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?

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COMMENTS (23)
  • CamrynM-Kan
    1/23/2015 - 09:24 a.m.

    I think that is remarkable that they found the time capsule from so long ago! I really want to know if there is more of them buried around that we don't know about.

  • 3PeterE
    1/23/2015 - 10:52 a.m.

    I think this discovery is really amazing. How preserved everything looks and how long it has been in the foundation of that building. I think it would be really cool if they were to add a piece of modern art or object to the capsule. Or if they were to install another capsule into the foundation to add to the "bridge back in time". It would not only be for the future generations, but add to the legacies of the United Sates. I am curious how they are planning on placing the capsule back into the foundation. Are they going to place the "old" capsule's contents into a new? If they were to do this, I don't know what they would do with the old capsule. But it would help the contents of the capsule to be preserved for longer and would last longer then the already corroding capsule.

    -Sharing opinion

  • MikaylaStazewski-Ste
    1/23/2015 - 11:45 a.m.

    It would be amazing to be the one to find something so vintage and historic, especially something with as much value as this coin. I would be proud.

  • ShaniaWentz-Ste
    1/23/2015 - 01:32 p.m.

    Wow! I can't believe that! America has been around...forever! This is really surprising. I wonder what history the coin has. Has it touched the hands of famous sailors? Has it been dropped on the Oregon Trail? What does this coin behold? I wish that there was a way that they could figure out where this coin has been.

  • CharismaM
    1/23/2015 - 01:38 p.m.

    This time capsule is a remarkable find. Having coins and newspapers older than our country itself is amazing. It's good that some of the stuff was salvageable.

  • EllaD-Alb
    1/23/2015 - 04:40 p.m.

    It would have been nice if they had told us how they know who buried it, I'm confused on that. I think it would have made it more interesting if they had mentioned that.

  • GretaS-Alb
    1/25/2015 - 06:56 p.m.

    I wonder where they are going to put the coin and what they might do with it. I also wonder if they are going to sell it to someone for like a lot of money. I never knew that someone would put a coin in a capsule because a coin is just something normal.

  • Damikus123
    1/26/2015 - 01:24 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.

  • BenB10
    1/26/2015 - 08:55 p.m.

    A time capsule n Boston Massachusetts found containing a coin older than America. Many coins were found and while some were heavily, others were in relatively good condition, one coin even dated back to 1652. The value for the coins may be above even $75,000 since they are associated with Paul Revere and Samuel Adams. They will be on display at a museum in Boston for a time. It's amazing that coins from tis time period have survived over 200 hundred years.

  • jacobm-Che
    1/27/2015 - 02:16 p.m.

    this is true history i'm simple amaze at how old the coins were i myself love coins but that's another story to tell. i love that people can find history so close to them its amazing i do wish i could have that coin

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