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. It came from the granite cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston. 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.

Official planned to X-ray the capsule at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. They want to get some idea of the contents and possibly details on their condition. They plan to 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Originally made of cowhide, the time capsule was believed to have been embedded in the cornerstone when construction on the state Capitol began. That was in 1795. Adams was governor of Massachusetts at the time.

The time capsule was removed in the mid-19th century. Its contents were 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 the box to the site sometime next year.

Pamela Hatchfield is a conservator at the museum. She was exhausted after spending hours chiseling and drilling on the massive cornerstone. She took 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. Nearby were 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."

Galvin said there were notes from 1855. They indicated 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. 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. The building served as the state's first seat of government. That long-forgotten time capsule dated to 1901. It turned up in a lion statue atop the building. When opened, it was found to contain well-preserved items. The contents included 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?

Assigned 79 times


COMMENTS (48)
  • Aw2000red
    1/06/2015 - 08:39 a.m.

    That's very cool. How they have found a way to save things for the early ages almost 200 years ago. I wonder how they found the piece of evidence that they found and where they dound it.

  • damiana-Eic
    1/06/2015 - 10:46 a.m.

    I think when they accidentally found it and then put it back with some acid cleaned items on the inside of it could have damaged it badly and i think it's very interesting that it took us this long to find again.

  • cassidyc-Eic
    1/06/2015 - 10:51 a.m.

    Well that was an interesting story. I can't believe they found a time capsule. I wonder what could be in there? I hope they find out what is in there very soon.

  • ImanB-1
    1/06/2015 - 10:53 a.m.

    This article is about a discovery of finding a time capsule dating back to 1795. It is left unopened, but it was x-rayed, and it showed coins, documents, newspapers, and a metal plate that belonged to Revere. It was found unearthed in 1855, and Paul Revere and Sam Adams put the items back and placed it in a new, copper, box. Then in 1901 the capsule was found in a lion statue. When it was opened there was newspaper clippings, a book on foreign policy, and a letter from journalists at that time. I think this time capsule is very interesting, and I would want to read the newspapers and documents if I could.

  • LoganWRed
    1/06/2015 - 11:59 a.m.

    I think this is amazing that back then they were smart enough and new about time capsules. but they probably don't know what it was called but still it is amazing to have something historical tom back in that time it is fantastic

  • NateTheKoolKidd
    1/06/2015 - 12:37 p.m.

    I think that the officials don't know the condition of the contents because different thing could have happen to the capsule like weather or rotting. I think that maybe the weight of the cornerstone or maybe just weathering could have damaged the contents of the capsule over the 200 years.

  • kcs4802
    1/06/2015 - 01:19 p.m.

    Honestly, I can't believe they even had time capsules back in the 1700's. I'm even more surprised by the stuff that the thing contained in it like the stone block that belonged to the great Paul Revere. For a long time, many historical things have seemed brilliant to me. I've always wanted to go to Boston for reasons just like the Boston Tea Party and to watch the Boston Marathon.

  • Dalton1319
    1/06/2015 - 01:22 p.m.

    I think that sharing a party of history from way back in the 1700's is super cool. You can learn about daily life and what people thought were important when they lived. It must be very nerve racking trying to get the items out of the capsule in their best condition. I would be very excited to see what is inside!

  • tiapod
    1/06/2015 - 01:37 p.m.

    I think that this story is very interesting. The fact that historians found something that could've belonged to Paul Revere, a person who I wasn't sure even really existed, is very cool. This could open up so many new windows to learning more av out early America.

  • Cameron8201
    1/06/2015 - 02:40 p.m.

    I think the contents of this box are very important. The officials can't be sure of the condition of the contents because they don't want to open the box, yet they said they found it in an area with water damage. The acid and water have probably damaged the contents badly. If the items are untouched, they might be good evidence of America's founding and the Revolutionary War. I am happy that the archaeologists, scientists, and historians are working together to restore the box, as it will be important in the future.

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