Mass. time capsule contains coin older than America
Mass. time capsule contains coin older than America Museum of Fine Arts Boston Head of Objects Conservation Pam Hatchfield removes a folded 19th century newspaper from the time capsule (AP photos)
Mass. time capsule contains coin older than America
Lexile: 770L

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It was a look back into the past. And a history lesson, too.

Early residents of Boston valued a robust press as much as their history and currency. That is, if the contents of a time capsule dating to just after the Revolutionary War are any guide.

Experts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston recently removed items from the box. They found five tightly folded newspapers and a medal depicting George Washington. They also found a silver plaque and two dozen coins. One coin dated to 1655.

Some of the coins appeared corroded. Other items were in good condition. Fingerprints could be seen on the silver plaque.

The capsule was embedded in a cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse. Construction on the building began in 1795. The box was placed there by Revolutionary era luminaries. Those included Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, governor of Massachusetts at the time.

The contents were shifted in 1855 to what was believed to be a copper box. Then they were placed back into the foundation of the Statehouse. The box remained there until it was rediscovered last year. It was found during an ongoing water filtration project at the building. The box was actually brass, according to conservators.

The oldest coin in the box was a 1652 "Pine Tree Schilling." It was made at a time when the colony didn't have royal authority to create its own currency. Pine trees were a valuable commodity at the time. The trees were used as ship masts.

Michael Comeau is executive director of the Massachusetts Archives and Commonwealth Museum. He said he has seen the coins offered for as much at $75,000. But given the association with Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, the coins value could be much higher.

The newspapers were folded in such a way that the names of the publications weren't always visible. One might have been a copy of the Boston Evening Traveller. It was a newspaper operation that was eventually absorbed into the current Boston Herald.

The museum's experts didn't try to unfold the papers.

Pam Hatchfield is the head of objects conservation for the museum. She said the paper in the box was in "amazingly good condition."

The items will be on display at the museum for a period of time. Eventually, they will again be returned to the foundation to be discovered by a future generation of Bay State residents.

Galvin said he didn't know if modern items might be added to the foundation.

Critical thinking challenge: Why were pine trees and ship masts so important in the 1600s?

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Assigned 37 times

  • OksanaGoroshka-Hay
    1/26/2015 - 10:53 a.m.

    Pine trees are so important in the 1600's because they were a valuable commodity at that time. Ship masts are so important too is because the trees were as ship masts.

  • ShaylaWells-Hay
    2/08/2015 - 02:48 p.m.

    Because it was made during the time when the colony couldn't have royal authority to make its own currency.

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