Here’s What’s Inside The Old State House Time Capsule from 1901

The items were announced about a week after the capsule was opened for the first time at Skylight Studios in Woburn.
Photo provided by the Bostonian Society

Photo provided by the Bostonian Society

The wait for the big reveal of the Old State House time capsule is finally over.

Almost a week later after the highly anticipated opening, the Bostonian Society has independently uncovered the contents inside the 100+-year-old box and released images of many of the items for the public.

In early September, the lion and the unicorn sculptures were ascended from the top of the Old State House to undergo restorations. Shortly after, the Bostonian Society, the nonprofit organization that manages the Old State House, confirmed the rumors of a time capsule located in the head of the lion sculpture dating back to the early 1900s. The opening of the capsule took place on October 9 at a special event held at Skylight Studios in Woburn.

Here are a few highlights of the items inside the capsule:

  • Foreign Relations of the United States, 1896 (hardback book).
  • “Wood removed from the Old Lion age of same 21 years in 1900” (notation hand-written on reverse of business card for American Painting & Decorating Co. and tacked onto the back of the piece of wood).
  • Numerous cabinet cards, including Governor W. Murray Crane; Mayor A.P. Martin; Mayor Thomas Hart; Moses Gulesian, the donor of lion and unicorn statues; and more public officials. There’s also a blank piece of letterhead from M.H. Gulesian.
  • Numerous photographs, including Nathan Matthews, Junior (1891-94); Josiah Quincy (1896-1899); and Edwin Curtis (1895); one showing a group of people who worked on the restoration of the Old State House, dated February 19, 1901; and one showing the 5th Massachusetts Regiment.
  • Three sealed letters, including one inscribed with “A message to posterity from the daily newspapers at City Hall;” one from C.W. Ernest, Esquire, the mayor’s private secretary; and one from the Boston Traveler.
  • Campaign button for John D. Long, candidate for Vice President, and another for McKinley and Roosevelt.
  • Nail from Old South Church, and a nail from the Old State House.
  • Various newspapers and newspaper ads circa 1901 including the Boston Daily Globe, Boston Transcript, The Boston Herald, The Banker Tradesman, and The Boston Post.
  • Die cut for printing of the Boston Herald building.
  • Various business cards from carpenters, publishers, and superintendents.
  • Parchment scroll listing employees of the Public Buildings Department, February 1901; and the 1901 Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Department Directory.
  • Bill for tuition and one piece of music, January 1, 1901 signed by John A. Silver.
  • Letter from American Painting and Decorating Company about the work done on the Old State House, February 18, 1901.
  • Grand Army of the Republic label button and badge; and a veterans button.
  • Card with inscription “Geo. G. Proctor, 665 Sixth St., South Boston, Mass.”
  • Boston Herald electrotypes.

The Bostonian Society also announced a new time capsule filled with present-day materials that best define the city will be placed inside of the lion upon its restoration. Only two items have been confirmed to be placed inside: a photo of Mayor Marty Walsh, and a 2013 Boston Marathon medal.

The Bostonian Society will also be taking suggestions from the public about what else to place inside the new time capsule. Inquiries can be sent to the Bostonian Society at heather@bostonhistory.org, or by using the hashtag #LionandUnicorn on Twitter.



Bryanna Cappadona Bryanna Cappadona, Assistant Digital Editor at Boston Magazine bcappadona@bostonmagazine.com


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