A Wonderful Look At America’s Oldest Time Capsule

Time capsule box being unearthed.AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Chances are you have either created, or imagined creating a time capsule at some point in your life. Our elementary school participated in such a project and added pictures, letters to future students, and various knickknacks from our era. I have no idea if it was ever found or opened. Fortunately, a very old, very cool, time capsule was opened from the 18th century. Thanks to America’s midnight ridin’ folk hero himself – Paul Revere – quite a few pieces of history were preserved in an aged lead box at the Massachusetts State House. At 220 years old, it was the oldest one unearthed in our country’s history.

A bit of background on Paul Revere is necessary here. He is best known for his role during the American Revolution as the midnight messenger who warned: “The British are coming!” He and a group of other men rode throughout the colony using lanterns to spread the word. However, his resumé was much longer than that. He was a skilled metalsmith (copper, gold, and silver) who sometimes performed dental work too. A natural rebel, he’d been part of several groups that opposed taxation and the British – he was also present at the Boston Tea party. His rebellious streak came in handy as an American spy when he did recon work against the British military. Also noteworthy were his artistic skills. He was a talented artisan who made tea sets, engravings, and printed the country’s first currency.

Brass time capsule box from Paul Revere's time.

Along with his friends, then-governor Samuel Adams and Colonel William Scollay, Paul Revere decided to fill the time capsule with mementos from their time. America’s independence was still in its infancy in 1795 when they sealed it up. It made sense to do this in Massachusetts where the American Revolution began and much of the military action took place. One of the items found in the box happened to be a title page from Massachusetts’ Colony Records.

Engraved silver plate from 200 year old American time capsule.

Some of the other things in it were old coins, a copper medal of George Washington, newspapers, and a metal plaque assumed to have been engraved by Revere himself. Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts details how they conducted the excavation, cleaning, and opening of the capsule, and all the objects that were preserved within it. The museum’s website also notes that the capsule was previously opened, carefully cleaned, and its contents catalogued in 1855. During this event additional objects were added before it was reburied in a brass box to replace the lead one. The museum had the box on display for one month in 2015 before it was reburied. What do you think would go in America’s time capsule today? What would you put in your own? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.