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

When conservators at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston recently removed items from the box, they found five tightly folded newspapers, a medal depicting George Washington, a silver plaque, two dozen coins, including one dating to 1655, and the seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

While some of the coins appeared corroded, other items were in good condition and fingerprints could be seen on the silver plaque.

The capsule was embedded in a cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse when construction began in 1795. It was placed there by Revolutionary era luminaries, including 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 and placed back into the foundation of Statehouse. The box remained there until it was rediscovered last year 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," 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, executive director of the Massachusetts Archives and Commonwealth Museum, said he has seen the coins offered for as much at $75,000. But given the context of this particular coin and the association with Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, the 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.

A portion of one of the papers that was visible showed a listing of the arrivals of whalers from various ports to Boston. Conservators didn't try to unfold the papers.

Pam Hatchfield, the head of objects conservation for the museum, removed each item using a slew of tools including her grandfather's dental tool. She said the paper in the box was in "amazingly good condition."

Massachusetts state Secretary William Galvin said he expects the items will be on display at the museum for a period of time. Eventually, he said, 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.

Comeau said the objects in the box are a bridge back in time.

"This is the stuff of history," he said.

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

Assigned 19 times


COMMENTS (23)
  • SchopferR-Tan
    1/21/2015 - 08:35 a.m.

    I think this article is interesting that they had found this capsule containing this newspaper and coin that are very old. According to the article the coin and the newspaper were in very good condition for being so old which is surprising. I think that this is important because these artifacts can help you learn things about the past. The box was apparently found before and switched into a copper box instead of a brass box. Giving this a cool background story.

  • LewisH-Tan
    1/21/2015 - 08:43 a.m.

    Knowing that there are pieces of history like this waiting to be discovered makes you think that there could be stuff like this where you are. These items were very valuable and they show a good part of the United States history. I like the fact that the museum is thinking of putting the "time-capsule" back so it can be discovered later on. This was a very good decision on their part.

  • GolickiL-Tan
    1/21/2015 - 08:57 a.m.

    I think that its really cool that even back then people made those time capsules. It would be really cool if they found more of them but ones that were older and were from sometime like middle ages. Because then you would find some really interesting things. I also think that we should have added are own coins to the box and also an important news paper so in a couple hundred years someone else could open it and look back at some good history.

  • Kandie_Kane_299
    1/21/2015 - 01:18 p.m.

    Pine trees are important because they were used as ship masts in the 1600s, and you needed to have a ship to get from England to America

  • Ashlynn1048
    1/21/2015 - 01:44 p.m.

    That's really cool that they found the time capsule after so many years! I have thought about building a time capsule before and this made me even more interested. I can't wait to see who uncovers it next time!

  • SergioF2015
    1/22/2015 - 09:09 a.m.

    The reason why pine trees and ship masts were so important in the 1600s is because ships need masts to sail and over seas was the only way to ship goods. Pine trees were used to build ship masts for the ships so that they could exchange goods and other things.

  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    1/22/2015 - 01:02 p.m.

    I think that this is pretty unique and a great way to learn about our past. I think time capsules should be used more frequently in order to remember our past and cherish those moments.

  • devonm-3
    1/22/2015 - 07:35 p.m.

    Time capsule was found Massachusetts dating in the Revolutionary war era. About five newspapers two dozen coins a silver plaque and a middle depicting George Washington.One of the coins was so old it went back to 1655. The time capsule was in a brass box recently found in Massachusetts last year. This box held a lot of history. It will be a great learning tool to discover what it was like in the Revolutionary war era. I hope more time capsules will be found.

  • BrigitteA-3
    1/22/2015 - 08:45 p.m.

    Recently, a time capsule was found in the Boston area. Researchers say that there was even a coin dating all the way back to before the Revolutionary War. The items were said to be found in a copper box and in there, included a bunch of newspapers, old coins, and many more. This is said to be a historic event and shaped the way we think of the Revolutionary War today. I think that this is really cool because a couple of years ago, my sister and I buried a time capsule ourselves and it would be cool to know if anyone found it in hundreds of years.

  • Blaker-2
    1/22/2015 - 10:23 p.m.

    Recently in Boston Massachusetts, after a time capsule was placed in the corner stone of a building in Massachusetts about a year ago and just recently opened. In side the brass box were several news papers,coins dating back to 1652, medals, plaques and the seal of commonwealth of Massachusetts. I thought that this article was cool to me because we have a time capsule in hermosa.

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