200-Year-Old Time Capsule Discovered at Baltimore’s Washington Monument

Photo: courtesy the Moun Vernon Place Conservancy, Baltimore.
The Washington Monument in Baltimore.  Photo: via Wikipedia.

The Washington Monument in Baltimore.
Photo: via Wikipedia.

Another early American time capsule has been unearthed by construction workers, this time during restorations to Baltimore’s 200-year-old Washington Monument. Designed by Robert Mills, architect of the more famous Washington, D.C., monument of the same name, the Baltimore structure was the first built in honor of the nation’s first president. (This month has yielded its fair share of discoveries—see Lost Gospel Attributed to Jesus’s Mother Discovered at Harvard and $2 Million Anglo-Saxon Coin Hoard Discovered in Lenborough, Buckinghamshire.)

“It’s well known that they laid a cornerstone, but they never actually mentioned where the cornerstone was actually placed in the building. So it’s pretty neat to have found it,” Lance Humphries, restoration chair of Baltimore’s Mount Vernon Place Conservancy, told WBAL. Construction workers installing a septic tank under the structure kept an eye out for it when they were working at the monument’s northeast corner, suspecting that it might be there, where the light of the rising sun first hits the structure, in accordance with Masonic beliefs.

When the granite cornerstone, which weighs between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds, was spotted, construction stopped so the relic could be removed by hand. Beneath the stone’s marble lid, Humphries found four glass jars, carefully packed away with newspapers from early July of 1815. The monument’s groundbreaking, which was attended by 30,000 people was July 4 of that year.

Photo: courtesy the Moun Vernon Place Conservancy, Baltimore.

Photo: Courtesy the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy, Baltimore.

“It was amazing to see inside the cornerstone that there was this beautifully carved (decorative) panel of the stone masons and the stone carvers from 1815,” Humphries added.

At the time of burial, the time capsule was said to contain a copper plate with an engraving, a copy of George Washington’s second inaugural address, a glass bottle containing his portrait, and some coins. A second time capsule, buried 100 years later, was discovered by construction workers at the site this past October.

The nearby Walters Art Museum, which will be in charge of unpacking and analyzing the time capsule’s contents, hopes to display them during the monument’s upcoming bicentennial celebrations.

In Boston, the Museum of Fine Arts recently helped open a 1795 time capsule found underneath the Massachusetts State House cornerstone (see MFA Boston Unlocks the Country’s Oldest Time Capsule).

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