October 15, 2014

Contents of Time Capsule Revealed!

Yesterday I was excited for the opportunity to take materials out of the time capsule!  The capsule was full to the brim with documents, so the whole process of carefully removing materials took over two hours.  Each item was inventoried and photographed, and then placed in acid-free folders or boxes. The next step will be to scan the documents so that we'll have preservation copies and select items for a temporary exhibition.

The most striking thing about the contents of the time capsule was their amazing condition.  We knew that the capsule was air-tight and water-tight, so there was little worry about moisture or oxygen causing damage.  However, I was concerned about the high temperatures that the capsule would have been exposed to up in the Lion's head, as heat can speed up the chemical breakdown of paper.  However, the documents seem to be in great condition!  There was no little to no deterioration of paper quality, and some of the ink was so vivid it looked as if it had been written yesterday!

But what are the contents?  And what about that mysterious red book? 

The red book is a government publication, titled Papers relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, with the annual message of the President transmitted to Congress December 7, 1896, and the annual report of the Secretary of State. There are no inscriptions within the book, so we don't know if it holds any significance.  It's my guess, though, that it was placed on the top of the pile of documents as a space-filler.  I checked WorldCat to see if there are other copies of this book in the area, and it does look as though this is one of the few copies out there.

Letters that are sealed will need a little bit of preservation work before they are opened. Please follow along on our blog for updates, and enjoy reading the full list of time capsule contents below!
  • Foreign Relations of the United States, 1896 (hardback book)
  • Blank packing paper
  • Wood removed from the Old Lion age of same 21 years in 1900 (notation is written on a business card for American Painting & Decorating Co. and tacked onto the back of the piece of wood)
  • The Banker Tradesman – the financial, legal, real estate, and building information, vol xxix, n. 4, February 20, 1901
  • Blank piece of letterhead from M.H. Gulesian
  • Business cards for S.D. Rogers & Co (Carpenters and Builders), Mr. Edwin H. Woods (Publisher and Treasurer of the Boston Herald), G. Fred Richmond (Boston Herald), and John A. W. Silver (Deputy Superintendent of Public Buildings)
  • Boston Transcript of February 19, 1901 from Edw. G. Richardson, City Hall Representative
  • Pamphlet of the Organization of the School Committee of the City of Boston, 1901
  • Cabinet card of Mayor A.P. Martin [mayor 1884] with inscription “Yours truly”
  • Card with inscription “Geo. G. Proctor, 665 Sixth St., South Boston, Mass”
  • Parchment role of employees of public buildings department, February 1901
  • Bill for tuition and one piece of music, January 1, 1901 signed by John A. Silver
  • Sealed letter from C.W. Ernest, Esq. Mayor’s Private Secretary, Boston, Mass.
  • Letter from A.J. Rodway, describing the heraldic seal of the Lion and Unicorn
  • Sealed letter from the Boston Traveler
  • Campaign button for John D. Long, Candidate for Vice-President
  • Nail from Old South Church and nail from Old State House
  • Group photograph of individuals who worked on restoration of the Old State House, February 19, 1901
  • Sealed letter inscribed “A message to posterity from the daily newspapers at City Hall”
  • Grand Army of the Republic lapel button
  • Grand Army of the Republic badge
  • Samuel L. Powers for Congress campaign button
  • Boston Journal, photograph showing the 5th Massachusetts regiment
  • Fernald Family History, possibly on electrotype
  • Cabinet card of Moses Gulesian
  • Veterans button, possibly Grand Army of the Republic
  • McKinley and Roosevelt campaign button
  • The Boston Herald, February 21, 1901, with leaflets of advertising rates
  • Electrotype of Boston Herald, Herald Boy
  • Miniature electrotype of Boston Herald from April 11, 1900
  • Photograph of Nathan Matthews, Junior [Mayor 1891-94]
  • Photograph of Josiah Quincy [Mayor 1896-1899]
  • Six photographs of GAR officials, these images are pages cut out of a publication
  • Photograph of Edwin Curtis [Mayor 1895]
  • Cabinet card of C.G. Davis, Sergeant at Arms
  • Cabinet card of W. Murray Crane, Governor
  • Cabinet card of John B. Smith, Governor’s Secretary
  • Cabinet card of William W. Campbell, Deputy Sheriff
  • The Boston Post, February 19, 1901 and February 21, 1901
  • Cabinet card of Thomas Hart, Mayor
  • Cabinet card of Milton C. Paige, Superintendent of Public Buildings
  • Cabinet card of John A. W. Silver, Deputy Superintendent of Public Buildings
  • Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Department Directory, 1901
  • Die cut for printing of the Boston Herald building, 255 Washington Street
  • Letter from American Painting and Decorating Company about the work done on the Old State House, February 18, 1901
  • Boston Daily Globe, February 16, 1901 advertisement of circulation

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

All photographs by Amy Nelson, Finance and Administrative Assistant

October 10, 2014

Time Capsule Opened!

