People are understandably excited to see what's inside Paul Revere's time capsule when it's opened tonight in Boston. The capsule was first interred in a cornerstone by Revere and Samuel Adams in 1795, and many news outlets are playing up the idea that the contents are a complete mystery. Except that it's not. Because it was already opened at least once before back in 1855.
The Massachusetts Freemasons were there on August 7, 1855, when workmen were repairing the State House, the building where the cornerstone time capsule was interred. They cracked the thing open and found a lead box with some coins and a silver plate with an inscription.
"This accidental discovery of the original cornerstone resulted in having the same plate and coins replaced without any special display under a new stone," the Freemasons Monthly Magazine reported at the time.
According to The Atlantic's Yoni Appelbaum, it may have been opened again around 1900. In fact, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if the capsule had been opened at some point in the past century as well. What does this mean for the claim of "world's oldest time capsule"? Well, it means whatever you want it to mean. Because the definition of a "time capsule" is certainly open to interpretation as well.
So what's going to be inside when they open the thing tonight? Probably some coins and a silver plate, along with some newspapers and cards that may have been added in 1855. And maybe some whiskey and porn! You never know what crazy stuff might be inside a time capsule. But probably just some coins and a silver plate and stuff. Sorry.
These leap-frog capsules (my dumb term for them) often get bonus items included by the people who dig them up and rebury them. That's the entire point of some capsules. But quite frankly I wouldn't get my hopes too high. More often than not, we time capsule nerds are disappointed.
Who can forget Norway's 100-year-old "mystery time capsule" that included a 90 minute televised build-up? It had everything time capsule nerds would expect -- some personal letters and some flags. Most people were expecting something exciting.
More often than not time capsules are boring as shit. Which is why we live for those rare exciting ones. Something tells me this Paul Revere capsule has a slim chance of being one of those.
Update: Well they opened it and it's about what we expected.
Paul Revere's time capsule: 5 newspapers, 24 coins, page of govt records, 2 sheets of interleafing, seal of Massachusetts, silver plate.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) January 7, 2015
Picture: Cornerstone being cracked open via AP