Exciting Time Capsules From The Past
Let's crack open some exciting time capsules from the past, including a few we were never supposed to see!History
If you wanted to really summarize the times we live in, what items would you put in a time capsule, only intended to be opened after many, many years? To really define a time with just items alone can be tricky, but plenty have attempted to do it. From age-old mysteries, to futuristic constructions, let’s crack open the most exciting time capsules!
The Crypt of Civilization
In a project led by professor and historian Thornwell Jacobs alongside scientist Thomas Peters, the spectacularly-named ‘Crypt of Civilization’ was built between 1937 and 1940. This remarkable project was intended to encapsulate the civilization and human development of the first half of the 20th century.
This 2,000-cubic-foot, impenetrable, airtight chamber is sealed behind a heavy steel door, welded shut in 1940, at Oglethorpe University in Georgia, and is intended to be kept under tight wraps until the year 8113! But what keep-sakes are they keeping in this crypt for the next 6,000 years?
First and foremost, there’s literature and religious texts. Which may not seem particularly remarkable, but what is remarkable is that Peters specifically invented and included a device to make sure they’re readable even if languages undergo extreme changes in the next 6,000 years.
Called the ‘Language Integrator’, this device is essentially a hand-operated movie projector with sound and is intended to be able to teach future civilizations English.
In addition to this, there are also other technologies, such as a toaster, typewriter, sewing machine, camera, and a telephone, to name a few. Some cultural items are included too, such as artworks, ornaments, transcriptions of radio shows, and a stuffed Donald Duck toy!
We can only imagine what advanced tech the people of the distant future opening the crypt may have access to; so much so, who knows if they’ll even understand what something as simplistic as a typewriter even is!
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this capsule, though, is the voice recordings of various world leaders of the time. From Franklin D. Roosevelt to Joseph Stalin, it’s pretty interesting to consider how these 20th century icons will compare to the leaders of the distant future.
The World’s Largest Time Capsule
On July 4th, 1975, Nebraska shopkeeper Harold Keith Davisson wanted to create a capsule to be opened in the year 2025, so that his future grandchildren would be able to see what life was like in the 70s. And he didn’t hold back!
Weighing 45 tons and measuring 20 by 8 feet, Guinness World Records certified the concrete capsule as the largest in the world when it was constructed. However, Oglethorpe University, creators of the aforementioned Crypt of Civilization, claimed theirs was rightfully bigger.
Not about to be outshone, Harold topped the original capsule with a second piece in 1983: a giant concrete pyramid. But what artifacts lurk in this pyramid tomb? All in all, it’s said that there’s over 5,000 items in there.
Some honorable mentions include: a Kawasaki motorcycle, bikini bottoms, letters from local parents, soda bottles, tapes, records, bowling pins, fireworks, and a leisure suit. It might sound like Harold was just clearing out some old junk. But there were actually some very valuable items left in the capsule.
The pièce de résistance being a brand new Chevy Vega, and a 1975 Datsun which was added with the pyramid addition in 1983; that’s one way to keep the car’s mileage low. So, while some grandparents might leave behind money or family heirlooms, Harold Davisson left a literal pyramid full of treasures!
Lucasfilm Time Capsule
From the characters to the music, there are few films quite as iconic as Star Wars. Naturally, the franchise has become a fountain of memorabilia because, who doesn’t want to nibble on Jar-Jar-Bink’s candy tongue?
Anyway, that cursed image aside, did you know that George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, actually buried a shrine full of original Star Wars merch? It wasn’t quite shiny and futuristic looking as you might expect, but it wasn’t far off!
It was 1981 and Lucasfilm were celebrating their 10th anniversary as a company. Not just that, but ‘Skywalker Ranch’, A.K.A. home of Lucasfilm’s sound-design and post-production, had just been completed. With much to celebrate, it was the perfect time to bury a capsule on the site of Skywalker Ranch.
We’re all disappointed they didn’t beam it to a galaxy far, far away. But, unlike most time capsules, George Lucas didn’t specify an opening date, only hoping that it would last ‘thousands of years’.
Inside was enough to make your average Star Wars fan explode with excitement. From engraved paperweights that read ‘may the force be with you’, to a custom bottle of cabernet Sauvignon that, according to the Lucasfilm website, features a caricature drawing of the Lucasfilm employees.
