A Civil War-Era Time Capsule Is Opened. Inside Are More Mysteries.

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U.S.|A Civil War-Era Time Capsule Is Opened. Inside Are More Mysteries.


Conservators spent hours cautiously prying unfastened the container, which had been hidden beneath a monument to the Confederate wide Robert E. Lee.




1887 Time Capsule From Robert E. Lee Statue Opened

A pb container that was embedded successful a pedestal that erstwhile held a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee successful Virginia contained 3 books, a cloth envelope and a coin.

“You conscionable clasp connected to that. No pressure.” “No pressure.” “All right.” “Oh yeah, you unfastened them up.” “That’s an envelope.” “Yeah.” “A cloth envelope.” [unclear] “As champion I tin tell, Julie, 3 books and past different penning that was successful an envelope. It’s precise damp, truthful they’re taking their clip and trying their champion to sphere everything, which is truthful important.” “So we should — we’ll conscionable commencement with this one?” “I’ve got thing nether there, is that OK?” “You good?” “Oh, oh, ohio wow — ohio and a coin.”

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A pb container that was embedded successful a pedestal that erstwhile held a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee successful Virginia contained 3 books, a cloth envelope and a coin.CreditCredit...Jay Paul/Reuters

Dec. 22, 2021, 10:20 p.m. ET

After astir 5 hours of meticulous prying and poking, the clip had travel connected Wednesday day for Gov. Ralph Northam to assistance the lid of a clip capsule that had been hidden beneath a statue of Robert E. Lee successful Richmond, Va., since 1887.

The hands of Kate Ridgway, 1 of the conservators doing the prying and poking, had begun to blister.

“No pressure,” she told Mr. Northam.

Inside, they recovered unexpected and seemingly random items: an 1875 almanac, a waterlogged publication of fiction, a British coin, a catalog, 1 missive and a photograph of James Netherwood, a maestro stonemason who worked connected the Robert E. Lee pedestal.

“We person not yet made consciousness of wherefore this assortment was placed successful the box,” said Julie Langan, manager of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “It’s an unusual assortment.”

The time capsule was first recovered past week by historians, who had failed to find it successful September, when the statue was taken down. They strategized implicit the play astir however to delicately retrieve the instrumentality from the 1,500-pound artifact of granite that it was nestled in.

But aft an X-ray scan and cautious chipping with powerfulness saws and wedges, the removal process was over.

The clip capsule, however, was not the coveted 1 that was described successful paper accounts from 1887, a capsule which was reportedly placed beneath the aforesaid statue and rumored to incorporate a uncommon photograph of Abraham Lincoln successful his coffin, Ms. Langan said.

“The question remains: Well, what happened to that one?” she said.


A publication  recovered  successful  the clip  capsule.
Credit...Jay Paul/Reuters

Even Mr. Northam seemed enthralled with the mystery, posting respective updates connected Twitter astir the opening.

When Chelsea Blake, a conservator with the state’s historical resources agency, gingerly removed a cloth envelope from the pb container, Mr. Northam turned to her and asked, with raised eyebrows, “Could that beryllium the picture?”

It was not.

Some authorities officials had watched the full five-hour operation.

“It was truly surprising,” Ms. Langan said. She added that it “kind of felt similar having institution astatine my house, each these radical had descended. It was fun.”

The clip capsule they had anticipated uncovering mightiness person been removed astatine immoderate constituent without record, stolen oregon ne'er installed, Ms. Langan said.

“I deliberation immoderate radical are possibly a small disappointed, but it seems that astir radical are precise engaged and intrigued by this clip capsule and wondering, ‘What does it mean? What does it signify?’” she said. “It’s a puzzle.”

Since 1 of the items recovered successful the capsule was a photograph of a stonemason, Ms. Langan said, the reply mightiness beryllium that immoderate of the workmen got unneurotic and privately enactment immoderate of their mementos successful the statue for posterity.


Credit...Steve Helber/Associated Press

The items volition beryllium treated and stabilized this week to forestall deterioration. They volition astir apt beryllium placed successful a depository aft researchers effort to reply immoderate of the questions surrounding the capsule, including wherefore the fabrication publication “The Huguenot Lovers: A Tale of the Old Dominion,” by Collinson Pierrepont Edwards Burgwyn, was placed inside. And wherefore is determination a British coin?

“I’m not disappointed successful however this time has gone,” Ms. Langan said, “because it’s been truly fantastic to spot radical get truthful excited astir history.”

Amanda Holpuchcontributed reporting.

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