By STEPHEN McGUIRE
We may not have the Pyramids or the Parthenon, but when future generations look for
clues to what life was like in the past, they will be able to find the answers right here
in Queens the birthplace of the worlds first officially titled "time
capsule" and a place where an upcoming exhibit is expected to take viewers on a trip
through local history.
When the builders of Flushing Town Hall placed a sealed lead box into
the foundation of the structure, there was no way to know that they would be laying the
literal cornerstone of a 21st century exhibit that would speak volumes about life in a
bygone era when Queens was a young and growing community.
On April 25 the Flushing Council On the Arts And Culture will unveil the "1862
Town Hall Time Capsule" an exhibition of over 100 objects and artifacts that
tell the story of everyday life in Civil War-era Flushing.
"Its history and its important to see the way things were," said
Lucy Davidson, the exhibits director.
The time capturing container was originally placed in the cornerstone on the southwest
side of the Flushing Town Hall building when it was built in 1862, according to Davidson.
Inside were momentos of the day including books, catalogues, maps, business
cards, coins and newspapers.
The History Of Preserving History
On June 7, 1862, Flushing Town Hall held a dedication for the brand new
building designed to be a meeting place for the people of the burgeoning community. Soon
after the "time capsule" was sealed shut. The lead box and its contents remained
in place in the building until the early 1970s when the status of the building
According to Davidson, the Dept. of Real Estate of the Museum of the City of New York,
realizing the historical importance of the time capsule, removed it from the Town Hall
edifice in order to preserve it. Now, the artifacts have made their way back home since,
in 1999, the capsule was reacquired by the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts and
brought back to Flushing on a 99-year lease.
A Look At Old Flushing From The
According to Davidson, the sealed lead box that housed the artifacts
featured in the upcoming Town Hall exhibit served as an excellent preservation container
for the delicate items.
The first so-called "time capsule" was a main attraction at the 1939
Worlds Fair. (Below): A marker remains in Flushing Meadows Corona Park designating
the spot where two time capsules were deposited.
Photo courtesy of Dover Publications
And what was inside was a goldmine for those wanting to explore
The items capture "a slice of time, meant to say something about the time,"
Among the artifacts are:
A June 7th,1862 copy of the New York Times with a front page headline that reads
"Rebel Army Retreat From Corinth."
A June 7, 1862 copy of the Flushing Journal with a front-page poem titled
"An Invocation to Spring."
Business cards of local merchants including those of the local
horse-shoer, butcher, furniture maker, undertaker, lumber yard, tailor, real estate broker
and the Parsons Nusery the birthplace of American horticulture.
An 1860 copy of the book, "Flushing Past And Present" by G. Henry
An 1861 copy of "The Patriotism of the Plow" by Richard C. McCormack.
The rare coin collection of an 8 year-old Flushing boy.
All of the aforementioned items will be on display at Flushing Town Hall from April 25
through July 29.
Flushing Town Hall is located at 137-35 Northern Blvd. in Flushing.
Admission to the exhibit is free.
For more information, call 463-7700.
History From "The World Of
Although the Town Hall time capsule was put in place almost 80 years
before, the modern concept of a time capsule was not born until the 20th century in a
place not far from the location of this months exhibit.
In 1939, the world was filled with uncertainty.
Nations struggled through the Great Depression and the planet was on the brink of the
biggest war it would ever see.
But at what is now Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, there was beaming optimism about the
An 1862 copy of the New York Times and other 19th
century objects on exhibit at Flushing Town Hall.
Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen
The greatest scientists of the time Albert
Einstein, Robert Millikan and Thomas Mann among them came together to decide how to
construct and what to put into a container designed to give a message "to the people
of Earth 6939 A.D."
The first vessel actually called a "time capsule"
was buried 50 feet underground on Sept. 23, 1939 the autumnal equinox in a
ceremony held as part of the New York Worlds Fair.
Sponsored by the Westinghouse Company, the torpedo shaped
time capsule contained objects representative of life at the time.
Inside the Cupaloy a metallic blend of copper,
silver and chromium container were placed a womans hat, a baseball, a
fountain pen, a camera, and a copy of the "Book of Record," a virtual
encyclopedia of the world.
The capsule was scheduled to be opened in 50 centuries.
From 1964 through 1965, a second
Worlds Fair was held at Flushing Meadows Corona Park and a second, updated time
capsule was buried by the Westinghouse Company in 1965.
Ten feet away from the 1939 capsule, items were placed in
the second capsule that illustrated the dramatic changes that took place.
Among the items were a Bikini, a Polaroid camera, an
electronic watch, antibiotics, contact lenses, reels of microfilm, Beatles record, a
irradiated seeds, a computer memory unit and birth-control pills.
Both time capsules remain buried in Flushing Meadows and a
marked spot inside the park of the 1964 Worlds Fair reveals the location.
Plans are in the works for a third time
capsule at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The New York Hall of Science is organizing the placement of
a time capsule with the theme "Preserving The Environment For The World Of
Tomorrow," according to Danielle Boone, a Hall of Science spokesperson.
A flier commemorating the opening of a "New Town
Hall" in Flushing in 1862.
Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen
The burial of this latest time capsule is scheduled
to take place on Oct. 16, the anniversary of the burial of the 1965 Worlds Fair
"Were getting amazing stuff," said David
Oats, the historical chairman of the Hall of Science Time Capsule project.
As a part of the latest time capsule project, visitors to
the Hall of Science are being asked to write their words of advice to people of the
"The beauty of the project is that you can say
whatever you want," said Oats, who explained that it is the "thought of
immortality" that has been a big draw to the project.
Oats, who gave the dedication speech at the burial of the
1965 Worlds Fair time capsule as a student, said that the project has been a great
way to get kids to talk about the future and that juniors and seniors from high schools in
Queens have been invited to participate in the project.
The latest time capsule is expected to remain underground
for 100 years after its burial.
Capsule Of The Near Future
Organizers said it might be only a month before another time capsule
will be buried in Queens this one in Bayside.
Since late last year, members of the Preservation Alliance of Northeast Queens have
been calling upon local students to contribute ideas for a time capsule burial in May.
A copy of the Flushing
Journal was found inside the sealed lead container (top, center) placed inside the
cornerstone of Flushing Town hall.
Tribune photo by Ira Cohen
"We sent out an early notice around November or
December about the time capsule soliciting suggestions, said Tony Avella, president of the
"We were kicking around some ideas last fall and we
thought this would be a good way to highlight preservation issues and get school children
focused on them," he said.
The Preservation Alliance is scheduled to meet this week to
review suggestions, gather materials and talk with students about the project.
According to Avella, the capsule will be buried sometime in
May on the grounds of St. Marys Hospital For Children in Bayside.
"St. Marys liked the idea so were going to
bury it on their property," said Avella.
Once buried, the time capsule will be unearthed in 20
years, according to Avella.