Last night, at the the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, historians carefully opened the country's oldest time capsule — a ten-pound brass box that had been laid in the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams way back in 1795.
Inside, they found all sorts of cool things: 23 coins (one dating as far back as 1652), a page from the Massachusetts Colony Records, the seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, five newspapers that were centuries old, an engraved plate commemorating the building, and a medal depicting George Washington.
The history of this time capsule is itself pretty interesting. It was originally placed there by Revere, Revolutionary War colonel William Scollay, and then-governor Adams during the construction of Massachusetts State House in 1795. But in 1855, emergency repairs to the building unearthed it. At the time, preservationists opened it, cleaned and catalogued its contents, added a few coins and newspapers from their own time, and replaced the lead sheets that originally encased it with a brass box. Then, the whole thing was reburied in the cornerstone.
It was largely forgotten until December 2014, when workers repairing water damage came upon the capsule. They alerted historians, and Pamela Hatchfield of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts carefully extracted it.
Most of the items inside weren't a huge surprise, since they'd been catalogued, but she and other experts had been worried about the condition of the items — especially since the 19th century preservationists had used acid to clean them. X-rays last month, however, indicated that they were all in fairly good condition.
Then, last night, Hatchfield used specialized tools to delicately open the box, revealing the items directly.
The newspapers — two copies of the Boston Bee, two of the Daily Traveller, and one unknown — have deteriorated a bit, but they're still mostly legible, as are some of the coins. The engraved plate, meanwhile, is still in excellent shape, clearly showing the original 1795 dedication, proclaimed by "his Excellency Samuel Adams, Esquire, governor of the said Commonwealth."