Conservators Just Cracked Open a 134-Year-Old Confederate Time Capsule

There’s a livestream, and it’s fascinating.

Sarah Rankin/AP

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.

Yesterday, crews who were working to remove the base of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, made an exciting discovery beneath the monument: a copper box from 1887 believed to contain dozens of pieces of historic memorabilia.

As I write this, conservation experts in the state’s capital are opening and examining the time capsule’s contents, which turn out to be slightly waterlogged but in surprisingly good condition. The artifacts uncovered thus far include a small Bible, Confederate money, a book entitled Minutae of Soldier Life, a Civil War bullet called a Minié ball, and a printed image from an 1865 issue of Harper’s Weekly depicting someone grieving over Abraham Lincoln’s grave.

This isn’t the first time this month that the same team of conservators has opened a container beneath the Lee monument, which departing Gov. Ralph Northam had ordered taken down in September. Last week, they pried open a lead box found in the pedestal, but the box did not match historical descriptions of the formal time capsule. It contained few artifacts and was likely placed by the people who erected the monument.

As lead conservator Kate Ridgway prepared to slice open the side of the copper box to free its waterlogged contents today, she had some advice for anyone considering creating one. “Next time capsule,” she said, “maybe not so much stuff in it.” 

Check out the livestream here.

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaire owners wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2022 demands.

payment methods

FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and billionaire owners wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2022 demands.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate