RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Historic documents, a Bible, books, coins and ammunition from the Civil War were found inside the elusive and mysterious 1887 time capsule that was found Monday on the site where Richmond’s Robert E, Lee Monument once stood. Experts opened the 36-pound copper box Tuesday afternoon as Virginians and history buffs everywhere watched while its contents were revealed live online.
A team of conservators began the process of opening the box prior to the live event held at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources lab in Richmond on Tuesday, Dec. 28.
After an initial attempt at opening the time capsule following its recovery, it was quickly closed because of water condensation, according to State Archaeological Conservator Kate Ridgway. She said that blotter paper and silica gel were then used to keep the historic artifacts dry.
Although the container was partially opened on Monday, Dec. 27, the top of the box was left intact in order to open the final piece today – more than 130 years after the time capsule was buried.
Conservators started removing the lid around 1 p.m. and the last item was removed from the time capsule around 2:45 p.m. Ridgway said the box contained the artifacts they expected to see based on historical records. The time capsule contained a variety of items including:
- “Harpers Weekly” from April 1865. The paper already had wear and tear before it was put into the box
- Constitution of the Lee camp (where veterans stayed)
- A photo
- Five or six minie balls used in muskets
- Confederate money in an envelope
- Twelve copper coins
- A copy of the Richmond Dispatch newspaper and other newspapers
- Several books including a Richmond directory
- Small Bible with an impression of a coin on its cover
- Wood-carved Masonic symbol and flag
- Badges from the Army of Northern Virginia
- Reports of Chamber of Commerce, Richmond, 1886 and 1887 (two volumes)
- Several rubber bands
- Commemorative ribbon from the day the monument’s cornerstone was laid with Lee on it
- Book titled “The Immigrant’s Friend” published by Manning C. Staples and Company, 1104 1/2 Main St.
Ridgway said that after the time capsule was retrieved Monday, it was photographed and a portable X-ray machine was used to confirm that the box is copper. A bomb squad also evaluated the box to make sure that there was no live ammunition inside.
Historic records approximate that the time capsule was buried in October 1887. Earlier this month Gov. Ralph Northam noted that based on Library of Virginia records, 37 Richmond residents, organizations and businesses contributed about 60 objects for the capsule. A “Richmond Magazine” article from 2017 tells the story of the time capsule and the items that were thought to be inside.
The copper time capsule was located Monday beneath the statue’s pedestal on the site where the Robert E, Lee statue once stood. Construction crews removing the pedestal from Monument Avenue were successful this time after a previous effort to locate the vessel failed after hours of digging at the site.
A lead box was found at the site earlier this month and opened last week with the expectation that it was the 1887 time capsule from historic reports. After its contents were revealed, it was determined to be a second “time capsule” placed inside the pedestal by people who worked on the construction project.
The box contained three books, an envelope and a coin. One of the books is an 1875 almanac and another appeared to be an 1889 novel titled “The Huguenot Lovers.”
- Dec. 27, 2021: After last week’s false alarm, 1887 time capsule unearthed after months-long search
- Dec. 27, 2021: Historic 1887 time capsule found at the former Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond
- Dec. 24, 2021: One down, but search for another capsule continues at site of Lee Monument
- Dec. 24, 2021: Search to resume for 1887 time capsule under Richmond Robert E. Lee monument
- Dec. 22, 2021: What’s in the box? Take a look inside the time capsule found in the Robert E. Lee Monument
- Dec. 21, 2021: Time capsule from Richmond’s Robert E. Lee Monument opened; books, envelope & coin inside
- Dec. 17, 2021: Crews may have discovered 1887 time capsule with Confederate artifacts in Richmond
- Sept. 11, 2021: New capsule installed within pedestal where Lee statue stood
- Sept. 10, 2021: Search for 134-year-old time capsule under former Lee statue ends, new one to be installed
- Sept. 9, 2021: Crews end daylong search for 1887 Lee statue time capsule
- Sept. 8, 2021: PHOTOS: Robert E. Lee statue comes down from Richmond’s Monument Avenue after 131 years
- Sept. 8, 2021: Gov. Northam announces artifacts to be included in new time capsule
- Sept. 7, 2021: PHOTOS: Scenes from the Robert E. Lee statue on the eve of its removal in Richmond
- Sept. 7, 2021: Locals, travelers get last-minute photos, reflection before Robert E. Lee statue comes down
- Sept. 6, 2021: Robert E. Lee statue on Monument Avenue to come down