The New-York Historical Society is set to open a chest first nailed shut 100 years ago and stocked with who knows what. The capsule was sealed as part of a celebration of the chartering of the New Netherlands Company in 1614. It will be opened on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the museum on Central Park West between 76th and 77th street.

The historical society says it’s the oldest unopened time capsule in the U.S. There’s a lengthy description of its history here, and a briefer one below.

“A group of merchants, calling themselves the Lower Wall Street Business Men’s Association, launched it on May 23, 1914 as a part of the tercentenary celebrations of the New Netherland Company’s chartering in 1614 and the beginnings of Dutch North American colonialism. Ceremoniously enclosed by a former mayor, the chest was to remain sealed until 1974, the bicentennial of New York’s appeal for the colonies to form a union. Oversleeping its due date, the chest will finally be unlocked at a ceremony in October. In doing so, we will also be celebrating New Netherland’s 400th birthday! To keep the tradition alive, a new capsule will be dedicated with the help of local students, who will select items that speak to life today for the education of New Yorkers a hundred years in the future.”

To sign up to watch the unveiling, email communications@nyhistory.org.

HISTORY, NEWS | 7 comments | permalink
    1. webot says:

      Very cool.

      Goes to show that New York has always been the City of Business.

    2. KD says:

      Pretty cool. Keep us posted on what they find inside.

    3. Barry says:

      The capsule itself is beautiful. Almost space-age design from a 1914 perspective. Very traditional little feet, though.

    4. Karen Arlingotn says:

      This is so exciting. I’m a huge history buff of all things New York of that era. I hope your staff will write up all that happens at the event today. I only wish I could attend
      I LOVE West Side Rag!!!

    5. Sally Smile says:

      Unless they find a few dozen H&H Bagels inside I’m sure I will be quite disappointed.

    6. John says:

      Thanks to the WSR, I attended this unusual event at the NY Historical Society. There were some fine speeches before the unveiling, including one from expert Nick Yablon (who served as MC) in which he said the predominant reaction surrounding the opening of time capsules is disappointment. He was quite accurate (speaking for myself, anyway). The box with filled mainly with pamphlets, books, mementos medals, and so forth related to the Lower Wall Street Business Men’s Association. There were several newspapers (including NYTimes) from 1914, rolled up (and thus difficult to unfurl in their hardened states). The most exciting thing was the facsimile of a revolutionary letter (alluded to in the lengthier article linked above). There may be some particular gems among the books and pamphlets, but these were not immediately made known. A letter from the governor of NY in 1914 was addressed to his counterpart of 1974, and this provided some amusement.

      I have to strongly criticize the organizers of the event in this one respect: they invited a large audience to attend this unveiling, but virtually no one but the crowd of press people could see anything during the lengthy process because no one bothered to suggest there be at least one avenue of sight for the many gathered. It was clear many in the scrum were not even press members. Even the press who had video cameras were annoyed because they now had no shot. The area where the box was being opened was very poorly lit (with primary lighting coming from press vid cameras), and so the entire event became something of a farce, with the vast majority of onlookers forced to listen to descriptions of the findings over the loudspeaker (which itself was too low). In short, a botched delivery of a not-very-interesting baby. But I still found the experience compelling and was glad I attended.

      • AC says:

        Excellent reporting John! Kind of made me feel like I was there, but at the same time glad I didn’t waste my time. Hopefully NYHS will learn from this experience.