US Coins

200-year-old Baltimore time capsule believed to contain coins

Another centuries-old time capsule has been discovered during restoration work on a notable American building, and coins could very well be inside. 

An original cornerstone of the Washington Monument in Baltimore, placed in 1815, that, based on records of the time, is believed to contain coins, paper items and a copper plate, was discovered on Feb. 16 and opened on Feb. 18.

“This has all unfolded very, very quickly,” said Cathy Rosenbaum of Mount Vernon Place Conservancy, the organization working to preserve the Washington Monument.

Rosenbaum said that during the opening, three glass jars with newspapers rolled up inside could be seen and were photographed. However, the cornerstone and its contents were too cold to begin removal, so whatever else is inside and under the jars has not yet been revealed. 

Mount Vernon Place Conservancy does not have any information yet about the number or type of coins that are believed to be inside.

Conservators are currently developing a plan to remove the items from the cornerstone, Rosenbaum said, but no time frame has been announced.  

“They are working with the Walters Art Museum to actually come up with a plan for how to proceed,” Rosenbaum said. 

The museum will house the contents for safekeeping and conservation analysis.

The granite cornerstone has a marble lid, according to a Mount Vernon Place Conservancy release.

"It likely has a hollowed out well in the granite base in which items were deposited during the cornerstone ceremony on July 4, 1815,” the release reads. 

It is the second time capsule to be found at the Washington Monument in the last six months. Another from 1915 was found in October and is set to be opened in May. Rosenbaum said that first time capsule is also believed to contain coins.

“Few buildings have two time capsules,” said Lance Humphries, chair of the conservancy’s restoration committee. “These items speak to the antiquity and symbolic importance of the monument in the history of our country.”

The two Baltimore finds bookend the December recovery of a time capsule planted in the Massachusetts State House by Paul Revere and Sam Adams in 1795.

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