Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Mystery No More…

On Saturday, what they contained was a mystery.

Now we know.

On Monday morning, a team of experts, guided by high-tech imaging devices, successfully opened the Lincoln Oak’s twin time capsules. Some of the treasures they contained were on display at an afternoon press conference in City Hall. Connecticut State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni gave a detailed listing of the capsules’ contents. Quinnipiac University Professor Jerry Conlogue and his student assistants Katelyn Dallova and Nini Shingleton were on hand to explain the technology they used to ensure that none of the items were damaged as the capsules were opened. The procedure was no easy feat and took four hours of painstaking work to complete. The cement contained bluestone, and was particularly durable. 

It took a bit of work to pry the capsules open.
Bellantoni was clearly overjoyed with the results. He explained that he had been sent on many “wild goose chases” in his 26 years as an archaeologist, none of which had yielded a time capsule — until this one.

CT State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni 
The copper capsules were 10” long and 4” in diameter.

Capsule One contained articles relating to February 12 and 13, 1909, the actual 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. These items included a program from a centennial observance at Center Church; a copy of a speech delivered on that occasion; six different newspapers published in New Haven on those dates; some papers tied in a string that were a gift of ex-mayor Hendrick; two Lincoln commemorative coins, 1” and 2” in size; and a small cannon ball and a deformed musket ball, both of which came from the battlefield at Gettysburg.

The deformed musket ball and the small cannon ball

Capsule Two contained items relating to New Haven in 1909 including: an elaborate medal with an eagle, flag and star from the Grand Army of the Republic; military rosters pertaining to Admiral Foote; a 1907 Lady Liberty quarter, a dime, and an Indian head penny; and business cards of the makers of the plaque and the capsules. [Note: There was no Lincoln penny; that coin was first minted in August, 1909.]

Too early for a  Lincoln penny
It would have been too cold to plant the tree on the actual anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. Bellantoni stated that the date of April 9, 1909 was chosen because it commemorated the 44th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox.

Drew Days, one of the Proprietors of the New Haven Green, thanked a number of people for their roles in this fine adventure. Foremost among them was Robert Greenberg, the one who first suspected that time capsules might be embedded in the concrete at the base of the tree’s plaque. It was largely due to his persistence that the footing was first examined by the New Haven bomb squad.

Eventually these items will all be on display at the New Haven Museum on Whitney Avenue.

It is interesting to reflect that had the Lincoln Oak not been upended by Hurricane Sandy, we would be unaware of the existence of these treasures from the past.

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