A Massachusetts time capsule dating from 1795 was returned Wednesday to the cornerstone of the State House with a set of 2015 U.S. mint coins and a silver plaque added to its contents for a future generation to discover.
The celebration included a procession of freemasons who marched up Beacon Hill as military units rang off a 19-gun salute. All of this was part of an effort to approximate the atmosphere on July 4, 1795 when the cornerstone was drawn by 15 white horses from Boston’s Old South Church.
On that day, then-Gov. Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, then grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Masons, presided over the ceremony in which the time capsule was first deposited into the cornerstone.
During the ceremony, Gov. Charlie Baker joked that Adams is better known today as a beer-maker than a key Revolutionary-era figure. But he said it was humbling to consider that the original capsule was placed just 15 years after Massachusetts adopted its constitution.
"What makes this time capsule so unusual is it's not an interpretation from a historian, it's not a passage in a textbook. It's the story that our predecessors from that revolutionary time wanted us to know and understand," Baker said.
The original container included an engraved silver plaque, a medal in honor of George Washington and a set of coins, including one believed to be dated to the mid-1600s.
The capsule was removed in 1855 during construction of a new wing of the building. Its contents were transferred to a sturdier brass box, and new items were added. The box was rediscovered last year during a water filtration project. It was gingerly removed from the building and later opened by conservators at the Museum of Fine Arts.
The latest contents were a set of U.S. mint coins – including dollar coins of Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson – and a silver plaque commemorating the events.
As was the case in 1855, the contents were placed in a new container, this one made of stainless steel with an oxygen-free interior to prevent deterioration.
Secretary of State William Galvin, who presided over the ceremony with Baker and Harvey Waugh, current grand master of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Masons, said it could be hundreds of years before the box is opened again, but when it is, "the history we made today will be fondly remembered."
Groups of invited schoolchildren, wearing T-shirts that read "Time To Go Back," watched the ceremony along with state workers and curious tourists.
A spokesman for Galvin's office could not immediately provide a total cost for the ceremony, saying the expenses were spread among several state and Boston agencies. The audio-visual costs for the event were about $47,000, he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.