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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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 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 and two dozen coins. One coin dated to 1655.

While 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 when construction began in 1795. It 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 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." 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 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.

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

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COMMENTS (121)
  • FabiolaA2
    1/21/2015 - 01:57 p.m.

    NEWS 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 and two dozen coins. One coin dated to 1655. But, that was not the oldest coin they found in that box the oldest coin was dated 1652. Michael Comaeu has seen the coins offered for as much at $75,000 .The association with Paul Revere and Samuel Adams, the value could be much higher.

    Critical Thinking Challenge: I think that pine trees and ship masts were so important in the 1600s because the trees were for timber and the ship masts were for the ships they would use to travel and trade goods.

  • damarya b 7
    1/21/2015 - 02:00 p.m.

    National News: I think that it was so valuable because the coins and other stuff because that was before America was founded . They said they would be put back the coins in the box where they found it and it would be for other generations to find. They would be worth a lot of money for to sell but that apart of natural history. That was when they were having the revolutionary war.




    CTC: why was pine trees and ship masts so important in the 1600s.
    I think they were important because the used trees for timber and ships masts for travel.

  • makailah p 7
    1/21/2015 - 02:01 p.m.

    News: This article is about this capsule that contained amazing things. The capsule contains a coin that is older than America itself, the coin is from 1652. The box also included five tightly folded newspapers, a medal depicting George Washington, a silver plaque and twelve dozen coins. Most of the items were in good condition. The capsule was embedded in a cornerstone from Massachusetts statehouse. The oldest coin in the box was 1652 "pine tree schilling". The coins were offered for $75,000, but he thought they worth much more. Comeau says the box is a bridge back in time.

    Critical Thinking Question: Why were pine trees and ship masts so important in the 1600's?
    Answer: Pine trees were important because they were used to build ship masts,ship masts were important because the ships brought goods from one place to another.

  • JaydenG14
    1/21/2015 - 02:01 p.m.

    NATIONAL NEWS: Scientists found a coin older than America. The capsule was founded in a cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse when construction began in 1795. The coins offered for as much at $75,000
    CTC: Why were pine trees and ship masts so important in the 1600s? They helped man sail ships.

  • ShaneB77
    1/21/2015 - 02:03 p.m.

    NATIONAL NEWS: A very old time capsule buried in Boston Massachusetts, was recently dug up by the conservators at the Museum of Fine Arts. They found five folded newspapers, a medal with George Washington on it, a silver plague and two dozen coins! Some of the coins were a little corroded but other items were still intact. The oldest coin in the time capsule was a 1652 "Pine Tree Schilling" coin. The value of this coin could be much higher than $75,000!

    CTC: -Q- Why were pine trees and ship masts so important in the 1600s? -A- Pine trees and ship masts were important in the 1600s because at the time the colony didn't have the royal authority to create its own type of currency, pine trees were very valuable and they were used to make ship masts.

  • SeanG5
    1/21/2015 - 02:03 p.m.

    National News. In Boston a Newspaper was found and a coin this is worth $75,000 dollars. This was probably belonged to the 1855 because it was believed to belong to a copper box. The Oldest Coin was 1652 "Pine Tree Schilling". Massachusetts is gonna let future generations find it and do it again and again. Why were pine trees and ship masts so important in the 1600s? Pine trees were used for boats and houses and all that stuff and ships held trade centers from country to country.

  • Andrew.B.23
    1/21/2015 - 02:03 p.m.

    National News: In Massachusetts at the fine arts museum they found a copper box. They recently opened and removed the contents of the box, inside they found items dating back to just after the Revolutionary War and before it. The contents of the box were five tightly folded newspapers, a medal of George Washington, a plaque and two dozen coins. One coin dated to 1655. The box also contained a coin that dates back to 1652 that's believed to be worth 75,000$ but with it being connected to George Washington it could be worth much more.


    CTC: Pine trees and ship masts were important because the pine tree was very rare. So it was worth a lot of money back then.

  • giselp25
    1/21/2015 - 02:05 p.m.

    NATIONAL NEWS: In Boston, Massachusetts somebody built a time capsule that had a coin older than America. When conservators at the Museum Of Fine Arts of Boston removed items from a box they found 5 folded news papers, a medal depicting of George Washington, a silver coin, and two dozen coins. One of the coins was dated 1655. While some items were in good conditions you could see some fingerprints in the silver plague. The capsule was embedded in a cornerstone of Massachusetts statehouse. it was placed there by Revolutionary era Luminaries. The oldest coin in the box was one from 1652. This coin was made when the colony had no royal authority. Michael Comeau said coins like this can be offered at $75,000, but with the association of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams in it the price may go higher.
    Critical thinking challenge: Why were pine trees and ship masts so important in the 1600s? The pine trees were important in 1600's because at the time when the people didn't have royal authority. Also at the time Pine trees were very valuable.

  • Marissa C 12
    1/21/2015 - 02:08 p.m.

    NEWS : 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 and two dozen coins. one coin had the date 1655. but that's wasn't the oldest coin they found in that box the oldest coin they found was 1652. The contents were shifted in 1855 to what was believed to be a copper box.


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

    I think that pine trees and ship masts were so important in the 1600s because the trees were for timber and the ship masts were for the ships they would use to travel and trade goods

  • james w 7
    1/21/2015 - 02:08 p.m.

    national news. Pine trees were important in those times. One of the reasons pine trees were important in those times is because the currency was made out of pine trees. Ship masts were also very important because obviously there were no cars back then and traveling by ship was the way to go.

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