Elsewhere in this shrine there are also action figures, a cassette of the soundtrack, and even the original contract between Lucasfilm and Universal for their 1973 movie, American Graffiti. On the Lucasfilm website there’s actually an inventory of the capsule’s contents, which is like the Star Wars mega-fans equivalent of finding a box full of vintage adult entertainment!
Steve Jobs Time Capsule
The year 1983; Michael Jackson’s Thriller was number one, everything was cheaper, your dad still had hair and it also happened to be the year that a group of tech-nerds, including a 28-year-old Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, attended the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado.
To mark the event, Steve and his pals decided they’d bury a time capsule. That was, a huge 13-foot-long cannister concealing items they felt best depicted the year of 1983. Such artifacts included an 8-track tape from the band The Moody Blues, as well as a pack of Ballantine Ale, so that the people who found the capsule could crack open a cold-one.
And of course, no 80s shrine’s complete without a Rubik’s Cube. But this is Steve Jobs, founder of Apple. Where’s the tech? Where’s the futuristic, unreleased Apple devices waiting to be revealed, like an Apple capsule within a capsule? Or at least the iconic Apple logo we know so well?
There was in reality only one technological treasure concealed in this capsule as 1983 was also the year that Apple released their desktop computer, ‘Apple Lisa’. At the time, this was one of the first commercial computers with a graphical-user-interface, and thus bore a $10,000 price-tag, approximately $27,000 today.
Celebrating its launch, Jobs placed a Lisa mouse in the capsule. And sure it looks a little dated by today’s standards, but this is a time capsule, after all!
The guys intended for the capsule to be uncovered in the year 2000. However, a landscaping project on the Aspen site caused them to lose track of its whereabouts. It wasn’t until 2013, 30 years after its burial, that the capsule was finally rediscovered, which only made it even more special after Jobs’ untimely passing in 2011.
Salt Lake Temple Time Capsule
On April 6th, 1892, the Mormon Salt Lake Temple in Utah was completed after 40 years of construction. To finalize the build, atop of one of the spires, they placed a granite spherical capstone and a gold statue of the angel Moroni.
It was an occasion that drew a crowd of 30,000 people, and in the spirit, a time capsule was concealed within the granite ball, which would remain up there for 128 years, until 2020 when the statue needed repairs. Two days after being removed, conservation experts and stone masons carefully cut the granite ball open and retrieved the more-than-a-century old treasures from inside.
Unfortunately, due to the capstone not being insulated, the items were mostly ruined. Nevertheless, they managed to identify scriptures, popular religious books of the time, as well as a gold leaf copper plate, with the name of the temple leadership inscribed. There were even photographs found in the capsule, which some have theorized may have been one-of-a-kind snapshots of Mormonism founder Joseph Smith.
Unfortunately, though, the elements had left the images less decipherable! On the bright side, though, they also discovered around 400 coins that were encased in the concrete, mainly nickels, pennies, dimes, and quarters. Which, adjusted for inflation, may just cover the price of repairs! Well, probably not.
Panasonic Expo ’70
It’s 1968 and two Japanese companies, Panasonic and the Mainichi Newspaper, are challenged with creating a time capsule for the Japanese World Exposition of 1970.
Intended to be buried on the site of the iconic Osaka Castle, it’d take years of planning and research before the dual-team settled on a total of 2,098 specific items, creating a futuristic, almost UFO looking, time capsule aiming to summarize Japanese culture.
Inside, you could find a Japanese flag, a slinky, Geta sandals, green bottle fly specimens, a portable radio, a rice cooker, a model airplane, and astronaut food, likely in reference to the Japanese space program that originated in the mid-50s.
Most interesting though, are the radiation-blackened fingernails of survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War 2. While it may seem gruesome, their presence in this capsule ensures we never forget that dark chapter in human history.
According to Panasonic, every single item in the capsule was treated with the most advanced preservation techniques of the time, and given the time frame of this capsule, they’re gonna need it!
