Did You Know? Within the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond Lies a Secret!

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CivilWarTalk

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The Robert E. Lee monument in Richmond was dedicated on May 29, 1890. But before that, a cornerstone was laid on October 27, 1887. It contained a time capsule with several interesting items inside.

When the plans for the monument were drawn up, in the cornerstone, a space for a copper capsule was included. Created by Capt. J. E. Phillips, the engineer who would be excavating the property, the small storage box would be about 14" by 14" and 8" deep. This box would be placed into the cornerstone and sealed with a heavy lid.

What did they put in the Time Capsule?

On the morning of October 25th, two days before the Cornerstone Ceremony, Mr. William B. Isaacs, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Virginia A.F and A.M., finished loading and cataloging all the items to be stored in the time capsule in his office in Richmond. When everything was safely stored inside, the copper capsule was closed for the final time for at least one hundred and thirty some-odd years...so far... A few minutes later, the Cornerstone was sealed closed with the capsule inside, at about Noon in Richmond.

However, we are lucky that Mr. Isaacs' provided a copy of his catalog to be published in the local Newspaper! Using the Library of Congress Newspaper Collection, I was able to locate a copy of the Daily Times of Richmond for October 26, 1887, this shows a complete accounting of every item on page 1. I've included a copy of the newspaper clipping on the left! It includes the names of the People, Businesses, and Organizations who donated to the Time Capsule.
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I've also included a transcription with each donated item numbered, there are 60 of them:

Contents of the Lee Monument Time Capsule in Richmond, Virginia
George Fisher
1. Compiled History of the Monumental Church​
T. A. Brander
2. Roll of Company B, 12th VA Infantry​
J.B. Halyburton
3. Statistics of the City of Richmond​
P.J. White
4. Constitution & Bylaws of Lee Camp, Confederate Vets​
5. Program of Banquet to Lynn Post, No. 5​
Cyrus Bossieux
6. Virginia Confederate Buttons​
J.W. Talley
7. Battle Flag & Square & Compass made from tree over Stonewall Jackson's Grave​
Charles & Walter Harwood
8. Twelve Copper Coins​
George T. Mattern
9. Muster Roll of Richmond Sharpshooters, 21st VA Reg​
Carlton McCarthy
10. Badge of the Assoc. of the Army of Northern VA​
Saks & Co.
11. Circular Ad.​
M. Staples & Co.
12. Copy of Emigrant's Friend​
Mrs. H.A. Marshall
13. Genelogical Tree of the Lee Family​
F.W. Jones
14. Confederate Treasury Notes​
John F. Mayer
15. Copy of the seal of the Adjutant-General of the Confederate States​
16. A $100,000 Confederate Bond, registered​
Master Notting
17. $1 Confederate Note​
W.T. Moseley
18. English penny of 1812​
J.H. Capers
19. Roll of officers & members of Richmond Commandery, No. 2​
20. Individual card of Edward W. Price, general commander, New Jersey​
21. Program of the Ancient Order of Nobels of the Mystic Shrine on the occasion of the laying of the corner stone​
George Ainslie
22. reports of the Chamber of Commerce for 1886 & 1887​
23. Constitution & Bylaws of the Virginia Mechanics Institute​
24. Bylaws of the Richmond Commandery, No. 2​
James E. Goode
25. Warrok-Richardson Virginia Almanac for 1887​
Emma R. Ball
26. Report Mount Vernon Ladies' Association, 1887​
Miss Pattie Leake
27. Picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin​
W.H. Sands
28. Program Ancient Order Nobels of Mystic Shrine laying corner stone of Lee Monument​
J.W. Randolph & English
29. Soldiers' Life Army of Northern VA​
30. Memorial Volume of the Army of Northern VA​
31. A Guide to Richmond, with Maps of Richmond and VA​
32.Badge from Cornerstone parade​
33. History of 1st Battle of Manassas​
34. Grantham's Historical Account of some Memorable Actions in VA, 1716​
James ALfred Jones
35. Weekly Dispatch Oct 21, 1887, Containing letter of Hon. W.W. Corcoran on Lee​
Miss Nettie Lee Brown
36. W. Gordon McCabe's address at the reunion of Pegram's battalion​
37. Picture of memorial window or Pegram's battlefield at Soldiers' Home​
38. Gray & Blue badge​
Master Frank Brown
39. Piece of Stone Wall, Fredericksburg, Va.​
40. Three bullets from Fredericksburg​
41. One piece of shell from Fredericksburg​
42. One piece of wood with a minnie-ball in it from Battle at Fredericksburg​
43. A cut from a tree at the Bloody Angle, Spotsylvania​
Henry H. Turner
44. Individual Card​
C.S. De Villiers
45. Program of 3 exhibitions by Bremond Institute for Lee Monument fund​
46. A button from the coat of Capt. Bremond​
Blair Meanley
47. Individual Card​
William B. Issiacs
48. Assortment of U.S. silver and copper coins​
49. Richmond Directory​
Carlton McCarthy
50. One U.S. Silver Dollar, 1886​
Richmond Times
51. Copy of paper from October 23, 1887​
J. Thompson Brown
52. Assortment of U.S. fractional coins​
Thomas J. Starke
53. One Holy Bible​
W.B. Isaacs
54. Copies of charters issued by Grand Lodge, Grand Chapter & Grand Commandery of VA to its subordinates (on parchment)​
Grand Lodge of Virginia
55. 4th Edition Grand Lodge Textbook​
56. Copy Textbook Grand Lodge Chapter of VA & Digest​
57. Copy Grand Constitution of Grand Encampment US Knights Templars & proceedings 1886​
58. Copy of Proceedings 1886, Grand Lodge, Grand Ghapter, and Grand Commandery of VA​
59. Program of excercises observed on occasion of laying of Lee monument Cornerstone​
60. Reprints of proceedings of Grand Lodge of Virginia from 1877 to 1822, containing steel engravings of all grand masters during that period, and also engravings of Dr. John Dove & Hon. R.E. Withers.​


