Old State House Time Capsule from Early 1900s Cracked Open

And pretty much everyone in attendance had the same joke about Mayor Menino.

old state house time capsule

Photo by Bryanna Cappadona

The highly anticipated opening of the Old State House time capsule happened Thursday afternoon held at Skylight Studios in Woburn. Although materials inside the capsule were intended to be extracted and revealed at the event, the shoe-sized box appeared to be too jam-packed to dive into without harming any of the century-old materials.

Based on what is visible from the birds-eye opening of the capsule, a red hardcover book is inside and surrounded by papers. Elizabeth Roscio, the archives manager at the Bostonian Society, says the papers look like newsprint and appear to be in remarkably good condition. Roscio plans to bring the box back to the processing table at the Bostonian Society’s archives center. Beginning on Tuesday, Roscio will work as quickly as possible to remove all the materials without causing damage.

“I was expecting a pile of newspapers,” Roscio said. “It’s a great surprise [the contents] are in such good condition. The book was a surprise.”

Earlier in September, professional sculptor at Skylight Studios Bob Shure told Boston he’d take the lead in restoring the lion and unicorn at his studio in Woburn. The gold sculptures were ascended off the Old State House in Downtown Boston on September 14. Brian LeMay, president of the Bostonian Society—the nonprofit group that manages the Old State House—said a time capsule filled with present-day materials that best define the city will be placed inside of the lion upon its restoration.

The idea to place a contemporary time capsule inside the lion statue came from the Boston Daily Globe archives, an article written in 1901 that told a specific story about a copper box filled with memorabilia dating back more than 100 years and was placed inside the lion’s head. Historians, Bob Shure at Skylight Studios, and the Bostonian Society confirmed the rumors of a real time capsule on September 23.

Although the materials are currently not confirmed, the Society does have a clue on what they’ll find. LeMay and Roscio both entertained the idea of the red hardcover being a family diary of Samuel D. Rogers, the carpenter in 1901 who worked on the installation of the statues. A photo of Boston’s mayor in 1901 is also suspected to be inside.

“Who was the mayor in 1901?” LeMay asked, to which the media collectively quipped, “probably Tom Menino.”

As for the new time capsule, only two items have been confirmed to be placed inside: Mayor Marty Walsh promised to provide a photo for the box (it seems fitting to carry on a new tradition), and a 2013 Boston Marathon medal. LeMay also says the Society is working on ways to make sure this new time capsule doesn’t get lost, and is “willing to take suggestions on how to transmit the information” to a new generation of Bostonians.

The Bostonian Society will also be taking suggestions from the public about what 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.