Contents of 1901 Boston time capsule revealed

Bob Salsberg
Associated Press

Boston – — A Boston time capsule dating to 1901 contained letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, political campaign buttons and a presidential message on U.S. foreign relations, archivists said Wednesday.

The shoebox-sized capsule was removed last week from the head of lion statue that has long stood guard over the Old State House. The Bostonian Society, which oversees the historic building, released an inventory of the items Wednesday and said they would go on public display in the near future.

The existence of the time capsule had only recently been confirmed. The box was opened Oct. 9 but the items inside were not initially removed because of concerns they might be damaged if not properly handled.

The presence of a red hardcover book, with no visible title, surprised the organization because it had not been included on a list discovered by an ancestor of a man who worked on the statue, nor was it referenced in a recently uncovered 1901 newspaper article about the time capsule.

When the book was later opened, it revealed the title “Foreign Relations of the United States,” followed by the subtitle, “The Annual Message of the President of the United States,” and transmitted to Congress on Dec. 7, 1896. Grover Cleveland would have been president on that date.

Elizabeth Roscio, archivist for the Bostonian Society, judged the materials that were tightly packed into the box to be in remarkably good overall condition, which she credited to the capsule being tightly sealed to prevent any deterioration or water damage.

Some details will apparently remain under wraps a bit longer, however, including the contents of a letter that was sealed into a plain brown envelope that read: “A Message to Posterity from the daily newspapers at City Hall.”

The letter is believed to be a missive to future generations written by a group of Boston journalists. It was not immediately clear when it might be opened.

Among the political campaign buttons listed on the inventory was a William McKinley-Theodore Roosevelt campaign button. McKinley, who won a second term as president in 1900, would be assassinated only months after the time capsule was placed in the lion’s head, with Roosevelt, then vice president, succeeding him.

Other items in the box included photographs and business cards of local elected and appointed officials along two nails, one from the Old State House and one from another historic Boston building, the Old South Church.

The Old State House, the first seat of Massachusetts state government, was an administrative building in colonial times and a focal point of patriotic fervor. British soldiers gunned down five protesters outside the building in 1770, an event that became known as the Boston Massacre.