10. New-York Historical Society
In an October 2014 ceremony at the New-York Historical Society, one of the oldest known unopened time capsules became one of the oldest, opened time capsules after five minutes of bolts being carefully unscrewed, . This unique artifact was created for a parade in lower Manhattan in 1914. The celebratory parade was in honor of the area’s historical significance in the tea and coffee trade and the revolutionary war. The parade ended at 91 Wall Street, where a bronze plaque was unveiled, marking the site as the former location of the historic Merchants’ Coffee House. The next order of business was the presentation and sealing of an ornate bronze box decorated with faux-rope handles and paw-shaped feet. Though this box wouldn’t be called a “time capsule” until the term was coined at the 1939 World’s Fair, it contained various documents to be preserved for future generations. The box was hammered shut with bronze nails and a silver hammer by the ex-mayor of New York and former president of Columbia University, Seth Low, and entrusted to the president of the New-York Historical Society.
The box was supposed to be opened in 1974, but due to a cataloguing error, the box went unnoticed until the 1990s. Since the box had already missed its due date by twenty years, the opening was further postponed until October 8th 2015, as a way to mark the 400th anniversary of the Dutch colonization of the New World.
At the highly anticipated opening, the contents of the box were revealed to be various documents wrapped in brown paper or placed in envelopes, labeled with neat cursive handwriting. Among the documents were a copy of the New York Herald from May 15, 1914, a color copy of the 1914 Almanac, a photograph of the daughter of John Jay, and a letter extolling New York and the Merchants’ Coffee House as the true birthplace of the revolution.
While instructions called for the items to be returned to the box and resealed for another 100 years, the Historical Society has determined that the items will be more useful as artifacts to be examined. Student historians curated a time capsule of their own that will be housed at the Historical Society and, hopefully, opened in 2114. Items from the new time capsule include a New York Public Library card, an Amazon Kindle, an Obama campaign button, a Purell hand sanitizer, a MetroCard, a gay pride T-shirt and popular websites preserved on a flash drive.