important figures of early American history. Adams was the governor of Massachusetts at the time, and construction on the State Building had just begun. Revere would later go on to overlay the State House dome with copper.
Throughout the years, the time capsule lay encased in plaster along with an assortment of coins. Now, 220 years later, the lid of the capsule has been painstakingly pried open by Pamela Hatchfield, head of objects conservation at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Using a porcupine quill, Ms. Hatchfield spent hours removing the box’s lid to reveal its contents.
The time capsule, whose contents were unveiled on Tuesday, is one of the oldest in the country.
The capsule was originally removed from the Massachusetts State House cornerstone on Dec. 11 after the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance discovered that a leak threatened to damage the box. It took around seven hours to remove the capsule, which officials say weighed 10 pounds.
The contents of the box include five folded newspapers, which museum representatives say are in an excellent state of conservation; a Massachusetts commonwealth seal; an engraved silver plate; and around 24 old silver and copper coins.
The collection includes some of the country’s first coins, including half-cent, one-cent, half-dime, 10-cent and 25-cent pieces. A set of coins including a pine tree shilling from 1652 and a copper medal showing George Washington were also included within the capsule.
Conservators at the museum will begin immediately to work on preserving the newly unveiled items.
This was not the first time the box has been uncovered. In 1855, the time capsule was removed and its contents cleaned before being placed back in the cornerstone for another 160 years. The box's contents were recorded in reports of the time.
This time, all of the items will be put on display temporarily. Eventually, however, officials plan to return the box to its original home. It remains to be seen whether new, modern items will be included for future generations to find.