In an elaborate ceremony steeped in tradition, a time capsule dating to 1795 was returned on Wednesday to the cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse, with a set of 2015 US mint coins and a silver plaque added to its contents for a future generation to discover.
A procession of freemasons marched up Beacon Hill as a fife and drum corps, clad in Colonial garb, played on the statehouse lawn. Military units stood at attention and a 19-gun salute was fired, all part of an effort to approximate the historically documented atmosphere of 4 July 1795, when the newly built cornerstone was drawn by 15 white horses from Boston’s Old South Church, across Boston Common to the construction site for the new state capitol.
On that day, the then Massachusetts governor, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere, then Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons, presided over a ceremony in which the time capsule was first deposited into the cornerstone.
During Thursday’s ceremony, Governor Charlie Baker joked that Adams is today better known to many people as a beer-maker than a key Revolutionary-era figure. But he said it was humbling to consider that the original capsule was placed just 15 years after Massachusetts adopted its constitution.
“What makes this time capsule so unusual is it’s not an interpretation from a historian, it’s not a passage in a text book, it’s the story that our predecessors from that Revolutionary time wanted us to know and understand,” Baker said.
The original container included an engraved silver plaque, a medal in honor of George Washington and a set of coins including one believed dated to the mid-1600s.
The capsule was removed in 1855 during construction of a new wing of the building. Its contents were transferred to a sturdier brass box and new items, including coins and newspapers, were added. Rediscovered last year during a water filtration project, the box was gingerly excavated from the building and later opened by conservators at the Museum of Fine Arts.
The latest contents, not revealed until Thursday’s ceremony, were a 2015 US mint coin set – including dollar coins of Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson – and a silver plaque commemorating Thursday’s event.
As was the case in 1855, the contents were placed in a new container, this one made of stainless steel with an oxygen-free interior to prevent deterioration.
The secretary of the Commonweath of Massachusetts, William Francis Galvin, Governor Charlie Baker and Masonic grand master Harvey Waugh
The secretary of state, William Galvin, who presided over the ceremony with Baker and Harvey Waugh, current Grand Master of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Masons, said it could be hundreds of years before the box is opened again but when it is, “the history we made today will be fondly remembered.”
Groups of invited schoolchildren, wearing T-shirts that read “Time To Go Back”, watched the ceremony along with state workers and curious tourists.
January 6, 2015 the Paul Revere-Sam Adams time capsule discovered last month was unveiled at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. According to HISTORY here is how that all went down.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and other dignitaries were on hand to witness the opening of one of the nation’s oldest time capsules yesterday evening (January 6) in the Art of the Americas wing at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA). Standing in front of a large painting of George Washington on horseback in 1776 (Thomas Sully’s “The Passage of the Delaware”), museum conservator Pam Hatchfield removed the screws from the corners of the brass box and carefully extracted its contents using tools including a porcupine quill and a dental pick that belonged to her grandfather.
Last month,Hatchfield spent nearly seven hours extracting the time capsule from the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House. The brass box, which had turned green with age, measured 5.5 by 7.5 by 1.5 inches (a little smaller than a cigar box) and weighed 10 pounds. Its contents were not exactly a surprise: The original time capsule had been removed in 1855, during some repairs to the building; its contents were cleaned and documented before it was placed back in the cornerstone. But even after X-raying and examining the box, Hatchfield and her colleagues had no way of knowing what kind of condition its contents would be in, or the details of what lay inside.
Among the first items removed from the time capsule yesterday were folded newspapers, which Hatchfield stated were in “amazingly good condition.” There were five of them in all, including copies of the Boston Bee and Boston Traveller. Then came some 23 coins, in denominations of “half-cent,” penny, quarter, dime and half-dime. Some dated to the mid-19th century, while others were from 1795; a so-called “Pine Tree Shilling” dated to 1652. In addition, the box contained a copper medal with George Washington’s image and the words “General of the American Army”; a seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; and a title page from the Massachusetts Colony Records. Finally, Hatchfield removed a silver plate with fingerprints still on it, bearing an inscription dedicating the State House cornerstone on the 20th anniversary of American independence in July 1795.
