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The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 9, February 28, 2010, Article 21

1859 MASSACHUSETTS TIME CAPSULE YIELDS COINS AND DOCUMENTS

Numismatic bibliophiles may appreciate this article about an 1859 time capsule recently opened. It contained salvageable documents as well as coins and other artifacts. It was sent in by an E-Sylum reader, who writes:

A time capsule found in a small Massachusetts town includes two old coins. The finders are wisely going to inquire with collectors about how the clean the coins.

-Editor

Athol Mass time capsule The jar was a time capsule placed inside the Hapgood Cemetery monument on July 4, 1859, when it was dedicated and erected. It remained inside the monument, forgotten, until two Athol High School teachers began researching what is believed to be the town's oldest cemetery. The research led them to discover that when the monument was placed to denote the poorly defined cemetery, where graves are mostly unmarked, a record of the event was kept and tucked away for a future generation.

Yesterday the town held two events connected with the discovery of the capsule. The first was at the cemetery, where workers from Athol Granite re-erected the monument with a new time capsule in it. The second was in Town Hall, where Ms. Burnham opened the old capsule to see if anything in it could be salvaged.

Those involved with the process had not much hope of finding intact papers. When the capsule was taken out of the monument Feb. 2, it was cracked. Through the glass, it looked as if the material inside was hopelessly decayed.

What they thought they saw was not what they got.

"I can't believe there is that much savable," Susannah Whipps-Lee of the Athol Historical Society said at the time.

Yesterday, Ms. Burnham unrolled four sets of documents that included an annual report of the town's schools, a list of assessed properties in town, a report of the 1850 town centennial and what appears to be the equivalent of today's pocket organizers. All the documents were damaged, but most of them could be read.

Along with the remains of some of the documents, two coins fell out. The coins appear to be pennies, although Ms. Burnham said she will ask local coin collector and historian J.R. Greene for advice on what can be used to safely clean them. She said they are likely pennies from 1859, but the faces of the coins are obscured by accumulated material.

Ms. Burnham plans to leave the documents out to dry on blotting paper. Once they are dry, they will be sent to document specialists for preservation. Then they will be returned to be displayed in town along with the coins and the glass jar.

To read the complete article, see: Time capsule spills forth history (www.telegram.com/article/20100219/NEWS/2190516/1116)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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