What could have been saved in stone 200 years ago? Pamela Hatchfield, a conservator at the Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, holds a time capsule she had just removed from the cornerstone of the Statehouse in Boston. At left, Paul Revere is supposed to have warned American colonists on the eve of the Battle of Lexington in 1775 (AP photos)
What could have been saved in stone 200 years ago?
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Crews have removed a time capsule dating back to 1795 from the granite cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston, where historians believe it was originally placed by Revolutionary War luminaries Samuel Adams and Paul Revere among others.

The capsule is believed to contain items such as coins, documents, newspapers and a metal plate that was owned by Revere.

Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin speculated that some of the items could have deteriorated over time.

Officials planned to X-ray the capsule at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts to get some idea of the contents and possibly details on their condition, then open it soon.

Originally made of cowhide, the time capsule was believed to have been embedded in the cornerstone when construction on the state Capitol began in 1795. Adams was governor of Massachusetts at the time.

The time capsule was removed in the mid-19th century and its contents transferred to a copper box, Galvin said. Its latest removal was due to an ongoing water filtration project at the building. Galvin said the plan is to return it to the site sometime next year.

Pamela Hatchfield, a conservator at the museum, was exhausted after spending hours chiseling and drilling on the massive cornerstone, taking care not to damage the time capsule or coins that were thrown in the mortar that held it in place.

She held up the capsule for viewing by state officials, reporters and contractors involved in the renovation of the Statehouse.

"It's heavy," Hatchfield said. "I feel happy and relieved and excited and really interested to see what's in this box."

Hatchfield said state officials did not know that the time capsule was embedded in the cornerstone until 60 years after some of the nation's leading founding political figures put it there.

"It was first put in there in 1795 by Paul Revere and Sam Adams and was unearthed accidentally when in 1855, there were some amendments to the building," Hatchfield said. "They put the contents back into a new box and placed it in a depression in the stone, which is on the underside."

Galvin said there were notes from 1855 indicating that officials washed some of the contents in the capsule with acid before putting them in the new copper box.

It also was a humid day when the items were restored and, Galvin said, the corner of the Statehouse where the capsule was fixed has had a water leakage problem for 30 years.

"We have to see what held up since that time," he said. "That's the biggest question we have right now are the contents in good condition or not?"

Galvin said the Massachusetts Statehouse is one of the oldest, active statehouses in the country.

The excavation came just months after another time capsule was uncovered from the Old State House, which served as the state's first seat of government. That long-forgotten time capsule, dating to 1901, turned up in a lion statue atop the building. When opened, it was found to contain a potpourri of well-preserved items including newspaper clippings, a book on foreign policy and a letter from journalists of the period.

Critical thinking challenge: Why can't officials be sure about the condition of the contents of the box? What may have damaged the contents?

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COMMENTS (14)
  • TaylorHartman-Ste
    1/06/2015 - 09:34 a.m.

    I think that this is so amazing and interesting to find a time capsule from so long ago. I think that it is important that one was left because it allows us to take a trip back down memory lane and learn more about what happened during their time period.

  • STy-Sti
    1/06/2015 - 10:14 a.m.

    Why the officials are unaware of the condition of the contents inside is pretty obvious. There were notes from 1855 stating that they had washed some of the contents of the box with acid (they meaning officials). Not only that, but it was a really hot day when they had transferred the contents to the new box, and the state house had had a water leakage for about 30 years. Who knows what that could have done to the box.

  • KiraWvA-4
    1/07/2015 - 07:05 p.m.

    Another time capsule was found in the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston, just months after one was unearthed in the Old Statehouse, another Massachusetts government building.The Boston Museum of Fine Arts plans to X-ray it and then, soon, open it. This time capsule was in a huge cornerstone, and Pamela Hatchfield, a conservator, took hours to dig it out-but she was not the first. In the 1850s, it was removed, its cowhide covering was replaced by a copper box, and "some of its contents were washed with acid." I liked this article because I am interested to discover what is in a time capsule said to be placed by Samuel Adams and Paul Revere in 1795.

  • joshn-Koc
    1/07/2015 - 08:08 p.m.

    The contents of the time capsule may have been damaged from weather. Time could have possibly deteriorate it over time. Human handling could also play a big factor as it was dug out previously.

  • levim-Koc
    1/08/2015 - 06:26 p.m.

    finding a time capsule let all alone is a pretty cool find. But finding one from the revolutionary time period from such a historical figure is historical and will be remembered for quite some time. makes me think how many more were placed and hidden from that time period, and should I make one for myself and be on the news in the future. positive thinking

  • NickB-2
    1/08/2015 - 08:07 p.m.

    This article is about a time capsule from 1795. It is believed to have been put there by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams.it is being removed for the second time since its placement, due to a water filtration project in the area. I think that this is really cool. I hope that these items will go to a museum for public display.

  • ethanw-Ela
    1/09/2015 - 03:33 p.m.

    The acid from the 1855 transfer might have ruined a few things, the water from the filtration project could have seeped into the box and damaged some things. Otherwise, no one really knows for sure.

  • havenr-Koc
    1/11/2015 - 01:49 p.m.

    It is amazing to know that they have uncovered a 200 year old time capsule from 1795. It is also unfortunate that they cannot be sure of the perseverance and condition of the items supposedly in the new copper box, due to the water leakage for 30 years. History is pretty cool.

  • jarredc-Koc
    1/11/2015 - 09:49 p.m.

    Finding the history that our forefathers chose to preserve is exciting. What they chose to hide could be anything and they chose some coins and newspaper clippings. Though they may also have secret documents in that box. Only when the time is right and the box is opened will we have the truth. Until then, the box and its contents will remain a mystery.

  • shannons-Koc
    1/12/2015 - 01:42 a.m.

    There are many damages that can be done to antique box. Weather is the main problem. Depending that the box is made of, it can real ruin the contents in the box. Where the box is placed is another problem. It could easily be damaged or thrown away. The fact that something like this was found in good condition is a good find!

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