The intention was for it to be opened in 2000 and then every 100 years thereafter. However, they also created an exact duplicate of the original capsule, buried deeper below. This second capsule isn’t set to be opened until the year 5970! And who knows what human civilization will look like by then.
MIT Time Capsule: Do Not Open Until 2957
In 1957, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, A.K.A. MIT, opened Building 26, home of the Compton Laboratories. In celebration, professor of electrical engineering, Harold Edgerton, came up with the idea to bury a time capsule not intended to be opened until a thousand years later, in 2957.
Fast forward 58 years to 2015, and a construction crew working on MIT’s new nanotechnology lab accidentally excavated the capsule, which had been forgotten in the years between.
And with a very clear label which exclaimed, ‘please do not open until 2957 A.D.’, they decided to honor the capsule creator’s wishes. After all, the glass encasing the capsule was specifically forged in an MIT glass blowing lab and was filled with argon gas to help preserve the contents, so opening it would ruin the preservation.
But, luckily for the curious among us, the capsule’s glass is transparent, meaning historians were able to semi-piece-together its contents. Inside they could see coins from the First National Bank of Boston, a commemorative mug from the MIT Class of 1957, a container of synthetic penicillin, as well as a cryotron.
That last item was a superconducting electrical device that, at the time of the capsule’s burial, was expected to revolutionize computer technology. In the end, though, different technologies took on that role, and the cryotron fell into obscurity. What did still hold significance, though, was a letter MIT’s president at the time, Dr J.R. Killian, wrote to place in the capsule.
o paraphrase, it read, ‘we cannot guess what the next millennium holds, but we are confident that you will have a greater understanding of the universe. We wish you continued success in the pursuit of knowledge’. The optimism is evident but if only they knew about TikTok.
In the northern Spanish province of Burgos, in the church of Santa Agueda, lies a wooden statue of a crucified Christ. In 2017, the statue was due some repairs, though, as the restoration team removed a piece of cloth from the statue’s waist, it appeared there was more than one crack at the rear-end.
It turned out, the son of god’s backside was harboring secrets. This examination actually led the team to discover a mysterious handwritten note inside Jesus! This note actually dated back to 1777, exactly 240 years prior.
It’d been placed there by Joaquin Minguez, a priest of the cathedral of Burgo de Osma at the time. Unfortunately, he had no real prophetic wisdom to bestow upon us. Rather, a written time-capsule commentary on day-to-day life in Spain at the time. From popular pastimes, such as card and ballgames, to Spain’s religious, economic, and political climate.
He even commented on common diseases, such as typhoid fever, as well as famous people, such as popular bull-fighters of the time. All in all, the letter provides an incredible insight into life at the time. Though, one question remains: why did Joaquin hide it in Jesus’ butt?
Marthe de Florian's Apartment
Let’s take a trip back to Paris, 1939. It’s August 29th and French socialite, actress and "professional mistress", Marthe de Florian, dies at age 74, leaving behind her opulent Parisian apartment.
It was inherited by her 23-year-old granddaughter, Solange Beaugiron, who, 3 years later would flee to the South of France, escaping the German occupation of Paris during World War II. Although having never returned to the apartment, Solange, for some reason, continued to pay the rent until her own death in 2010.
In that time, the untouched apartment became trapped in a time-warp, becoming a time capsule of its own. When the apartment was finally cracked open following Solange’s death, chic décor and trinkets of days gone by were found to inhabit the dust-laden dwelling, encased by wilting wallpaper.
Personal documents and love letters were also found, just as Marthe de Florian had left them. Which, given her reputation, it’s safe to assume there may’ve been the odd ‘voulez vous coucher avec moi?’ in there.
Other relics, such as a Mickey Mouse and Porky Pig stuffed toy, laid there just as they had for 7 whole decades. Not to mention the stuffed ostrich in the room.
But, hidden among all these curious knick-knacks, lay Madame de Florian herself. That is, an original Giovanni Boldini portrait of her. Boldini was an Italian portrait painter of significant talent and renown, and as a result, the long-lost painting was auctioned for 3-million-euro in 2010, making it Boldini’s most valuable to date.
100 Years: The Movie You'll Never See
Filmed back in 2015, ‘100 Years’ is being dubbed ‘the movie you will never see’. In fact, hardly anyone knows anything about the film or its plot. Only, that is was directed by Robert Rodriguez, written by and starring John Malkovich, alongside Shuya Chang, and Marko Zaror.