The one item that may have caught your eye, if you are in the know, is item #27. Historians say that they are confused by this listing. There is only one authentic photo like this known, if this one is also authentic, it would be #2, and also raise a lot of questions...


You can Read About the Time Capsule in the October 26, 1887 edition of
the Daily Times Newspaper on Page 1 Here:

You can Read About the Parade & Grand Ceremony to Place the Cornerstone on October 28, 1887 edition of
the Daily Times Newspaper on Page 1 & Page 4 Here:

You can read more about this story here:

Learn all about the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond in this Thread:
 
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connecticut yankee

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Item # 27 is not necessarily a photograph but is more probably a lithograph or sketch, many of such were printed in newspapers and weekly magazines immediately after the assassination as Lincoln's body made it's journey back to Springfield, Il. by train. Here's an example of what I am talking about. This published sketch was made as Lincoln's body reposed in New York City.

.
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CivilWarTalk

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Item # 27 is not necessarily a photograph but is more probably a lithograph or sketch, many of such were printed in newspapers and weekly magazines immediately after the assassination as Lincoln's body made it's journey back to Springfield, Il. by train. Here's an example of what I am talking about. This published sketch was made as Lincoln's body reposed in New York City.

.View attachment 335497
That is one of the leading theories!

I had no idea this monument was going to be a 4 day research rabbit hole!
 
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Polloco

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Got a question or two to satisfy a little curiosity. Why are time capsule boxes usually copper? Wouldn't a steel or wooden box do just as well or does copper keep the contents in better shape? Is it some sort of tradition using a copper box?
 

CivilWarTalk

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Got a question or two to satisfy a little curiosity. Why are time capsule boxes usually copper? Wouldn't a steel or wooden box do just as well or does copper keep the contents in better shape? Is it some sort of tradition using a copper box?
That's a good question, it would seem that with the application of a bit of moisture and any bit of dissolved minerals, and you are making a low power battery. That's not what you want.
 

Arioch

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The one item that may have caught your eye, if you are in the know, is item #27. Historians say that they are confused by this listing. There is only one authentic photo like this known, if this one is also authentic, it would be #2, and also raise a lot of questions...
Yes!!...that got my attention right away....darn curious.....If I remember correctly, wasn't it Stanton that issued an order banning casket photos of Lincoln?
 
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Arioch

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Got a question or two to satisfy a little curiosity. Why are time capsule boxes usually copper?....
Good question...and just a guess here....perhaps any members who are plumbers can chime in....My understanding is that copper does not promote the growth of bacteria....which is why it is still used as plumbing supply lines (PVC now used a lot for drains / returns).

Perhaps that may have something to do with it...and, of course, it's more malleable than, say, steel or iron
 

Cavalry Charger

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Fascinating story, Mike, and I'm glad you found your way back out of the rabbit hole!

#27 is the one that stood out for me as well, and there is quite an assortment of stuff in there ... I'm so glad they kept a list.

Edited to add: thanks for the great links a well.
 
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Lubliner

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Most times a 'Time Capsule' is meant at some future point to be re-opened, either for inspection and re interment, or for keeps. This future date is usually added at the time, such as, say 200 years. It gives the ancestral house a forward looking hope to review an important time that once was.
Lubliner.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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If only we had a brainiac chemist here, we'd know more about the properties of copper. Hmmm, where to find one, Oh wait, @CivilWarTalk , aren't you married to one too? Mine's asleep.

These stones are always fascinating. 39 through 43! So that's where all the souvenirs we read about went. They're in cornerstones all over the country. Have a shovel, need help.
 
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