Here’s What Historians Found Inside the 1887 Virginia Time Capsule

by Victoria Santiago

Another time capsule was found in the pedestal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to the lead box discovered earlier on, a copper box was found this week. Everyone held their breath as they waited for the box to be opened. Officials hoped that the capsule would contain some historical items that have been lost. Overall, there was an audience of more than 5,000 people waiting for the box to be opened. The audience included reporters, state officials, Virginia historical conservators, and people watching digitally.

Compared to the first time capsule found in the statue, this one didn’t take as long to unpack. It took two hours for experts to remove everything from the box. Officials were hoping that it would contain a rare picture of Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, it did not. However, the time capsule contained an array of other items. They might not be the picture everyone was hoping for, but they’re still valuable and telling of the time period. The time capsule was enclosed in the Richmond, Virginia statue in 1887.

If a Rare Picture Wasn’t in the Virginia Time Capsule, What Was?

Great question. The time capsule included silver coins (that were obviously not as silver as they once were), a compass, paper money, a damp Bible, bullets, and yellowed newspapers from the time. Everything in the box checks out with the historical log kept of time capsule items. The items were all donated by Richmond residents.

One of the newspapers found in the time capsule sort of makes up for the lack of rare Lincoln imagery. There was an issue of Harper’s Weekly (very damp, of course, along with the rest of the box) dated April 29th, 1865. The paper showed a copy of a picture of someone standing next to Lincoln’s body. Unfortunately, being that it was printed in a paper, that photo wasn’t as great of a find as conservators had hoped.

Conservators said that they didn’t really expect to find an original photo of Lincoln in the time capsule, but they were hopeful. However, they said that finding two capsules under the Robert E. Lee statue was interesting and unexpected.

The first time capsule left history professionals scratching their heads, too. The first box found had a seemingly random assortment of items. They were all historically logged, too, of course, but it still left officials wondering. Especially since they were hoping to unearth that elusive picture of Abe Lincoln. The first box contained a fiction book, a note with the word “love” on it, a coin, an almanac from 1875, and an envelope. It definitely was less cohesive than the second time capsule found. Officials say that it most likely was just a fun assortment of items to mark the completion of the statue.