Currently, the top-secret film is secured behind bullet-proof glass, in a high-tech safe that is automated to open on November 18th, 2115. It is then, and only then, that the film will premiere to 1,000 invited guests.
Naturally, anyone currently invited will be dead by then, and that’s why the creators took the liberty of making the tickets out of metal, so they can be inherited by future descendants.
While this is a fun twist on the idea of a time capsule, it’s also reportedly part of an elaborate promotion for Louis XIII (13th) cognac. The luxury liquor allegedly takes 100 years to mature, providing a general basis for the movie concept. Though whether the film will revolve around the cognac or will just have very indiscrete product placement remains a mystery.
Wall Street Time Capsule
Back in the 1600s, Dutch merchants began regularly traveling to America to trade with Native Americans and establish colonies. In 1614, a collective of Dutch traders were given exclusive trading rights in the east coast of north America from the Dutch leadership, which is thought to have sparked the beginnings of New York City, and all its business.
300 years later in 1914, the Lower Wall Street Business Men’s Association decided to mark the tricentennial with a time capsule. The plan was for it to be opened 60 years later in 1974. However, by that point, the Lower Wall Street Business Men’s Association no longer existed. So, the capsule was forgotten.
It wasn’t until the late 90s that it was rediscovered in an art storage unit in NYC’s Chelsea area, though by this point, it was decided it was best to leave it unopened until 2014; exactly 100 years since its creation. But what exactly was concealed within this hefty bronze box?
In 2014, we finally found out. For the most part, the contents of the capsule weren’t the most exciting. Mainly just 100-year-old books, newspapers, medals, and so on. There was, however, an interesting telegram from Governor Martin Glynn, a politician at the time, which said, ‘may every problem which now engages the attention of New York have found a solution’.
Somewhat disappointed by the contents, the New York Historical Society decided to rebury the capsule along with a new capsule that will be opened in 2114. For this, they enlisted the help of a bunch of highschoolers, as one of the Society’s curators, Margaret Hofer, wanted the new capsule to reflect ‘popular culture as seen through the eyes of teenagers’.
In contrast to the relative dullness of the initial capsule, the new one includes things such as a Starbucks cup, an iPhone box, earbuds, and even Lady Gaga tickets! Though they should’ve just filled it with thumb-drives full of classic Vine clips.
The Millennium Capsule
The turn of the millennium was a momentous occasion, celebrated immensely. And with Bill Clinton being in power in the USA at the time, the administration thought of no better way to mark the once-in-a-thousand-year event than with a time capsule.
Set to be opened in the year 2100, they wanted to show people of the 22nd century what life was truly like in the 20th. The capsule contained a cell phone, a piece of the Berlin Wall, a film of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, the bill of rights, and a helmet from World War 2, to name a few.
But by far the most important item in there is one that truly defines the great land of America. That single specific item was, of course, the humble Twinkie. In true American style, they dropped in some processed, sugary food.
Sadly though, future generations may not know our adoration for Twinkies, as they apparently had to be removed from the capsule, due to attracting mice. Being honest, though, we all know it was really removed because some white house intern got the munchies.
WW2 Time Capsule
Back in 2016, a Russian fellow, Lukichev Dmitry, was digging a cesspool for his outdoor toilet. However, when his shovel struck something metallic, he made a truly unexpected discovery. A metal box was soon unburied, leading Lukichev to uncover a field locker left by a German WW2 officer.
Estimated to be from between 1944 and 1945, the contents, which had been there around 60 years, were in great condition, thanks to a rubber seal on the lid of the box. Inside were all the typical army items you might imagine: uniforms, ID passes, cash. But there was also room for other bare necessities, such as alcohol and cigars, which are essential after a regular day’s work, let alone a literal world war.
After analyzing the uniform, historians concluded that the box belonged to a German soldier, who, based on his uniform, was likely a doctor in the medical corps. And while historians had hoped they might be able to track down the soldier's descendants, online sources never confirmed them having done so.
I hope you were amazed at these incredible time capsules from the past! Thanks for reading.