“This cornerstone of a building intended for the use of the legislative and executive branches of the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was laid by his Excellency Samuel Adams, Esquire, governor of the said Commonwealth,” Michael Comeau, executive director of the Massachusetts Archives, read from the plate’s inscription to the assembled crowd, adding “How cool is that.” The plate is thought to be the work of Paul Revere, the master metalsmith and engraver turned Revolutionary hero who placed the time capsule alongside Adams and William Scollay, a colonel in the Revolutionary War.
It took nearly an hour to remove all the items from the time capsule. MFA conservators will now work on preserving the contents, which will probably go on display at the museum later this year. According to Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, the time capsule will eventually be returned to the cornerstone, but it’s not certain whether state officials will add any new objects to it before burying it again.
Of he engraved silver plate, Hatchfield declared, “And it has fingerprints on it,”
According to the Associated Press, the oldest coin in the box was a 1652 “Pine Tree Schilling.”
Michael Comeau, executive director of the Massachusetts Archives and Commonwealth Museum, tells the AP that he has seen the coins offered for as much as $75,000, but given the association with Revere and Adams, the value could be much higher.
And not to be undone, attending the the ceremony was also Paul Revere IV, the great, great, great, great, great grandson of Paul Revere.
A crew is at work in Boston unearthing a time capsule believed buried by patriots Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. CNN affiliate WBZ reports, the 18th-century capsule was left in a cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House. The capsule is believed to date from 1795, when construction started on the building. The cornerstone has been removed because of repair work to the historic building, and a worker from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston was chipping away at it Thursday to get at the capsule. Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin, who also heads the state’s historical commission said, the capsule contains rare coins, a Paul Revere plate, papers and other artifacts dating back to the 1600s. He said, he capsule was last dug up during emergency repairs to the State House in 1855 and put back in place when the cornerstone was reset. – WochitGeneralNews
BOSTON (AP) — Crews removed a time capsule dating back to 1795 on Thursday from the granite cornerstone of the Massachusetts Statehouse, where historians believe it was originally placed by Revolutionary War luminaries Samuel Adams and Paul Revere among others.
The small time capsule is believed to contain items such as old coins, documents, newspapers and a metal plate that was owned by Revere. Secretary of State William Galvin speculated that some of the items could have deteriorated over time.
Official plan to X-ray the capsule on Sunday at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to get some idea of the contents and possibly details on their condition, then open it next week.
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 removal Thursday 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 Thursday 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.
“Obviously, when we talk about the original box being presided over by then-Gov. Sam Adams, Paul Revere, it’s pretty significant,” he said. “I’m very fond of saying … that the history of Massachusetts is the history of America, and it’s very true and this is another evidence of that.”
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 and, when opened, 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.
But The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts AF & AM is not so sure that the newspapers have the correct take on the story. They call it the Paul Revere Time Capsule period and in a press release on the Grand Lodge site titled “1795 PAUL REVERE TIME CAPSULE RE-DISCOVERED“ has this to say:
On the morning of December 11th, 2014, a work crew removed the cornerstone from the Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill. Inside, they discovered what was initially being reported as a 1795 Paul Revere era time capsule with “previously unknown” contents.
Previously unknown? We beg to differ. Why? We were there! The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts has kept detailed proceedings of its activities since inception in 1733.
The town of Boston purchased a plot of land east of Beacon Hill in 1795 for $13,000 that was previously part of Governor John Hancock’s estate. That estate was then given to the state by the town for the purpose of constructing a new state house.
Governor Samuel Adams requested that the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts assist with the laying of the cornerstone, and saw to it that “the ceremony was performed in due form… with the usual rites of ancient Masonry.”
On July 4th of that year Governor Adams, Grand Master Revere, and Deputy Grand Master William Scollay laid the cornerstone after “the Grand Master had deposited under it a number of gold, silver, and copper coins, and a silver plate bearing an inscription” describing the event.
On August 7, 1855, while workmen were making repairs to the foundation of the State House, they “were surprised by the appearance of a few copper coins and a small leaden box… put together without the usual solder generally used by workers in that metal. This accidental discovery of the original cornerstone resulted in having the same plate and coins replaced without any special display under a new stone” in the same location (Freemason’s Monthly Magazine, Vol. XIV, p. 367).
Our records give a detailed account of the exact contents of the time capsule that has been rediscovered. Just like everyone else – we’re eager to see how well they have withstood the test of time.
Should the capsule be re-interred, we’d love to continue the tradition of laying the cornerstone in due form.