We opened the time capsule yesterday! Materials won't be removed until next week, but in the meantime, we wanted to share some behind-the-scenes photographs from yesterday's event. Amy Nelson, one of our staff members, was buzzing around the studio taking photographs, and we're thrilled to share some of them here - be sure to click on the image to see the larger version!



Watch this space for updates on the contents of the time capsule!

October 1, 2014

Thou shalt not steal: the Hancock Family Bible

Last month the Society held a special event and for one night only displayed some rarely seen artifacts related to John and Dorothy Hancock. One of the featured items was the Hancock family bible.

The bible was donated to the Society in 1886 by Franklin Hancock. In the Society’s early years, Franklin donated a number of personal Hancock items, such as one of John’s coats and a pair of Dorothy’s shoes. Our membership lists show that Franklin was a lifetime member of the Society, but the donation file for the bible does not provide any further information about him and his place in the Hancock family. John and Dorothy only had two children and neither lived beyond childhood, so Franklin could not have been a direct descendant. With a little digging, I was able to determine that Franklin Hancock was born on November 17, 1818 and died June 1, 1893. He was the son of John Hancock (b. 1774), who was the son of Ebenezer Hancock (b. 1741). Ebenezer was John Hancock’s youngest brother, so that means that John Hancock was Franklin’s great-uncle.

This bible was printed in 1721 in Edinburgh, Scotland and belonged to John’s grandfather, Reverend John Hancock of Lexington. After his father died, John lived with his grandfather for a few years before he was taken in by his uncle Thomas. We do not know if the bible passed to John’s father or his uncle before he received it. According to our donation file, John later lent the bible to the chaplain at Castle Island for use of the troops stationed there.

John made a few notations on the title page of the bible which make it an even more personal item. In the upper right-hand corner, he signed his name with an apostrophe “s” to ensure that everyone knew who it belonged to. In the upper left-hand corner, he inscribed “Thou shalt not steal, saith the Lord” as a reminder to anyone who might be contemplating slipping off with his personal bible. These details illustrate the importance that he placed on the family bible.

According to our files, this oversized bible was sent to the James MacDonald Company in New York for conservation work in 1961. It has been rebound and the backs of the first pages have been reinforced with Japanese paper. Even though the bible has been repaired, it is still one of the more rare and fragile items in our collection and is only taken out of storage for special occasions.

For more information on John Hancock, check out The Baron of Beacon Hill by William M. Fowler, Jr.

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager

September 25, 2014

We're in the news!

If you've been following along on our blog, you know that the Old State House is in the middle of a restoration project.  Nearly two weeks ago, the iconic Lion and Unicorn statues were removed from their perch on the east façade of the Old State House.  There was rumored to be a time capsule placed in the Lion's head, and earlier this week Skylight Studios artist Bob Shure and Matt Ottinger, our Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation, were able to confirm its existence by using a special fiber optics camera.

We're thrilled that this news has been picked up by local, national, and even international media outlets.  In case you haven't had a chance to read any of the articles or watch any video, we've included links to some below:



http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/09/25/bostons-century-old-time-capsule-thought-discovered-in-lions-head/

Stay tuned as we finalize plans to open the time capsule!

September 18, 2014

Restoration Project Update!

The Old State House has been full of activity in the last two weeks. After the scaffolding was finished the first week in September, work immediately began on cutting the old mortar joints. Our contractor, Commodore Builders, had the crew from NER Building Restoration moving at a solid pace throughout the cutting process, even though most of the work is done by hand. The mortar cutting is done with a single saw blade cut through the center of the joint and then the mortar is chiseled out by hand to avoid damaging the historic brick. During the work a very interesting line of lead flashing was found buried in the old mortar joints along the floor level of the second floor. Reviewing historic photos, it is currently believed that the flashing is a remnant of a small balcony located on the west façade during the mid 19th-century.

Last week, the carpentry crew from M&A Architectural was on-site to remove the balcony doors and balustrade for restoration. The removal of the wooden elements from the balcony went smoothly and although deteriorated wood was easily spotted on the removed pieces, the urns that adorned the balustrade posts were in great shape. Over the next two weeks, the carpenters will be back at the Old State House to remove some windows and other building elements for restoration.

The biggest news was the removal of the iconic Lion and Unicorn statues on the east façade. On Sunday, Commodore Builders team from NER and Marr Rigging successfully removed, crated, and delivered the two large animals. Made from hollow copper, the statues are being restored by the staff at Skylight Studios, the same place the statues were restored in 1991. The first step to the restoration of the statues is to find whether there is truth behind the documentation of a 1901 time capsule in the Lion’s head. Finding out if a capsule has been residing in the Lion is not a simple task and the exploration must be done carefully. Skylight Studios and the Bostonian Society will examine the Lion and hopes to have a very exciting announcement in the next couple of weeks.

During the next couple of weeks, the re-pointing of the west façade will begin, more information will be gathered from the wooden elements taken from the balcony, and of course more news on the Lion and Unicorn. Stay tuned to the blog and our website for updates.

By Matt Ottinger, Director of Facilities and Historic Preservation