Antique photo, money and newspaper uncovered in second time capsule from Robert E. Lee statue

Newspapers, photographs, coins, and books were among objects unearthed in a 19th-century time capsule hidden under a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Virginia, historians announced Tuesday. Another time capsule found under the same statue and opened last week contained an almanac, cloth envelope and a silver coin.

“It’s in better shape than we expected,” said Chelsea Blake, a conservator for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “We thought everything was supposed to be soup, and it’s not soup. So it’s pretty good.”

Conservators also unpacked a piece of wood with a ball in it, handwritten letters, several books with antique bookmarks, Confederate coins in an envelope and a copy of a photograph of former President Abraham Lincoln in his coffin.

Next, conservators will make a complete inventory of the artifacts, stabilize and preserve them, they said Tuesday. Officials believe the box was left by a person in charge of the monument’s initial construction.

Lee Statue Time Capsule
Conservators are working on a box believed to be a time capsule left in a pedestal at the former site of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, on December 28, 2021.

Sarah Rankin / AP


The statue, located in Richmond, was taken down this summer, along with two other statues, following protests against racism and police brutality that erupted across the nation. Local officials decided the statue would be melted down and transformed into new work of art.

While working to remove the 40-foot pedestal, crews discovered a granite stone box earlier this month. Historians thought the capsule would contain dozens of Confederate-related objects, but it did not. On Monday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced the discovery of another time capsule.

Northam, who ordered the removal of the statue, replaced the first time capsule with a new one made by a local sculptor.

“This monument and its time capsule reflected Virginia in 1890 – and it’s time to remove both so our public spaces better reflect who we are as a people in 2021,” Northam said in a statement. “The last 18 months have seen historic change, from the pandemic to protests for racial justice that led to the removal of these monuments to a lost cause. It is fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells that story. “

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