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Boston time capsule from 1901 yields little red book

Sept. 14, 2014: A lion statue is removed from atop the Old State House on Washington Street in Boston. (AP/The Boston Globe, Dina Rudick)

Sept. 14, 2014: A lion statue is removed from atop the Old State House on Washington Street in Boston. (AP/The Boston Globe, Dina Rudick)

The highly-anticipated opening of a time capsule that been hidden in the head of a lion statue atop a historical landmark for more than a century yielded at least one surprise Thursday: a hardcover book.

The Bostonian Society had expected the time capsule to include letters, newspaper clippings and other items from 1901, the year it was placed in the statue on the Old State House. Papers were found, along with the red book inside the copper box roughly the size of a modern shoebox. The book had no visible markings, and nothing was taken out of the box because of the items' fragile condition. So, the contents of the book remain a mystery, for now.

The inside of the box and its contents -- there was no mold or water damage -- thrilled society President Brian LeMay.

LeMay said he was "absolutely delighted" with the conditions inside the box.

The time capsule was sealed inside the lion's head since 1901 and then forgotten -- until recently.

Rumors of its existence were confirmed last month when the statue was taken down from the Old State House for refurbishing.

The delicate removal of the box took place at a sculpting studio in suburban Woburn.

Robert Shure, owner of Skylight Studio, first removed a crown atop the copper and gold-leaf lion's head, cut cables holding the box in place inside the head, and removed the rectangular box, which weighed between five and 10 pounds and measured 8-by-12 inches in length and about 6 inches deep, according to Shure.

The society, which manages the Old State House, first learned about the possible existence of the time capsule years ago from the great-great-granddaughter of Samuel Rogers, a craftsman who had worked on building renovations and was believed to have placed the time capsule in the lion's head and catalogued its contents. A 1901 article from The Boston Globe surfaced later, alluding to contents of a copper box "which will prove interesting when the box is opened many years hence."

Elizabeth Roscio, the Boston Society's archivist, said the box will be brought to an environmentally-controlled setting where the contents can be carefully removed and studied. They will be put on public display at a later date.

One of Boston's most popular tourist attractions, the Old State House has a storied history. It was once the seat of English rule in the northern colonies, and the original lion statue and an accompanying unicorn statue symbolized the unification of England and Scotland.

It was just outside the building that British regulars opened fire on a crowd of protesters in 1770, killing five people in what would become known as the Boston Massacre.

In the summer of 1776, the newly-signed Declaration of Independence was read for the first time to Bostonians from a balcony of the building, which would later serve as the first seat of Massachusetts government.

The plan is to put a new time capsule in the lion's head, this one made of titanium. The society is currently soliciting suggestions of what to put in it, but said one item will be a medal from the ill-fated 2013 Boston Marathon.