NEW YORK — A century-old time capsule, filled mostly with documents by long-gone Wall Street businessmen celebrating New York as a commercial hub, was unsealed Oct. 8.
Spectators at the New-York Historical Society gathered around the mysterious bronze box as workers wearing surgical gloves removed 26 screws keeping it sealed since 1914.
The crowd leaned in when the lid came off and historian Nick Yablon reached in for the items: a collection of documents, booklets and newspapers depicting the turn-of-the-century businessmen’s interests — from the tea, coffee and spice trade to other commerce, baseball and bullfights.
“This is the thrill of recovering relics,” said Yablon, a Professor of American studies at the University of Iowa who’s writing a book about time capsules.
The Lower Wall Street Business Men’s Association deposited the box with the historical society after celebrating the tricentennial of the 1614 charter of the New Netherland Company, one of the colony’s pioneering commercial enterprises and a precursor of New York business. The association asked that the time capsule be unsealed in 1974.
But that didn’t happen because the time capsule was forgotten.
A curator discovered it in the society’s warehouse in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.
The box containing the well-preserved papers included another interesting item: a facsimile of a 1774, pre-American Revolutionary War letter written by the colony, now New York, to British colonized Boston, urging that the colonies unite.
Fast forward to May 23, 1914, the date of a telegram in the box from then New York Gov. Martin Glynn wishing the New York of 1974 well.
A copy of the New York Times from the same day reports that a banker was found guilty of murder. As it turned out, in 1974, the city was battling a fiscal crisis. And The Lower Wall Street Business Men’s Association no longer existed.
But the future does.
And a new time capsule was created by high schools students from the society’s internship program. They selected items to be unsealed in 2114, including tickets to a Lady Gaga concert.
Contributions also include Purell hand sanitizer and an iconic, Greek-style New York paper coffee cup.
Julia Gatenio added a New York subway poster alerting riders to service changes, taped to a station pole. “I stole it,” confessed the giggling 17-year-old.