A time capsule from 1901 was opened on Thursday in great suspense in Woburn, Mass. 


The capsule, a copper box, was discovered in a statue of a lion in the historic Old State House in Boston. They were sent to a restoration studio in Woburn.  

But first, a bit of history:

The Old State House in Downtown Boston was built in 1713. It’s now a museum run by the Bostonian Society, whose president is Brian LeMay.

“It was here that George Washington and the Continental Army officially liberated the city after the siege of Boston. In July of 1776 the Declaration of Independent was read from the balcony of this building. And it was here that John Hancock was inaugurated as the state’s first governor.”

In 1901, a man named Samuel Rogers gathered letters from reporters who covered City Hall, newspaper clippings from The Boston Daily Globe, and campaign buttons from Roosevelt and McKinley. He put them in a copper box, sealed it and put it inside the statue of a lion, sitting just above the entrance to the Old Statehouse. He meant for it to be a time capsule, and it was almost forgotten. Until 2011.

“A descendent sent the Bostonian Society a copy of a letter that described the time capsule. The letter prompted extensive research and the Society therefore inserted a fiber optic camera through a small hole in the lion’s crown and discovered there a rectangular box.”

The box was still sitting inside the lion’s head when it recently arrived for restoration at Skylight Studios in Woburn. Sculptor Robert Shure melted the solder around the crown and carefully removed it. Then he reached inside and pulled out the box.

Shure placed the box on a table and began drilling, chipping and cutting into the copper. Onlookers held their breath. And then…

“Oh! Wow. It’s so clean. It’s a lot cleaner than I was expecting. Ok, at this point we need to pass over possession to our archivist Elizabeth Roscio. We can see some paper that hasn’t turned brittle or yellow. There appears to be a book.”

The book was clean, dry and bright red, but it was face down and no one could see the spine. It was surrounded by papers, also face down. The suspense was agonizing. 

“We might need to bring this back to our archives where we can move a bit slowly and have a bit more space and a bit more of a controlled environment to really delve into this,” Roscio said.

So, Roscio will carefully extract the items back in Boston. She plans to reveal them by Tuesday.

In the meantime, the Bostonian Society is asking the public to suggest what should be left inside a new time capsule.