Time Capsules: A Portal to Providence's Past

April 12, 2016

A little over one year ago the oldest time capsule discovered in American history was opened. It was discovered in the cornerstone of the Boston State House, placed there in 1795 by then Governor Samuel Adams and Paul Revere. The opening of the capsule garnered widespread media coverage, and its contents gave the world a glimpse of American life on the cusp of the 19th century.


I’m sure you may have heard of this exciting time capusle discovery. However, did you know that our very own City of Providence revealed a significant time capsule find 15 years ago?

Dedicated in 1871 and originally located in its present location in Kennedy Plaza, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was moved during renovations to the Plaza in 1913. As construction crews worked in 2001 to relocate the monument to its current location, two time capsules were unearthed – one from 1871 and one from 1906. The late former mayor Buddy Cianci along with a team of historians, archivists, and city employees, opened the time capsules shortly after their discovery.

buddyThe rectangular copper box dating from 1871 had suffered some damage over time, yet upon opening it revealed some bent but salvageable treasures. Included in the box was a copy of the Rhode Island Manual from 1867, a book of City Council proceedings commemorating President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, a copy of the rules and orders of the General Assembly from 1870, an auditor’s report on the cost of constructing the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, a book listing items manufactured in Providence, and a dollar’s worth of paper currency.

Among the items found in the 1906 time capsule was a note explaining the relocation of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument along with encampment reports for the Grand Army of the Republic for the years 1904, 1905 and 1906.

How exciting it must have been to open those boxes and see a slice of Providence’s past! One cannot help but wonder – where might the next bit of RI treasure be hiding?

Sources consulted:
C. DUJARDIN, R. (2001, Apr 17). A boxed set of r.i. history. Providence Journal (RI), pp. A-01. Retrieved from https://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/1525111D84783210?p=NewsBank




About the Author

STEPHANIE KNOTT is an Information Librarian at PPL. If she stumbled across a portal to the past, she’d probably go in it.