History Comes Alive in 1901 Time Capsule

On October 15, 2014, during restoration work on the Old State House, a sealed time capsule was found inside the head of the golden lion statue that sits on top of the Old State House!

Materials found inside were associated with the 1901 restoration of the Old State House and fit into four categories: materials associated with the restoration, materials that pertained to Boston newspapers, items representing the Grand Army of the Republic, and items that related to local and national politics.

However, there was one item that did not fit into any of these categories – a bill for tuition and one piece of music, dated January, 1, 1901 and addressed to John A. Silver. John Silver was well-represented in the time capsule. He was listed on a parchment scroll of city employees, was included in a group photograph of men who worked on the restoration of the Old State House, as well as on a cabinet card, a type of portraiture where a photograph was mounted on a board, which allowed the sitter to autograph the back of the portrait. The back of Silver’s cabinet card helpfully included the following inscription: “Boston, Feb 20/1901, John Aaron Webster Silver, Deputy Superintendent, Public Buildings, City of Boston, Builder by Trade, 36 years old last December 28th 1900. Also included in the time capsule were four business cards. One belonged to John Silver. The inclusion of the bill of tuition made out to John Silver, along with his business card, led Old State House archivists and historians to speculate that he was also one of the men who put together the time capsule in February 1901.

These personal items revealed more. Additional information found through research on John Silver and the tuition bill revealed information about his family. John Silver was born in Maine; his father in England; his mother in Pennsylvania. In 1884, he married Cora, born in New Hampshire in 1862. They had one son, Earl, born in 1888. It is likely that the bill was for music lessons for Earl, who would have been twelve at the time the tuition bill was issued by music teacher Alcide de Andria, whose name appears on bill as the person to whom the bill was payable. These clues make “history come alive!” Learning more about the men who assembled the time capsule reminds us that these were real people, who had families, went to work, supported their children’s extracurricular activities, and essentially, were not all that different from people today.

Old State House Time Capsule Tuition bill

Time Capsule