RICHMOND, Va. — The opening of a time capsule inside the base of a Robert E. Lee statue in Virginia’s capital yielded some surprises, but not the ones historians were expecting.
A three-person team of conservators at Virginia’s Department of Historic Resources spent more than five hours opening and examining the lead box and its contents that were discovered Friday in the stone base of the 131-year-old statue of the Confederate general, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
The team found an almanac from 1875, a book with a pink cover that appeared to be an edition of “The Huguenot Lovers: A Tale of the Old Dominion” by Collinson Pierrepont Edwards Burgwyn, and a pamphlet that referenced water power facilities in Manchester, a city located south of Richmond. Historians also found a cloth envelope and a silver coin, according to The Associated Press.
The preservation team said it was surprised the box didn't match historic accounts of what was put into the pedestal in 1887. https://t.co/gGAwgTN2Ze— Times-Dispatch (@RTDNEWS) December 22, 2021
The currency was an 1887 Victoria Dei Gratia silver coin from England, the Times-Dispatch reported.
Burgwyn was a civil engineer who worked on the plans for Monument Avenue in Richmond, where the Lee statue had stood since 1890, the AP reported.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam opened the capsule and expressed surprise, the Times-Dispatch reported.
According to the newspaper, historians believed the time capsule in 1887 contained 60 artifacts contained within the base of the statue, citing newspaper reports at the time. One item particularly intrigued historians -- a potentially rare picture of Abraham Lincoln in his coffin.
Records from the Library of Virginia have suggested that 37 Richmond residents, organizations and businesses contributed the objects to the capsule, the AP reported. Many are believed to be related to the Confederacy.
Devon Henry, the contractor who removed the Lee statue and is continuing to work on removing the pedestal, said there could be a second time capsule.
“I’m as intrigued as everyone,” Henry told reporters. “It was a huge relief to find it. Secondly, we need to see if it’s what we are looking for.”
The time capsule referenced in the 1887 news reports was believed to be a copper box measuring 14 inches long, 14 inches wide and 8 inches deep, the AP reported. The lead box that was opened measured 4 inches long, 8 inches wide and 11.5 inches deep.
“We were really surprised to find something lead,” Julie Langan, the director of the state’s Department of Historic Resources, told reporters.
Other items included:
- An image of a man, with the words “James Netherwood master stone mason” written in hand on the back. Netherwood supervised the construction of the pedestal, the Times-Dispatch reported. Below the image are the printed words “Virginia Art Studio 525 E. Broad Street.”
- A hardbound book titled “American Ephemeris and Nautical Almanac 1875.”
- A softbound book resembling a ledger that wasn’t opened Wednesday.
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