Books, Ammo Found in Lee Statue Time Capsule

This one was the right box, experts say
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 28, 2021 1:58 AM CST
Updated Dec 28, 2021 7:12 PM CST
2nd Time Likely the Charm for Time Capsule Found in Robert E. Lee Statue
A Minie ball, a type of bullet, was one of the artifacts inside a copper box time capsule recovered from the base of a Robert E. Lee monument, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, at the Virginia Department of Historical Resources lab in Richmond, Va.   (Bob Brown/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Update: Dozens of Civil War-era artifacts were recovered Tuesday from an 1887 time capsule found in a pedestal that once held a statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia. Conservators say they recovered books, buttons, Confederate money, and Minie balls, a type of ammunition, from the copper box, the AP reports. A "picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin" described in a newspaper article of the time, however, turned out to be an image from an 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly showing a figure at Lincoln's grave. Conservators said the items were waterlogged but still in better shape than expected. "We thought everything would be soup and it's not soup, so that's great," said lead conservator Kate Ridgway, per the BBC. Our story from earlier today follows:

Crews wrapping up the removal of a giant pedestal that once held a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond found what appeared to be a second and long-sought-after time capsule, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Monday. The governor tweeted photos of a box being removed from the site and said conservators were studying the artifact, the AP reports. “They found it! This is likely the time capsule everyone was looking for," he tweeted. The box was expected to be opened Tuesday afternoon. It wasn't immediately clear what kind of condition any contents might be in.

The development marked the latest turn in a months-long search for the capsule, which contemporaneous news accounts indicate was placed during a cornerstone-laying ceremony in 1887 attended by thousands of people. News accounts described its dozens of donated artifacts, including Confederate memorabilia. Based on historical records, some have also speculated the capsule might contain a rare photo of deceased President Abraham Lincoln in his casket, the Washington Post reports. Earlier this month, crews dismantling the pedestal found a time capsule embedded in a granite block that some initially thought might have been the one placed in 1887. But after state conservators spent hours last week gingerly prying the box open, they didn’t find the expected trove of objects related to the Confederacy.

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Instead, conservators pulled out a few waterlogged books, a silver coin and an envelope with some papers. The prevailing theory last week was that the lead box was left by a person—or persons—who oversaw the monument’s construction. The search for the 1887 time capsule resumed Monday. Devon Henry, the contractor whose company was overseeing the removal, said the box was found inside a granite enclosure basically at ground level, surrounded by fill and other construction material. The governor's office said in a news release that the box, which matches the size of the capsule listed in historical records, had been X-rayed. The resulting images showed it appeared to include books, coins, buttons and perhaps a type of Civil War-era ammunition, the news release said. It was found sitting in water, and whether it is waterlogged remains to be seen.

(More Virginia stories.)

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